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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2003  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/01/2003   
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Contents >> Crime and Justice >> Most serious offence

The most serious offence is defined as the offence for which prisoners have received the longest sentence. Nearly half (45%) of all sentenced prisoners were convicted of offences involving violence or the threat of violence, including homicide (10%), sexual assault (10%), assault (11%) and robbery (14%) (table 11.29). Another 12% were in prison for unlawful entry with intent, while a further 10% were serving sentences for illicit drug offences.


11.29 SENTENCED PRISONERS, By most serious offence(a) - 30 June 2001

NSW(b)
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA(c)
Tas.
NT
ACT
in ACT
ACT
in NSW(b)
Aust.(d)
Aust.(d)
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
no.

Homicide
7.7
12.0
12.4
16.5
8.7
17.7
9.0
-
12.4
10.1
1,827
Assault
13.4
5.4
11.4
8.0
11.1
10.3
18.5
31.0
7.8
11.3
2,042
Sexual assault
8.5
11.4
10.9
8.0
15.1
12.1
7.3
-
13.2
10.4
1,884
Abduction, & related offences
-
0.7
0.4
0.4
0.5
-
-
3.4
-
0.3
51
Robbery
14.1
12.3
13.5
15.0
15.5
7.7
3.9
-
17.8
13.5
2,442
Blackmail and extortion
0.7
-
0.1
0.2
-
-
-
-
-
0.3
57
Unlawful entry with intent
11.9
13.6
9.4
15.2
13.2
11.0
7.7
3.4
16.3
11.9
2,148
Theft and related offences
7.9
11.3
8.7
7.1
5.1
8.8
5.6
13.8
6.2
8.2
1,471
Deception and related offences
3.8
2.8
2.6
6.9
2.1
0.7
0.5
6.9
0.8
3.2
574
Illicit drug offences
12.3
11.3
8.5
9.2
8.6
1.8
3.8
-
8.5
10.2
1,852
Road traffic and motor vehicle regulatory offences
3.3
2.3
4.0
1.9
9.1
12.9
15.3
24.1
1.6
4.6
834
Government security(c)
10.0
14.2
3.6
6.7
5.9
15.1
4.4
3.4
10.1
8.5
1,538
Other offences
6.4
2.7
14.5
4.9
5.1
1.9
24.0
14.0
5.3
7.5
1,403
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
18,123

(a) The most serious offence is the offence for which the prisoner has received the longest sentence.
(b) A majority of full-time prisoners sentenced in the ACT are held in NSW prisons.
(c) With the introduction of a new computer system in WA there is some concern about the quality of WA corrective services data.
(d) The ACT in NSW figures are a subset of the NSW figures and are not separately counted in the Australian totals.

Source: Prisoners in Australia, 2001 (4517.0).


There were differences in the types of offences for which men and women were imprisoned. Graph 11.30 shows that the highest numbers of offences for males in prison at 30 June 2001 were robbery (14%), UEWI (12%), assault (11%) and sexual assault (11%). In the case of female prisoners, drug offences (14%), theft and related offences (14%), robbery (12%) and homicide (11%) were the most frequent reasons for imprisonment.

Graph - 11.30 Sentenced prisoners, by selected most serious offence - 30 June 2001



Aggregate length of sentence is a measure of the sentences imposed on an offender, sometimes taking multiple offences into account. It is not measured for prisoners who receive an indeterminate type of sentence such as 'life', and periodic detainees' sentences are measured separately. At 30 June 2001 the average aggregate sentence of all prisoners sentenced to a specific term was 4.8 years. Male prisoners were serving an average aggregate sentence of 4.9 years, compared to an average of 3.3 years for female prisoners.

Prisoners serving sentences of at least one year but less than five years accounted for the highest proportion of prisoners in all states and the Northern Territory (table 11.31). Prisoners with indeterminate (including 'life') sentences made up 5% of all prisoners.


11.31 SENTENCED PRISONERS, Aggregate length of sentence(a)(b) - 30 June 2001

NSW(c)
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
ACT(c)
Aust.
Length of sentence
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

Less than 1 year
16.1
25.3
14.1
12.2
12.2
29.0
32.5
. .
17.1
1 to under 5 years
35.8
41.2
36.7
36.8
43.4
39.3
45.6
. .
38.3
5 to under 10 years
20.1
19.8
26.0
27.3
22.0
10.3
12.0
. .
21.4
10 years and over
11.3
12.0
14.0
11.5
14.3
11.4
4.1
. .
12.2
Indeterminate(d)
2.3
1.6
9.2
12.3
8.1
9.9
6.0
. .
5.1

(a) Excludes periodic detainees, who comprised 5.9% of all sentenced prisoners nationally. (Periodic detention applies only in NSW and in the ACT.)
(b) The aggregate sentence is the longest period that the offender may be detained under sentence in the current episode. Charges pending which are likely to extend the current episode are ignored.
(c) Prisoners sentenced to full-time custody in the ACT are held in NSW prisons and are included in the NSW figures.
(d) Indeterminate prisoners includes those sentenced to life imprisonment, those held at the Governor's pleasure and those subject to ministerial or administrative decisions.

Source: Prisoners in Australia, 2001, Companion Data (4517.0).


Younger prisoners were more likely to be serving shorter sentences than older prisoners. While 1% of prisoners aged less than 20 years were serving a sentence of 10 years and over (excluding Indeterminate sentence lengths), this proportion progressively increased across the age groups to be 23% for prisoners aged 50 years and over (table 11.32).


11.32 SENTENCED PRISONERS, By age and aggregate sentence length - 30 June 2001

Age group (years)

Length of sentence
Less than 20
20-29
30-39
40-49
50 and over
Total(a)

Periodic detainees(b)
37
475
314
171
77
1,074
Under 1 year
187
1,545
960
316
87
3,098
1 to under 5 years
327
3,358
2,057
791
402
6,941
5 to under 10 years
38
1,454
1,200
663
523
3,879
10 years and over
8
531
768
511
385
2,203
Indeterminate(c)
2
177
327
251
171
928
Total
599
7,540
5,626
2,703
1,645
18,123

(a) Includes prisoners whose age was not stated.
(b) Periodic detainees are required to be held in custody for two consecutive days in a one-week period.
(c) Indeterminate prisoners includes those sentenced to life imprisonment, those held at the Governor's pleasure and those subject to ministerial or administrative decisions.

Source: Prisoners in Australia, 2001 (4517.0).


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