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All states and territories, except Tasmania and the Northern Territory had decreases in the numbers of defendants finalised in the Magistrates' Courts in 2010-11. Victoria (22%), Western Australia (14%), Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory (both 11%) had the largest decreases (Table 3.11).
Principal offence - traffic and vehicle regulatory offences
Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences accounted for the greatest proportion (43% or 227,056) of defendants finalised in the Magistrates' Courts in 2010-11. This was slightly higher than the proportion of defendants with this offence in the previous year. The majority of these defendants had their charges adjudicated (95% or 215,484); of these almost all (98%) were proven guilty (Table 3.1).
Within the broad category of traffic offences, defendants had their charges adjudicated in the following main categories (Table 3.4):
Of the 210,899 defendants proven guilty of traffic offences, the majority (83%) were sentenced to a monetary order and 4% received a custodial order (Table 3.1).
Principal offence - offences other than traffic
After traffic offences, the largest proportion of defendants in 2010-11 were finalised with: acts intended to cause injury (11%), public order offences (8%), theft, illicit drug offences and dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons (all 7%) and offences against justice procedures (6%) (Table 3.5).
In 2010-11, more than three-quarters (77%) of finalised defendants were male and under one-quarter were female (22%). This proportion has remained relatively stable since 2005-06. These proportions are similar across the states and territories, ranging from 80% for males in South Australia and the Northern Territory to 74% in Western Australia (Table 3.3).
Two age groupings accounted for over half of defendants finalised in the Magistrates' Courts: those aged under 25 years and those aged 25 to 34 years (both 29%). The next largest groups were defendants aged 35 to 44 years (21%) and 45 years and over (17%) (Table 3.6).
Charges withdrawn by the prosecution
Defendants finalised through charges being withdrawn by the prosecution decreased by 12% from 43,975 in 2009-10 to 38,923 in 2010-11. Of all finalised defendants, 7% of defendants had their charges withdrawn, the same proportion as in 2009-10 (Table 3.2).
During 2010-11, the following offences had the largest proportion of defendants finalised through the withdrawal of charges by the prosecution (Table 3.5):
The Australian Capital Territory (23%), South Australia (20%) and Victoria (10%) had larger proportions of defendants whose charges were withdrawn than the national average (7%). Tasmania had the smallest proportion of defendants whose charges were withdrawn, at 1% (Table 3.3).
In 2010-11, 15,216 or 3% of defendants finalised were acquitted in the Magistrates' Courts in Australia (Table 3.3).
Five offence categories made up 80% of all acquitted defendants (Table 3.5):
The proportions of defendants acquitted varied across the states and territories with the largest proportions in Tasmania (15%), New South Wales (5%) and Victoria (4%), while South Australia had the smallest (less than 1%) (Table 3.3).
Defendants proven guilty
The proven guilty population comprises defendants who plead guilty or were found guilty, including those found guilty ex-parte.
Defendants proven guilty in the Magistrates' Courts accounted for 466,429 (87%) of defendants finalised in 2010-11. This proportion has remained relatively stable since 2005-06 (Table 3.2).
Almost all defendants finalised for dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons, public order offences and traffic offences (all 93%) were proven guilty (Table 3.5).
The proportion of defendants proven guilty, of all finalised defendants, ranged from 92% in Western Australia and 91% in Queensland to 66% in the Australian Capital Territory (Table 3.3).