National Criminal Courts Statistics Unit
The fifth issue of the Higher Criminal Courts, Australia publication (ABS Cat. No. 4513.0) was released on 24 July 2000. This publication presents information on the flow of defendants through the Supreme and Intermediate courts for the 1998-99 financial year. For the first time, this edition included information on time taken to finalise the case for defendants who changed their plea.
Some key findings reported in the 1998-99 publication were:
- There were 18,426 defendants finalised in 1998-99, a 10% increase on the number finalised in the previous year.
- Excluding Queensland (for which figures are not available), 3,037 defendants maintained a not guilty plea throughout their trial. Of these, about half were acquitted of all charges.
- Excluding Queensland, in 58% of cases where a defendant initially pleaded not guilty to one or more charges, they later changed their plea to guilty. Generally where a defendant changed their plea from not guilty to guilty, it took more than twice as long to finalise the case as for those whose original plea was guilty.
- The median time taken to finalise cases was 21 weeks, the same as in 1997-98.
- The median age of defendants was 28 years, for both males and females.
Copies of Higher Criminal Courts, Australia (ABS Cat. No. 4513.0) are available from the ABS for $22.00.
The National Criminal Courts Statistical Unit (NCCSU) has also embarked on a quality assurance program. This involves visiting each jurisdiction to investigate current systems usage and explore the possibilities for expanding the Higher Courts collection.
Of particular interest is the collection of offence and penalty information within each jurisdiction. The NCCSU will be testing a subset of offence and penalty data for 1999-00. Providing the information is reliable and comparable, it is intended that offence and penalty information will be included in future editions of the publication
- Tasmania reported the youngest median age of defendants at 24 years while Victoria reported the oldest at 31 years.