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4513.0 - Criminal Courts, Australia, 2010–11 Quality Declaration 
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/02/2012   
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Contents >> Magistrates' Courts >> DEFENDANTS FINALISED

DEFENDANTS FINALISED

Defendants can have their charges finalised via different methods (see Appendix 2). The main categories of finalisation are: adjudicated finalisations, where the court has made a finding as to the guilt or otherwise of the defendant; finalisation by transfer between courts; withdrawal by the prosecution; and other methods such as defendant deceased or unfit to plead.

The largest number of defendants charged with criminal offences in Australia each year are finalised in the Magistrates' Courts. The number of defendants finalised at this court level had increased each year from 2005-06 to 2008-09 before decreasing in 2009-10 and again in 2010-11. Overall for this period, the number of defendants finalised has decreased by 6%, from 569,163 in 2005-06 to 533,857 in 2010-11 (Table 3.2).

DEFENDANTS FINALISED, 2005-2006 to 2010-2011
Graph: DEFENDANTS FINALISED, 2005–2006 to 2010–2011


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):
  • exceeding the prescribed content of alcohol or other substance limit (34%);
  • driver licence offences (31%);
  • vehicle registration and roadworthiness offences (11%); and
  • exceeding the legal speed limit (7%).

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).

DEFENDANTS FINALISED, Selected principal offence
Graph: DEFENDANTS FINALISED, Selected principal offence



Sex

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).


Age

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):
  • robbery and extortion (20% or 372);
  • sexual assault (17% or 734);
  • miscellaneous (17% or 2,087);
  • abduction, harassment and other offences against the person (16% or 439); and
  • acts intended to cause injury (15% or 8,759).

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).


Defendants acquitted

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):
  • traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (4,585 or 30%);
  • acts intended to cause injury (4,305 or 28%);
  • public order offences (1,226 or 8%);
  • theft (1,062 or 7%); and
  • offences against justice procedures (1,052 or 7%).
DEFENDANTS ACQUITTED, Selected principal offence
Graph: DEFENDANTS ACQUITTED, Selected principal offence


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).

DEFENDANTS PROVEN GUILTY, States and territories
Graph: DEFENDANTS PROVEN GUILTY, States and territories






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