4515.0 - Federal Defendants, Australia, 2014-15 Quality Declaration 
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KEY FINDINGS


INTRODUCTION

Federal Defendants, Australia, 2014-15 (cat. no. 4515.0) presents statistics relating to finalised defendants charged with one or more federal offences and heard in the criminal jurisdiction of the Higher (Supreme and Intermediate), Magistrates' and Children's Courts across Australia for the period 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015.

This publication presents the data about federal defendants using both the ABS standard 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 groups of commonwealth offences of particular interest to users, based on Act and Section information (refer to Appendix 4 for more information about the Federal offence group).

For ease of reading, the ANZSOC 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

In 2014-15, 14,179 defendants were finalised in Australia’s state and territory criminal courts charged with at least one federal offence against commonwealth legislation. This represented a 37% (3,793 defendants) increase compared to 2013-14. (Table 1)

The percentage of finalised federal defendants with a proven guilty outcome remained relatively stable at 68% in 2014-15 (compared to 69% in 2013-14). (Table 1)

Graph Image for FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED AND PROVEN GUILTY, 2010-11 to 2014-15

Source(s): Federal Defendants, Australia



INCREASE DRIVEN BY OFFENCES AGAINST JUSTICE

The principal offence for 5,473 defendants finalised during 2014-15 was Offences against justice (compared to 2,071 defendants in 2013-14). Of these, 3,417 defendants were finalised for Offences against government operations n.e.c., specifically justice offences. Almost all of these were prosecuted under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.

According to the 2014-15 Australian Electoral Commission Annual Report (2015), failure to vote offences associated with the 2013 federal election and the 2014 Senate election in Western Australia resulted in one of the highest number of summonses issued on record.


FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED, Selected principal federal offence by selected principal federal offence group, 2013–14 to 2014–15
Selected principal federal offence (ANZSOC) by selected principal federal offence group
2013-14
2014-15
15 Offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations
1549 Offences against government operations, n.e.c.
Justice offences(a)
3
3,417
Tax offences
1,493
1,579
Other offences
209
162
Total 1549 Offences against government operations, n.e.c.
1,701
5,159
Total 15 Offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations
2,071
5,473
Total finalised federal defendants
10,386
14,179

(a) 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 the Australian Federal Police Act 1979, Competition and Consumer Act 2010, Court Security Act 2013, Crimes Act 1914 and Service and Execution of Process Act 1992.


For the 3,417 defendants finalised for justice offences related to Offences against government operations n.e.c.:
  • 57% (1,956) were male;
  • the median age was 41 years;
  • 61% (2,086) were proven guilty and a further 36% (1,233) had their charges withdrawn by the prosecution;
  • the median duration from initiation to finalisation was 6 weeks; and
  • of those proven guilty, 96% (2,005) were sentenced to a fine. (Table 26)

Other impacts on the number of federal defendants finalised in 2014-15 compared to 2013-14 that can be attributed to the national increase in Offences against justice include:
  • The number of defendants finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts increased by 40% (3,782 defendants) to 13,131 defendants.
  • The number of female defendants increased by 64% (1,383 defendants) to 3,544 defendants, resulting in females making up an increased proportion of all finalised defendants (25%, up from 21% in 2013-14).
  • The total number of defendants whose charges were withdrawn by the prosecution increased by 59% (1,290 defendants) to 3,471 defendants, resulting in a higher proportion of withdrawals (24%, up from 21% in 2013-14).
  • The median duration from initiation to finalisation decreased by 4 weeks to 9 weeks, compared to 13 weeks in 2013-14. (Table 1)

STATES AND TERRITORIES

New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland accounted for the majority of defendants with a federal offence finalised in 2014-15:
  • New South Wales courts finalised 32% (4,512) of defendants;
  • Victorian courts finalised 24% (3,449) of defendants; and
  • Queensland courts finalised 19% (2,632) of defendants. (Tables 13–15)

Graph Image for PROPORTION OF FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED, States and territories, 2013-14 to 2014-15

Source(s): Federal Defendants, Australia



All states and territories reported an increase the number of defendants finalised compared to 2013-14. The largest increases occurred in Western Australia (184% or 1,240 defendants) and New South Wales (32% or 1,103 defendants). (Tables 13–20)

The increase across all states and territories was driven by Offences against justice. For the Australian Capital Territory, while there was an increase in the number of defendants finalised for offences prosecuted under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, this increase was offset by a decrease in the number of defendants finalised for taxation offences, which are also coded to this ANZSOC division.

Graph Image for FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED, Numeric change, States and territories, 2013-14 to 2014-15

Footnote(s): (a) ANZSOC Division 15 - Offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations

Source(s): Federal Defendants, Australia



COURT LEVEL

In 2014-15, 93% of defendants (13,131 defendants) were finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts. A further 6% (833 defendants) were finalised in the Higher Courts (Supreme and Intermediate courts) and 2% (213 defendants) were finalised in the Children’s Courts. (Table 1)

Graph Image for PROPORTION OF FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED, Court level, 2013-14 to 2014-15

Source(s): Federal Defendants, Australia



SEX AND AGE

Of the 14,179 federal defendants finalised in Australia’s state and territory criminal courts in 2014-15:
  • 70% (9,867) were male;
  • 25% (3,544) were female; and
  • 4% (578) were organisations. (Table 1)

The median age of federal defendants finalised in 2014-15 was 38 years. (Table 1)

PRINCIPAL FEDERAL OFFENCE (ANZSOC)

The most common principal federal offences for defendants finalised in Australia’s state and territory criminal courts charged with at least one commonwealth offence were:
  • Offences against justice, which comprised 5,473 defendants (39% of defendants finalised in 2014-15). Of these, 5,159 were finalised for Offences against government operations, n.e.c.
  • Abduction, harassment and other offences against the person, which comprised 3,103 defendants (22%). Of these, 3,098 were finalised for Harassment and threatening behaviour offences.
  • Fraud, deception and related offences, which comprised 1,810 defendants (13%). Of these, 1,213 were finalised for Obtain benefit by deception offences. (Table 4)

Graph Image for PROPORTION OF FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED, Selected principal federal offence, 2013-14 to 2014-15

Footnote(s): (a) ANZSOC Division 15 - Offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations

Source(s): Federal Defendants, Australia



Offences against justice

For the 5,473 federal defendants finalised for Offences against justice in 2014-15:
  • 61% (3,323) were male; (Table 2)
  • the median age was 42 years; (Table 3)
  • 70% (3,831) were proven guilty and a further 27% (1,504) had their charges withdrawn by the prosecution; (Table 4) and
  • the median duration from initiation to finalisation was 6 weeks. (Table 5)

The number of federal defendants finalised for Offences against justice increased by 164% (3,402 defendants) from 2013-14. This was driven by offences against justice prosecuted under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. (Table 2)

Abduction, harassment and other offences against the person

For the 3,103 federal defendants finalised for Abduction, harassment and other offences against the person in 2014-15:
  • 83% (2,574) were male; (Table 2)
  • the median age 34 years; (Table 3)
  • 68% (2,097) were proven guilty and a further 26% (793) had their charges withdrawn by the prosecution; (Table 4) and
  • the median duration from initiation to finalisation was 10 weeks. (Table 5)

The number of federal defendants finalised for Abduction, harassment and other offences against the person increased by 17% (447 defendants) from 2013-14. (Table 2)

Fraud, deception and related offences

For the 1,810 federal defendants finalised for Fraud, deception and related offences in 2014-15:
  • 56% (1,016) were male; (Table 2)
  • the median age was 37 years; (Table 3)
  • 80% (1,439) were proven guilty and a further 13% (242) had their charges withdrawn by the prosecution; (Table 4) and
  • the median duration from initiation to finalisation was 18 weeks. (Table 5)

The number of federal defendants finalised for Fraud, deception and related offences decreased by 3% (51 defendants) from 2013-14. (Table 2)

States and territories

The most common principal federal offence for defendants with at least one commonwealth offence finalised in 2014-15 for all states and territories except Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory was Offences against justice, ranging from 33% of all federal defendants finalised in New South Wales to 80% in Western Australia.

In Victoria, the most common principal federal offence was Abduction, harassment and other offences against the person (accounting for 33% of federal defendants); while in the Australian Capital Territory it was Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (accounting for 72% of federal defendants). These traffic offences largely related to parking infringements issued under federal legislation (see Explanatory Notes paragraph 64 for more details). (Tables 13–20)

METHOD OF FINALISATION

Of the 14,179 defendants finalised with at least one commonwealth offence in 2014-15:
  • 71% (10,016) had an adjudicated finalisation (96% or 9,606 defendants were proven guilty and 4% or 411 defendants were acquitted);
  • 24% (3,471 defendants) had their charges withdrawn by the prosecution; and
  • 5% (673 defendants) had their charges transferred to other court levels. (Table 4)

Graph Image for PROPORTION OF FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED, Selected method of finalisation, 2013-14 to 2014-15

Source(s): Federal Defendants, Australia



DURATION FROM INITIATION TO FINALISATION

In 2014-15, the median duration from initiation to finalisation was 9 weeks. 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 (29 weeks); while
  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences had the shortest median duration (5 weeks). (Table 5)

The median duration from initiation to finalisation decreased by 4 weeks compared with 2013-14. This decrease was driven by a decrease in the duration for defendants finalised with a principal offence of Offences against justice from 12 weeks in 2013-14 to 6 weeks in 2014-15. (Table 5)

SENTENCE TYPE

In 2014-15, 87% (8,349) of defendants proven guilty were sentenced to non-custodial orders. This represented a 41% (2,447) increase on 2013-14. The remaining 13% (1,260) were sentenced to custodial orders, which remained relatively stable compared to 2013-14 (decreasing by 1% or 9 defendants). (Table 6)

Of those sentenced to non-custodial orders, the majority of defendants (72% or 6,021) were sentenced to a monetary order. Defendants finalised for Offences against justice accounted for more than half (58% or 3,465) of defendants sentenced to monetary orders. (Table 12)

The increase in the number of federal defendants sentenced to a monetary order (61% or 2,273 defendants compared to 2013-14) was driven by the increase in the number of monetary orders given to defendants with a principal offence of Offences against justice (145% or 2,053 defendants). (Table 12)

Australian Electoral Commission 2015, Annual Report 2014-15 Australian Electoral Commission, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.