4513.0 - Criminal Courts, Australia, 2005-06  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 28/03/2007   
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March 28, 2007
Embargoed 11:30am (AEST)
Illicit drug offences make-up 17% of defendants in Higher Courts: ABS

Illicit drug offences made up 17% of Higher Court defendants during 2005-06, an increase from five years ago, according to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Of the 14,163 people adjudicated in Australia's Higher Courts in 2005-06, 2,405 (17%) were finalised for illicit drug offences. This is a rise of 19% from 2001-02 and 2% from 2004-05.

Almost 35% of these defendants were aged between 25 and 34 years and over eight out of ten (86%) were men.

Only 3% of people facing illicit drug charges were acquitted in the Higher Courts in 2005-06. People proven guilty in the Higher Courts were more likely to receive a custodial term for illicit drug offences than for all other offence types, except robbery, homicide and sexual assault.

In the Magistrates' Courts more than 27,000 people (5% of all adjudicated defendants) faced illicit drug offences in 2005-06. Similar to the Higher Courts, one-third of defendants were aged between 25 and 34 years and eight out of ten defendants were men.

Those facing illicit drug offences were most likely to be proven guilty in the Magistrates' Courts, with the acquittal rate for illicit drug offences the lowest of all offences (1%).

Other results presented in the publication include:
    • In the Higher Courts, offences against persons have risen steadily over the last five years - from 35% to 41% of all offences. Offences against property have fallen in the same period, from 31% in 2001-02 to 22% in 2005-06.
    • In the Magistrates' Courts, public order offences have risen 11% between 2004-05 and 2005-06, with the largest contribution to the rise from disorderly conduct. For the same period, breach of domestic violence order offences have increased by 9%.
Further information is in Criminal Courts, Australia(cat. no. 4513.0).