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4513.0 - Criminal Courts, Australia, 2008-09 Quality Declaration 
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/03/2010   
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Contents >> Higher Courts >> DEFENDANTS ADJUDICATED

DEFENDANTS ADJUDICATED

The following information only relates to defendants whose charges were adjudicated, i.e. finalised via a plea of guilty or a decision by the judge as to their guilt or otherwise of the final charges laid.

There were 14,668 (85%) defendants adjudicated in the Higher Courts in 2008-09, an increase of 2% from 2007-08.

Victoria (95%) and New South Wales (94%) had larger proportions of defendants adjudicated than the national average, while South Australia (73%) and Tasmania (71%) had the lowest proportions.


Principal offence

Five offence types accounted for over three-quarters of defendants heard in the Higher Courts in 2008-09: acts intended to cause injury (22%); illicit drug offences (20%); sexual assault (16%); robbery and extortion (10%); and unlawful entry with intent (9%).

Acts intended to cause injury accounted for the largest proportion of defendants heard in the Northern Territory (35%), Queensland (28%), Tasmania (27%) and Victoria (26%). In South Australia, New South Wales and Western Australia illicit drug offences accounted for the largest proportion of final charges heard (25%, 24% and 20% respectively). In the Australian Capital Territory the most prevalent offence type was robbery and extortion (19%).

DEFENDANTS ADJUDICATED, Selected principal offence
Graph: DEFENDANTS ADJUDICATED, Selected principal offence



Sex

In 2008-09, 87% of defendants charged were male and 13% were female. These proportions have remained relatively stable over time, with males accounting for around 87% of defendants since 2001-02.

The two most common offences that both males and females were charged with were acts intended to cause injury (both 22%) and illicit drug offences (19% and 26% respectively). For males, this was followed by sexual assault (18%) and for females it was fraud and deception (14%).

DEFENDANTS ADJUDICATED, Selected principal offence by sex
Graph: DEFENDANTS ADJUDICATED, Selected principal offence by sex



Age

Those aged 25 to 34 years accounted for just under a third (31%) of defendants charged in the Higher Courts. This was followed by defendants aged under 25 years (29%), and those aged 35 to 44 years (22%). Defendants aged 45 years and over represented 17% of defendants. These proportions were relatively unchanged from 2007-08.

Approximately one-quarter of defendants aged under 25 years and 25 to 34 years were charged with acts intended to cause injury (26% and 24% respectively). While robbery and extortion accounted for 18% of defendants aged under 25 years, this offence type was less common for defendants over this age group. The largest proportion of defendants aged 45 years and over were charged with sexual assault (33%), followed by illicit drug offences (24%).

DEFENDANTS ADJUDICATED, Age groups by selected principal offence
Graph: DEFENDANTS ADJUDICATED, Age groups by selected principal offence


When comparing defendants by principal offence type, defendants aged under 25 years of age accounted for the largest proportions of the following offence types: robbery and extortion (51%); unlawful entry with intent (42%); property damage (41%); and acts intended to cause injury (34%). Of those charged with dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons and illicit drug offences, the largest proportion of defendants were aged 25 to 34 years (36% and 33% respectively). For sexual assault offences, just over a third (35%) of defendants with this principal offence type were aged 45 years and over.

DEFENDANTS ADJUDICATED, Selected principal offence by selected age groups
Graph: DEFENDANTS ADJUDICATED, Selected principal offence by selected age groups



Defendants acquitted

Of the 2,547 defendants that had a trial outcome (acquitted or found guilty by the court), 45% (1,142) were acquitted; no change from the proportion in 2007-08.

Two principal offences accounted for two-thirds of all defendants acquitted in 2008-09: sexual assault (466 or 41%); and acts intended to cause injury (290 or 25%).

Defendants heard for sexual assault and homicide offences had the largest proportion of defendants acquitted (19% and 18% respectively).

Queensland had the lowest proportion of adjudicated defendants acquitted (5%) compared to the national average of 8%.


Defendants proven guilty

In 2008-09, the majority (92% or 13,526) of defendants heard in the Higher Courts were proven guilty. Of these defendants, a large proportion (81% or 11,822) pleaded guilty, while 10% had a guilty finding at trial.

The proportion of defendants pleading guilty varies by offence type ranging from 54% for homicide to 90% for unlawful entry with intent.






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