1291.0 - A Guide to Major ABS Classifications, 1998  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 03/09/1998   
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Contents >> CRIME: Australian Standard Offences Classification (ASOC)


The Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC) has been developed for use in the collection, analysis and dissemination of crime and justice statistics. It provides a classificatory framework for the comparison of statistics on offences across Australia. The ASOC replaces the Australian National Classification of Offences (ANCO), published by the ABS in 1985. The development of ASOC, which was undertaken in consultation with the courts, the police, corrections and other justice agencies Australia wide, resulted both from the need to update the existing classification and to address its recognised deficiencies.

Purpose of the classification

The classification provides a uniform national statistical framework for classifying offences, for statistical purposes, for use by justice agencies and other persons and agencies with an interest in crime and justice issues (eg. police, courts, legal aid and correction agencies). The ASOC has been designed to take account of the criminal legal codes of all the various Australian jurisdictions.

Within the ABS, ASOC is being used by the National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics unit of the ABS. It will also be introduced into other collections classifying offences for statistical purposes, for example, the Victims of Crimes Survey conducted by the ABS.

Outside the ABS, it is anticipated that ASOC will be used by most agencies involved in criminal justice (police, the courts, corrections etc.) agencies at Commonwealth, State and Territory levels. In addition there are various other organisations, concerned with the analysis of offence data.

Units of the classification

For the purposes of ASOC an offence is defined as: any act or omission by a person or organisation for which a penalty could be imposed by the Australian legal system. The classification covers all unlawful acts and omissions included in the common law or statutes of all the Australian Commonwealth, State and Territory jurisdictions.

In addition, it is intended to include matters dealt with by any professional and military tribunal or traditional law forums in instances where these authorities are legally empowered to impose penalties that might otherwise be dealt with by a legal system.

There are some matters that are specifically excluded from the ASOC that could, in certain instances, be considered to be of a criminal nature. These include some child welfare matters and some Court Orders such as Apprehended Violence Orders or Family Court Orders. However, breaches of these Court Orders are included.

There were six criteria used in the development of the classification:

      • violence — whether violence is involved;
      • acquisition — whether the intent of the offence is acquisitive;
      • nature of victim — the nature and vulnerability of the victim or object offended against;
      • ancillary offences — whether the offence depends for its existence on another offence;
      • seriousness — whether or not the offence involved a personal victim, or as a function of factors of aggravation; and
      • intent — whether the offence occurs as the result of a negligent or reckless act, or as the result of an intent to commit an offence, for example, manslaughter versus murder.

Structure of the classification

The ASOC has a hierarchical structure consisting of three levels:

      • The first and most general level contains 16 Divisions. The Divisions represent broad groups of criminal offences suitable for publication of summary statistics.
      • The second level contains 46 Subdivisions.
      • The third and the most detailed level contains 120 Groups.

The structure of the classification does not contain any 'seriousness' hierarchy. It is important that Classification codes not be used as a surrogate index of seriousness.

The 16 Divisions of the classification are:


Homicide and Related Offences
Acts Intended to Cause Injury
Sexual Assault and Related Offences
Dangerous or Negligent Acts Endangering Persons
Abduction and Related Offences
Robbery, Extortion and Related Offences
Unlawful Entry with Intent/Burglary, Break and Enter
Theft and Related Offences
Deception and Related Offences
Illicit Drug Offences
Weapons and Explosive Offences
Property Damage and Environmental Pollution
Public Order Offences
Road Traffic and Motor Vehicle Regulatory Offences
Offences Against Justice Procedures, Government Security and Government Operations
Miscellaneous Offences

Two, three and four digit codes are assigned to the first, second and third level units of the classification respectively. The first two digits identifies the Division, the first three digits taken together identify the Subdivision and the four digit code represents the Offence Group.

The following example illustrates the coding scheme:

Division06Robbery, extortion and related offences
Aggravated Robbery
Non-Aggravated Robbery
Subdivision062Blackmail And Extortion
Blackmail and Extortion

The above is an example of the hierarchy of ASOC. The actual classification also contains additional detailed descriptive information at each level and for each category. As well as providing an actual definition it includes information relating to the types of offences that may be included and excluded for each category at every level of ASOC.

Concordances between the ANCO and ASOC show the relationship between the various categories within them, and therefore the degree of comparability of the data classified to them.

Further information

Further information may be obtained through the following products:

  • Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC) (Cat. no. 1234.0)

ASOC Release Date:
The ASOC was released on 14th October 1997.

      Phone enquiries

      Assistant Director
      Classifications and Data Standards

      Phone: (02) 6252 7074
      Fax: (02) 6252 5281

      National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics
      ABS Melbourne

      Phone: (03) 9615 7595
      Fax: (03) 9615 7387

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