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4513.0 - Criminal Courts, Australia, 2011-12 Quality Declaration 
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/06/2013   
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TECHNICAL NOTE - PRINCIPAL SENTENCE LENGTH OR AMOUNT

INTRODUCTION

1. The Principal Sentence length or amount is the largest value associated with the Principal Sentence. Where there is more than one length or amount imposed for the same Principal Sentence type, the largest value is selected. A sentence imposed may relate to more than one offence, therefore the sentence length or amount may also refer to more than one offence; the ABS is developing methods to identify such instances as this is likely to have the effect of inflating the sentence length or amount.

2. Concurrent sentences (which are those which commence at the same time) or cumulative sentences (which are served one after the other) may be imposed when a defendant has committed multiple offences. Regardless of whether the sentences for a defendant are served concurrently or cumulatively, the length or amount selected is the largest value associated with the Principal Sentence.

3. A non-parole period is the minimum amount of time that a prisoner will be kept imprisoned before being eligible to be released on parole. Specific offences may have a legislated non-parole period, referred to as a 'minimum sentence'. The sentence length presented in this publication refers to the total period of the sentence imposed by the courts, not the 'minimum sentence'.

4. Life and indeterminate sentences are the most serious forms of imprisonment. Defendants sentenced to life imprisonment may not necessarily be imprisoned for the term of their natural life but may serve a minimum time as specified by the court or by an administrative body such as a Parole Board. Indeterminate sentences do not have a prescribed minimum term to serve and may be subject to a ministerial or other administrative decision as to the actual sentence length served. Therefore these types of imprisonment do not necessarily have an associated sentence length and defendants with this Principal Sentence have been excluded from custodial sentence length statistics. The number of defendants sentenced to life and indeterminate imprisonment accounted for less than 1% of all defendants sentenced to custody in a correctional institution in both 2011-12 and 2010-11.

DEFENDANTS PROVEN GUILTY(a), Life and indeterminate sentence

2010-11r
2011-12
(no.)
(no.)

NSW
-
-
Vic.
3
5
QLD
20
15
SA
13
10
WA
12
11
Tas.
-
-
NT
-
3
ACT
-
-
Aust.
48
44

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells).
(a) Excludes ACT Magistrates' and Children's Courts in 2010-11 and Tasmanian Higher Courts in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

5. A defendant sentenced to imprisonment with a partially suspended term must be detained in prison for part of the specified term of the sentence, with the remainder of the term suspended on the condition that the defendant will be of good behaviour. Due to variability in the recording practices of states and territories for this sentence type, defendants with this Principal Sentence have been excluded from custodial sentence length statistics. This sentence type accounts for 10% of defendants sentenced to custody in a correctional institution in both 2010-11 and 2011-12.

DEFENDANTS PROVEN GUILTY(a), Partially suspended sentence

2010-11r
2011-12
(no.)
(no.)

NSW
47
76
Vic.
463
600
QLD
756
802
SA
129
106
WA
..
..
Tas.
261
214
NT
1 089
1 281
ACT
8
86
Aust.
2 801
3 165

.. Not applicable.
(a) Excludes ACT Magistrates' and Children's Courts in 2010-11 and Tasmanian Higher Courts in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

6. Periodic detention is included in data for custody in a correctional institution. This sentence type is only applicable in the Australian Capital Territory and refers to the total term over which the order is to be completed, not the actual time served in custody.

7. The recording practices of defendants with a principal sentence of community service orders in Victoria and Western Australia are not comparable with the practices across the other states and territories and therefore data for these states have been excluded for 2011-12.

8. Information is presented on the mean and median sentence lengths. The mean is the arithmetic average of the sentence lengths in a particular category and the median is the middle value in a particular category when the values are sorted in order. For more information on means and medians, refer to Statistical Language! (cat. no. 1332.0.55.002).

PRINCIPAL PROVEN OFFENCE

9. For Sentence Length data, the offence information presented relates to Principal Proven Offence. The Principal Proven Offence for a defendant is derived by determining the most serious sentence type (the Principal Sentence), and then selecting the offence type that directly resulted in this penalty. In situations where several sentences of equal seriousness are imposed, the Principal Proven Offence derivation takes into account the length or monetary amount of the sentence, and if necessary, the seriousness of the offence, for example:

    • If a defendant is given two sentences of equal seriousness, the one with the largest sentence length or monetary amount is selected and the offence associated with this specific sentence will be designated as Principal Proven Offence.
    • If a defendant is given two sentences of equal seriousness and the length or monetary amount of each sentence is equal, the Principal Proven Offence is determined according to the seriousness of the offence using the National Offence Index (cat. no. 1234.0.55.001).
Principal Proven Offence compared with Principal Offence

10. The Principal Proven Offence referred to in the Sentence Length chapter can differ from the Principal Offence used in the main Criminal Courts collection. Principal Proven Offence is determined by the Principal Sentence for a defendant, whereas the Principal Offence is determined independently of Principal Sentence (see Explanatory Notes paragraphs 40-44). They will differ when the most serious offence proven guilty does not incur the most serious and largest sentence.

REVISIONS

11. The 2010-11 data has been revised following refinements to the data aggregation process. This has resulted in minor changes to the distribution of defendants across principal proven offences, and associated sentence length. Revised 2010-11 national data for custodial sentences has been included in the data cubes.

12. The method of aggregating unit record data to create the counting unit of a finalised defendant was also refined for this release. This resulted in a slightly higher count of defendants proven guilty in the Sentence Quantum data than for standard Criminal Courts data.




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