4513.0 - Criminal Courts, Australia, 2015-16 Quality Declaration 
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 02/03/2017   
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DEFENDANTS PROVEN GUILTY

This chapter presents information about defendants proven guilty in the criminal jurisdictions of the Higher (Supreme and Intermediate), Magistrates' and Children's Courts across Australia for the period 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016. All Courts data refer to the grouping of the Higher Courts, Magistrates' Courts and Children's Courts.

There were 526,672 defendants who were proven guilty within Australian state and territory criminal courts in 2015–16. This represented 87% of all defendants finalised nationally over the same period. (Table 1)

The number of defendants proven guilty increased by 3% (14,899) in 2015–16 compared with 2014–15. (Table 1)

Graph Image for NUMBER OF DEFENDANTS PROVEN GUILTY, Australia, 2008-09 to 2015-16

Source(s): Criminal Courts, Australia


Defendants finalised in Western Australia were most likely to be proven guilty (92% or 80,197), followed by Queensland (90% or 157,260 defendants). The lowest proportion of defendants proven guilty was 70% (3,208) in the Australian Capital Territory. (Table 2)

Graph Image for PROPORTION OF DEFENDANTS PROVEN GUILTY, States and territories, 2015-16

Source(s): Criminal Courts, Australia


COURT LEVEL

In 2015–16:
  • Almost four out of five (79% or 12,633) defendants finalised in the Higher Courts were proven guilty;
  • 88% (492,523) of defendants finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts were proven guilty; and
  • Four out of five (80% or 21,516) defendants finalised in the Children’s Courts were proven guilty. (Table 2)

Graph Image for PROPORTION OF DEFENDANTS PROVEN GUILTY, Court levels, 2015-16

Source(s): Criminal Courts, Australia


DURATION FROM INITIATION TO FINALISATION

The median duration (between the date of initiation and finalisation) for defendants proven guilty was 6 weeks in 2015–16.

Across the court levels the shortest median duration for defendants proven guilty was in the Magistrates’ Courts (5 weeks). The longest median duration was in the Higher Courts, which increased nationally by one week from 29 weeks in 2014–15 to 30 weeks in 2015–16. (Table 7)

Graph Image for MEDIAN DURATION, Defendants proven guilty, By court level, 2011-12 to 2015-16

Source(s): Criminal Courts, Australia


Defendants proven guilty for a principal offence of Homicide and related offences had the longest median duration, at 41 weeks; whilst defendants proven guilty for Public order offences had the shortest median duration, at 4 weeks. (Table 11)

SEX AND AGE

Of defendants proven guilty in 2015–16:
  • Just over three-quarters (76% or 398,773) were male;
  • 23% (122,039) were female; and
  • 1% (4,454) were organisations. (Table 7)

The proportion of female and male defendants who were proven guilty was similar, with 89% (122,039) of female defendants and 87% (398,773) of male defendants respectively. For organisations, the proportion proven guilty was 73%. (Tables 1 and 7)

The national median age of defendants proven guilty in 2015–16 was 31 years. The median age across all states and territories ranged from 30 years in Queensland and the Northern Territory to 33 years in South Australia. (Table 8)

PRINCIPAL OFFENCE

In 2015–16, the most common principal offences for defendants proven guilty were:
  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (40% or 208,335) including Driver licence offences (14% or 75,228) and Exceeding the prescribed content of alcohol or other substance limit (14% or 71,501);
  • Illicit drug offences (11% or 56,282) including Possess and/or use of illicit drugs (7% or 35,578 defendants); and
  • Acts intended to cause injury (10% or 53,331) including Assault offences (9% or 48,984 defendants). (Table 7)

Graph Image for NUMBER OF DEFENDANTS PROVEN GUILTY, Selected principal offences by state and territory, 2015-16

Source(s): Criminal Courts, Australia


PRINCIPAL SENTENCE

In 2015–16, 88% (463,774) of defendants proven guilty were sentenced to a non-custodial order, primarily monetary orders (62% or 328,417). (Table 7)

Graph Image for PROPORTION OF DEFENDANTS PROVEN GUILTY, Principal sentence by state and territory, 2015-16

Source(s): Criminal Courts, Australia


Of those who received a monetary order:
  • Three out of four were male (75% or 244,879);
  • 18% (57,652) were aged between 20 and 24 years; and
  • One in two (51% or 168,062) had a principal offence of Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences and a further one in ten (10% or 33,228) had a principal offence of Illicit drug offences. (Tables 9 and 10)

The remaining 12% (62,814) of proven guilty defendants were sentenced to a custodial order, most notably custody in a correctional institution (8% or 40,966). (Table 7)

Of those sentenced to custody in correctional institution:
  • 89% (36,350) were male;
  • Over half (53% or 21,841) were aged between 20 and 34 years; and
  • The most common principal offence was Acts intended to cause injury (29% or 11,816), followed by Illicit drug offences (11% or 4,451). (Tables 9 and 10)

These characteristics of defendants sentenced to custody in a correctional institution were also reflected in the annual National Prisoner Census held on 30 June 2016 as published in Prisoners in Australia, 2016 (cat. no. 4517.0).

Of the prisoners in custody as at 30 June 2016:
  • Males accounted for 92% of all prisoners; (Table 13)
  • The median age for Australian adult prisoners was 34 years; and (Table 1)
  • The two most common offences/charges for prisoners were Acts intended to cause injury (22%) and Illicit drug offences (14%). (Table 1)

Across the criminal courts for all states and territories, the Northern Territory had the highest proportion of defendants sentenced to custody in a correctional institution (36% or 3,892 defendants) while Western Australia had the lowest proportion (5% or 4,081). Western Australia had the highest proportion of defendants sentenced to a monetary order (84% or 67,019) while New South Wales had the lowest proportion (48% or 63,842). New South Wales had the highest proportion of Other non-custodial orders (35% or 46,219) which includes sentences such as good behaviour bonds and licence disqualifications. (Table 8)