1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2012  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/05/2012   
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Crime and justice


The criminal justice system comprises the state/territory and Australian Government institutions, agencies, departments and personnel responsible for dealing with victims of crime, persons accused or convicted of committing a crime, and related issues and processes.

The eight Australian states and territories each have powers to enact their own criminal laws. The Commonwealth also has the power to enact laws, including sanctions for criminal offences, in relation to its responsibilities under the Constitution. Consequently, there are nine different systems of criminal law in Australia. The existence of co-operative arrangements between the various states and territories and the Commonwealth, such as those relating to extradition or to the creation of joint police services, help address issues that have arisen out of the separate development and operation of these various systems of criminal law.

Each state and territory has its own police, courts and corrective services systems that deal with offences against local laws and also federal laws in some cases. The corrective service system comprises the agencies responsible for the operation of custodial facilities and community-based corrections programs. The federal criminal justice system deals with offences against Commonwealth laws. Criminal law is administered principally through the federal, state and territory police, the courts, and state and territory corrective services. As there is no independent federal corrective service, the relevant state or territory agencies provide corrective services for federal offenders.

The various agencies that comprise the criminal justice system act within a broader process in which criminal offenders interact with police, courts and corrective services. Diagram 13.1 illustrates the various stages involved in the processing of criminal cases and shows some of the links between these three elements of the criminal justice system.

The police, as well as other law enforcement agencies such as the Australian Customs Service, are responsible for the prevention, detection and investigation of crimes. When alleged offenders are detected by police, they can be proceeded against either through the use of a non-court process (such as a caution, fine or diversionary conference) or charges may be laid before a criminal court. The court, including judicial officers and a jury (in the higher courts), with the assistance of the prosecution and the defence, determines the guilt or innocence of the defendant.

Following the hearing of the charges, in cases where a finding of guilt is made by the court, sentences may be imposed. These may include imprisonment, community service orders of various kinds, fines or bonds. A number of jurisdictions have also introduced penalties such as home detention or work camps that are administered by corrective services agencies.



The Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification (ANZSOC) (1234.0) was created to provide a framework capable of being applied at various levels for classifying offences for statistical purposes.

The third edition of the ANZSOC was released in June 2011. This edition incorporated a name change to reflect international use of the framework to classify criminal behaviour and the correction of some minor typographical errors from its predecessor, the Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC) 2008. The classification content and structure are unchanged.

In the crime and justice collections described throughout this chapter, offences are classified according to the most recent edition of the offence classification that was available when each collection was published. Recorded Crime – Victims, Australia, 2010 (4510.0) was the first collection to incorporate the third edition. Other collections cited in the chapter are classified according to the ASOC 2008. As there were no changes to content between the second and third editions, the labels used to describe offence types are the same in both name and content.


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Statistics contained in the Year Book are the most recent available at the time of preparation. In many cases, the ABS website and the websites of other organisations provide access to more recent data. Each Year Book table or graph and the bibliography at the end of each chapter provides hyperlinks to the most up to date data release where available.