4513.0 - Higher Criminal Courts, Australia, 1998-99  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/07/2000   
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July 24, 2000
Embargoed 11:30am (AEST)

Higher courts finalised more cases

Higher courts across Australia finalised 18,426 defendants in 1998/99 a 10.4 per cent increase on the number finalised during the previous year, according to a report released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
The ABS figures are drawn from supreme, district and county court administrative information and cover the more serious offences dealt with by Australia's criminal courts. Included in the statistics are counts of the number of defendants whose cases were initiated, finalised and pending within the higher courts, and information is available on how defendants enter and leave the higher courts.

There was a 3 per cent increase in initiations in the higher courts with 17,574 defendants initiated in 1998/99 compared to 1997/98. The increase in finalisations resulted in a decrease in cases pending in New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

More than three quarters (77 per cent) of all defendants dealt with in the higher courts in 1998/99 had guilty outcomes, the same proportion as reported for 1997/98.

Excluding Queensland (for which figures are not available), 3,037 defendants maintained a not guilty plea throughout their trial. Of these, about half were acquitted of all charges and the other half were found guilty on one or more charges.

The median time taken in the higher courts in Australia to finalise cases in 1998/99 was 21 weeks. New South Wales recorded the longest median time taken to finalise defendants' cases at 35 weeks. Western Australia had the shortest duration from initiation to finalisation at 13 weeks.

The vast majority of defendants in the higher courts in 1998/99 were male (88 per cent) and the median age group for defendants was 28 years. Just over half (52 per cent) of all defendants were aged between 17 and 29 years. Males between 20 and 29 years old continue to be the most represented group, making up 35 per cent of the defendant population.

Queensland had the highest proportion of female defendants at 15 per cent. Tasmania reported the youngest median age of defendants at 24 years while Victoria had the oldest at 31 years.

In 58 per cent of cases where a defendant initially pleaded not guilty to one or more charges, they later changed their plea to guilty. These figures excluded Queensland, for which data was not available. Generally where a defendant changed their plea from not guilty to guilty, it took more than twice as long to finalise the case.

Further details are available in Higher Criminal Courts, 1998/99 (cat. no. 4513.0) available from ABS bookshops. If you wish to purchase a copy of this publication, contact your local ABS Office. .