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Four states had decreases in the numbers of defendants finalised in the Higher Courts in 2009-10: Tasmania (19%), Western Australia (12%), Queensland (6%) and Victoria (3%). The remaining states and territories had increases, the largest being South Australia (23%) (Table 2.10).
Five offence types accounted for over three-quarters of defendants finalised in the Higher Courts in 2009-10: acts intended to cause injury (22%); illicit drug offences (19%); sexual assault (17%); robbery and extortion (11%); and unlawful entry with intent (8%) (Table 2.5).
In 2009-10, 87% of defendants finalised 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 (Table 2.2).
The proportion of males and females was similar across the states and territories. Queensland and Tasmania had a smaller proportion of males than the national average (both 84%) and the Northern Territory had a larger proportion of males (94%) (Table 2.3).
The proportion of males who had their charges adjudicated was the same as the proportion of females adjudicated (both 86%). A higher proportion of females (74%) were finalised with a guilty plea than males (69%), whereas a higher proportion of males were acquitted (8%) than females (4%) (Table 2.6).
Those aged 20 to 29 years accounted for over a third (38%) of defendants finalised in the Higher Courts. This was followed by defendants aged 30 to 39 years (26%).
Charges withdrawn by the prosecution
Of the 2,225 defendants whose charges were withdrawn by the prosecution in 2009-10, the greatest number of these defendants had charges for sexual assault (607) and acts intended to cause injury (537).
Principal offences with the largest proportion of defendants finalised by charges withdrawn were abduction, harassment and other offences against the person (28%), and sexual assault (21%). In contrast, 6% of defendants facing charges of prohibited and regulated weapons and explosives offences and homicide offences, had their charges withdrawn (Table 2.5).
South Australia (28%) and Tasmania (24%) had larger proportions of defendants finalised by charges withdrawn than the national average of 13%. New South Wales and Victoria had the smallest proportion of defendants finalised by this method (5% and 7% respectively) (Table 2.3).
Of the 16,834 defendants finalised, 7% (1,216) were acquitted; no change from the proportion in 2008-09 (Table 2.2).
Two principal offences accounted for over two-thirds of all defendants acquitted in 2009-10: sexual assault (557 or 46%); and acts intended to cause injury (291 or 24%).
Defendants finalised with sexual assault and homicide offences had the largest proportion of defendants acquitted (19% and 17% respectively) (Table 2.5).
Tasmania had the lowest proportion of defendants acquitted (4%) and the Australian Capital Territory had the highest proportion (11%) (Table 2.3).
Defendants proven guilty
In 2009-10, the majority (78% or 13,193) of defendants finalised in the Higher Courts were proven guilty. Of these defendants, a large proportion (89% or 11,697) pleaded guilty, while 10% had a guilty finding at trial (Table 2.2).
The proportion of defendants pleading guilty varies by offence type: all defendants with a principal offence of traffic and vehicle regulatory offences pleaded guilty whereas 47% of defendants with homicide offences or sexual assault offences pleaded guilty (Table 2.5).