4515.0 - Federal Defendants, Australia, 2015-16 Quality Declaration 
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 17/05/2017   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product

KEY FINDINGS


INTRODUCTION

Federal Defendants, Australia, 2015-16 (cat. no. 4515.0) presents statistics relating to finalised defendants charged with one or more offences against commonwealth legislation and heard in the criminal jurisdiction of the Higher (Supreme and Intermediate), Magistrates' and Children's Courts across Australia for the period 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016.

This publication presents the data about federal defendants using both the ABS Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification (ANZSOC) and an alternative specialised view, the Federal Offence Group. The Federal Offence Group has been created to compile categories of commonwealth offences of particular interest to users, based on commonwealth legislation (refer to Appendix 4 for more information about the Federal Offence Group).

For ease of reading, the ANZSOC Division 05 Abduction, harassment and other offences against the person has been shortened to Abduction and harassment while Division 15 Offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations has been shortened to Offences against justice throughout the publication commentary.

FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED

Australian state and territory criminal courts finalised 12,323 defendants charged with at least one offence against commonwealth legislation in 2015-16. This was a 13% (1,876) decrease in defendants from 2014-15.

In 2014-15, the number of federal defendants finalised increased by 37% (3,813) due to a large number of Offences against justice offences, mostly for failure to vote offences. (Table 1)

Graph Image for FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED AND PROVEN GUILTY, 2010-11 to 2015-16

Source(s): Federal Defendants, Australia



The proportion of federal defendants proven guilty increased to 73% (8,984 defendants) in 2015-16. (Table 1)

In 2015-16, federal defendants finalised represented 2% (12,323) of the 602,759 defendants finalised in Australia’s state and territory criminal courts as published in Criminal Courts, Australia, 2015-16 (cat. no. 4513.0).

PRINCIPAL FEDERAL OFFENCE (ANZSOC)

In 2015-16, the most common principal federal offences for defendants finalised in Australia’s state and territory criminal courts were:
  • Abduction and harassment (29% or 3,551);
  • Offences against justice (23% or 2,787); and
  • Fraud, deception and related offences (16% or 2,021). (Table 1)

Graph Image for FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED, Selected principal federal offences, 2014-15 to 2015-16

Source(s): Federal Defendants, Australia



Offences against justice

The number of defendants finalised for Offences against justice decreased by 49% (2,710) in 2015-16, driven by a reduction in defendants finalised for Offences against government operations, n.e.c. (52% or 2,705). The ANZSOC defines Offences against government operations, n.e.c. as a range of offences that impede the normal function capacity of government operations, such as failure to vote offences, taxation offences, and hoax calls to emergency services. (Tables 1 and 4)

In 2014-15, the higher number of defendants finalised for Offences against justice was associated with a number of failure to vote offences following the 2013 federal election and the 2014 Senate election in Western Australia. In 2015-16, an increase in defendants finalised for taxation offences partly offset the decrease in defendants finalised for failure to vote offences.

FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED, Selected principal federal offence by selected principal Federal Offence Group, 2013–14 to 2015–16(a)

Selected principal federal offence (ANZSOC) by selected principal Federal Offence Group
2013-14
2014-15(c)
2015-16

15 Offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations
1549 Offences against government operations, n.e.c.
Justice offences(b)
3
3,417
129
Tax offences
1,493
1,600
2,137
Other offences
209
162
209
Total 1549 Offences against government operations, n.e.c.
1,701
5,182
2,477
Total 15 Offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations
2,071
5,497
2,787

Total finalised federal defendants
10,386
14,199
12,323

(a) Principal Federal Offence Group category data by ANZSOC are not published in data cubes.
(b) The majority of these offences were prosecuted under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. Includes a small number of other offences that may have been prosecuted under other commonwealth legislation.
(c) 2014-15 data have been revised (see Explanatory Notes paragraph 73).

Of the defendants finalised for Offences against justice in 2015-16:
  • Almost two-thirds (63% or 1,760) were male;
  • The median age was 44 years;
  • The median duration from initiation to finalisation was 10 weeks; and
  • More than four in five (84% or 2,328) were proven guilty. (Tables 2 – 5)

Abduction and harassment

The number of defendants finalised for Abduction and harassment was 3,551 representing an increase of 14% (448) in 2015-16, due to an increase in defendants finalised for Harassment and threatening behaviour offences. (Table 4)

Since 2010-11, the number of defendants finalised for Abduction and harassment has more than doubled, increasing by 1,801 defendants from 1,750 defendants in 2010-11 to 3,551 defendants in 2015-16. (Table 1)

The majority of federal defendants finalised for Abduction and harassment were classified to the Communications category of the Federal Offence Group which indicates that the offences were related to the use of postal services, telecommunications services, computers, or carriage devices.

Of the defendants finalised for Abduction and harassment:
  • More than four in five (85% or 3,013) were male;
  • The median age was 35 years;
  • The median duration from initiation to finalisation was 10 weeks; and
  • 70% (2,491) were proven guilty, while 25% (870) had their cases withdrawn by the prosecution. (Tables 2 – 5)

Fraud, deception and related offences

The number of defendants finalised for Fraud, deception and related offences increased by 12% (211) in 2015-16. However, since 2010-11, the number of defendants finalised for Fraud, deception and related offences has decreased by 43% (1,505). (Table 1)

Of the defendants finalised for Fraud, deception and related offences:
  • Just over half (52% or 1,057) were male – the lowest proportion of any principal federal offence category;
  • The median age was 38 years;
  • The median duration from initiation to finalisation was 18 weeks; and
  • More than four in five (84% or 1,690) were proven guilty. (Tables 2 – 5)

COURT LEVEL

Of the 12,323 federal defendants finalised in 2015-16:
  • 92% (11,349) were finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts;
  • 6% (743) were finalised in the Higher Courts; and
  • 2% (228) were finalised in the Children’s Courts. (Table 1)

Graph Image for PROPORTION OF FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED, Court level, 2014-15 to 2015-16

Source(s): Federal Defendants, Australia



SEX AND AGE

Of the 12,323 federal defendants finalised in Australia’s state and territory criminal courts in 2015-16:
  • 72% (8,928) were male;
  • 20% (2,449) were female; and
  • 7% (887) were organisations. (Table 1)

The proportion of female defendants finalised decreased from 25% in 2014-15 to 20% in 2015-16.

Graph Image for PROPORTION OF FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED, Sex, 2014-15 to 2015-16

Source(s): Federal Defendants, Australia



The median age of federal defendants finalised in 2015-16 remained stable at 38 years. (Table 1)

METHOD OF FINALISATION


Of the 12,323 defendants finalised with at least one commonwealth offence in 2015-16:
  • 76% (9,299) had an adjudicated finalisation (73% or 8,984 defendants were proven guilty and 3% or 316 defendants were acquitted);
  • 19% (2,338) had their charges withdrawn by the prosecution; and
  • 5% (669) had their charges transferred to other court levels.

Of the federal defendants whose charges were transferred to other court levels:
  • 33% (220) were charged with a principal offence of Sexual assault and related offences; and
  • 28% (184) were charged with a principal offence of Illicit drug offences. Refer to Explanatory Notes paragraph 39 for more information. (Table 4)

Graph Image for PROPORTION OF FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED, Selected method of finalisation, 2014-15 to 2015-16

Source(s): Federal Defendants, Australia



DURATION FROM INITIATION TO FINALISATION

The median duration from initiation to finalisation for federal defendants finalised in 2015-16 was 11 weeks, representing an increase of 2 weeks compared to 2014-15. In contrast, the median duration for all defendants finalised in the Criminal Courts was 6 weeks. (Criminal Courts, Australia, 2015-16 (cat. no. 4513.0))

The median duration from initiation to finalisation varied depending on the principal federal offence. Defendants finalised for:
  • Illicit drug offences had the longest median duration (33 weeks); and
  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences had the shortest median duration (3 weeks). (Table 5)

SENTENCE TYPE

Of the federal defendants proven guilty in 2015-16:
  • 84% (7,547) received non-custodial sentences; and
  • 16% (1,433) received custodial sentences. (Table 6)

The number of defendants sentenced to non-custodial orders decreased by 10% (813) in 2015-16, due to the reduction in defendants proven guilty with a principal offence of Offences against justice. (Table 12)

In comparison, the number of defendants sentenced to custodial orders increased by 14% (173), due to increases in defendants proven guilty with a principal offence of Fraud, deception and related offences and Abduction and harassment. (Table 11)

STATES AND TERRITORIES

In 2015-16, the majority of federal defendants were finalised in the following states:
  • 31% of defendants were finalised in Victoria (3,865) and New South Wales (3,808) respectively; and
  • 19% (2,377) defendants were finalised in Queensland.

The largest changes to the number of defendants finalised in 2015-16 were in:
  • Western Australia, which decreased by 51% (974) due to a 67% (1,020) decrease in defendants finalised for Offences against justice;
  • New South Wales, which decreased by 16% (704) due to a 57% (845) decrease in defendants finalised for Offences against justice; and
  • Victoria, which increased by 12% (416) due to a 78% (390) increase in defendants finalised for Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences due to parking offences at airports. These offences fall under the Airports (Control of On-Airport Activities) Regulations 1997. Please refer to Explanatory Notes paragraph 60 for more information. (Tables 13 – 20)

Graph Image for FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED, States and territories, 2014-15 to 2015-16

Source(s): Federal Defendants, Australia



The most common principal federal offences in the states and territories were:
  • Abduction and harassment in New South Wales (40% or 1,520) and Victoria (34% or 1,315);
  • Offences against justice in Queensland (30% or 704), South Australia (34% or 142), Western Australia (54% or 509) and Tasmania (38% or 60);
  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences in the Australian Capital Territory (65% or 351); and
  • Miscellaneous offences – such as Commercial/industry/financial regulation offences and Environmental regulation offences – in the Northern Territory (39% or 85). (Tables 13 – 20)

Federal defendants finalised in the Australian Capital Territory had the lowest median age at 32 years, whereas defendants finalised in South Australia and Tasmania had the highest median age at 42 years.

Western Australia (79% or 739) had the highest proportion of federal defendants who were proven guilty, while the Australian Capital Territory (53% or 284) had the lowest proportion. The Australian Capital Territory (40% or 214) had the highest proportion of federal defendants with their charges withdrawn by the prosecution.

South Australia (43% or 124) had the highest proportion of federal defendants proven guilty who were sentenced to custodial orders. Western Australia (92% or 680) and Queensland (92% or 1,702) had the highest proportion of federal defendants proven guilty who were sentenced to non-custodial orders. (Tables 13 – 20)