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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 >> Higher Courts >> 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 court levels; withdrawal by the prosecution; and other methods such as defendant deceased or unfit to plead.

Following a low in 2006-07, the number of defendants finalised in the Higher Courts peaked in 2008-09. The number of defendants finalised decreased again in 2009-10 and 2010-11 (Table 2.2).

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

Four states and territories had decreases in the numbers of defendants finalised in the Higher Courts in 2010-11: New South Wales (11%), Western Australia (10%), the Northern Territory (11%) and Queensland (2%). The remaining states and territories had increases, the largest being the Australian Capital Territory (16%) (Table 2.11).

Principal offence

Five offence types accounted for over three-quarters of defendants finalised in the Higher Courts in 2010-11: acts intended to cause injury (22%), illicit drug offences (19%), sexual assault (18%), robbery and extortion (10%), and unlawful entry with intent (7%) (Table 2.5).

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


In 2010-11, 88% of defendants finalised were male and 12% were female. These proportions have remained relatively stable over time, with males accounting for 86-88% of defendants since 2005-06 (Table 2.2).

The proportion of males and females was similar across the states and territories. Queensland (85%) and Tasmania (87%) had a smaller proportion of males than the national average and the Northern Territory (91%), New South Wales (90%), Victoria (89%) and the Australian Capital Territory (90%) had a larger proportion (Table 2.3).


Those aged 20 to 29 years accounted for over one-third (38%) of defendants finalised in the Higher Courts. This was followed by defendants aged 30 to 39 years (26%) (Table 2.6).

Charges withdrawn by the prosecution

In 2010-11, 2,197 (13%) defendants had their charges withdrawn by the prosecution, a small increase from 2009-10 (Table 2.2).

During 2010-11, the following offences had the largest proportion of defendants finalised through the withdrawal of charges by the prosecution (Table 2.5):
  • abduction, harassment and other offences against the person (21% or 72);
  • sexual assault (20% or 584);
  • property damage and environmental pollution (18% or 62); and
  • theft (17% or 70).

South Australia (29%) and Tasmania (26%) had larger proportions of defendants finalised by charges withdrawn than the national average of 14%. New South Wales and Victoria had the smallest proportion of defendants finalised by this method (5% and 6% respectively) (Table 2.3).

Defendants acquitted

Of the 16,298 defendants finalised, 7% (1,142) were acquitted. This represents no change from the proportion in 2009-10 (Table 2.2).

Two principal offences accounted for over two-thirds of all defendants acquitted in 2010-11: sexual assault (542 or 48%) and acts intended to cause injury (257 or 23%) (Table 2.5).

Defendants finalised with sexual assault and homicide offences had the largest proportion of defendants acquitted (19% and 15% respectively) (Table 2.1).

Queensland and Tasmania had the lowest proportion of defendants acquitted (6%) and the Australian Capital Territory had the highest (10%) (Table 2.3).

Defendants proven guilty

In 2010-11, the majority (78% or 12,768) of defendants finalised in the Higher Courts were proven guilty. Of these defendants, a large proportion (88% or 11,203) pleaded guilty, while 11% had a guilty finding at trial (Table 2.2).

The proportion of defendants pleading guilty varied by offence type: 82% of defendants with a principal offence of robbery and extortion pleaded guilty, whereas 44% of defendants with homicide offences and 46% of defendants with sexual assault offences pleaded guilty (Table 2.5).

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