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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2012  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/05/2012   
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Crime and justice


Youth involvement in crime is a perennial issue of interest for the media, government and researchers. Bringing together various statistical data sources to create a cohesive picture of youth involvement in crime and justice has been identified as a key priority in addressing this issue. Youth are broadly defined as those aged under 25 years.

This special article is based on a December 2011 report, In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics, December 2011 (4524.0).The report collated findings from several ABS statistical collections and provided an overview of youth victims and youth offenders. Information was sourced predominantly from Recorded Crime – Offenders, 2007–08 to 2009–10, and Crime Victimisation, Australia, 2008–09 and 2009–10. Data sourced from Crime Victimisation, Australia were only available for persons aged 15 years and over and data from Recorded Crime – Offenders were only available for persons aged 10 years and over.

All differences between estimates sourced from Crime Victimisation, Australia presented throughout this article are statistically significant differences.


Physical assault was the most common form of assault experienced by the youth population in 2009–10. In the 12 months prior to interview, 6% of persons aged 15–17, and 6% of persons aged 18–24, experienced at least one physical assault. These rates are more than double the estimated victimisation rates for physical assault for persons aged 25 years and over (2.3%).


A comparison of the proportion of total offenders who were aged 10–24 in 2009–10 (48%) with the proportion of the general population who were aged 10–24 in Australia as at December 2009 (23%), clearly shows the higher proportion of young people in the offender population (graph S13.1).

S13.1 Recorded crime offender population compared with the estimated resident population (ERP), 2009-10

Youth offenders demonstrate different types of offending in comparison to adult offenders. The most common principal offence for youth offenders aged 10–24 was Theft (21% of young offenders), while for adult offenders aged 25 years and over, the most common principal offence was Acts intended to cause injury (22%).


Overall, there was a significant decrease in estimated victimisation rates for physical assault and threatened assault between 2008–09 and 2009–10. For the youth population, there was a significant decrease for youth aged 15–17 in physical assault (9% to 6%) and threatened assault (8% to 5%). For youth aged 18–24, there was a significant decrease for threatened assault (7% to 5%).

Estimated victimisation rates for sexual assault slightly decreased between 2008–09 and 2009–10, at 0.6% and 0.5% respectively for those aged 18–24, and 0.3% to 0.2% for those aged 25 and over. While the victimisation rates for these selected personal offences have generally decreased over time, the proportion of youth victims has remained relatively high. In 2008–09, 32% of victims of total assault (including physical and threatened assault) were aged 15–24, compared with 29% in 2009–10.

Offender rates for persons aged 10–14 years and persons aged 15–19 years have increased each year since 2007–08. This trend is in contrast to the offender rates for adults, which have decreased each year since 2007–08.


For males aged 15–24, 7.4% experienced at least one physical assault, compared to 4.1% of females in this age group in the 12 months prior to interview. However, the rates were very similar for threatened assaults (graph S13.2).

Theft was the most common principal offence for female offenders aged 10–24 (36%), whilst for males it was Public order offences (22%).

S13.12 PERSONS AGED 15–24 YEARS, VICTIMISATION RATES(a), By gender—2009–10


Persons aged 18–24 were more likely than persons aged 15–17 to report that they did not know their offender (49% and 20% respectively).

The tendency for persons aged 18–24 to not know their offender can perhaps be better understood when combined with information about the most common location for an incident to occur. For physical assault incidents, the most common location for an incident to occur was at a place of entertainment/recreation (25%). For persons aged 15–17, a pattern emerged between the location of the incident and the relationship to the offender. The offender was most commonly reported as being a colleague/school student/professional relationship (38%), and the incident most commonly occurred at a work/place of study location (32%).


Over half of the victims of physical assault aged 15–24 reported being physically injured in their most recent incident of physical assault (57% for 15–17 year olds and 55% for 18–24 year olds). In addition, approximately 1 in 5 reported seeking formal medical treatment (21% of 15–17 year olds and 19% of 18–24 year olds).


Further information on this topic can be obtained from In focus: Crime and Justice Statistics, December 2011 (4524.0).


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Statistics contained in the Year Book are the most recent available at the time of preparation. In many cases, the ABS website and the websites of other organisations provide access to more recent data. Each Year Book table or graph and the bibliography at the end of each chapter provides hyperlinks to the most up to date data release where available.

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