4513.0 - Criminal Courts, Australia, 2008-09 Quality Declaration 
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Contents >> Higher Courts >> INTRODUCTION


This chapter presents information about defendants finalised in the criminal jurisdiction of the Higher Courts in 2008-09. The Higher Courts refers to the grouping of the Intermediate (the District or County Court) and Supreme Court levels.

Higher Courts are in operation in all states and territories of Australia. These courts try and sentence matters relating to indictable and serious criminal offences.

Higher Courts data presented here exclude cases such as bail reviews and applications to amend sentences or penalties which do not require the adjudication of charges. Also excluded are breach of bail or parole cases, appeal cases, tribunal matters and defendants for whom a bench warrant is issued, but not executed.

The offence categories referred to relate to the principal offence, i.e. the most serious offence type with which the defendant was charged. For more information about principal offence see the Explanatory Notes paragraphs 41-45.

National data for the Higher Courts are available from 1995.


  • The number of defendants finalised in the Higher Courts increased by 3%, from 16,735 in 2007-08 to 17,207 in 2008-09, but had decreased by 2% since 2001-02.
  • The proportion of male to female defendants had remained relatively stable since 2001-02 with males accounting for approximately 87% of the total.
  • Of those defendants finalised in the Higher Courts, 85% (14,668) were finalised by a guilty plea or a court determination of their guilt or innocence. Withdrawal of charges by the prosecution accounted for 14% of finalisations.
  • Defendants finalised for charges of sexual assault had the lowest proportion (63%) proven guilty of all principal offences. This offence also had the largest proportion of charges withdrawn (22%). The principal offence with largest proportion of acquittals was homicide (16%).
  • The majority (92% or 13,526) of defendants whose cases were adjudicated in the Higher Courts in 2008-09 were proven guilty. Of those defendants proven guilty, 87% pleaded guilty and 10% were found guilty following a trial.
  • Approximately 8 in 10 convicted defendants were sentenced to custodial orders.

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