4513.0 - Criminal Courts, Australia, 2015-16 Quality Declaration 
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 02/03/2017   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product


DEFENDANTS FINALISED

This chapter presents information about defendants finalised in the criminal jurisdictions of the Higher (Supreme and Intermediate), Magistrates' and Children's Courts across Australia for the period 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016. All Courts data refer to the grouping of the Higher Courts, Magistrates' Courts and Children's Courts.

Defendants include persons charged with criminal offences for each court level as well as organisations charged with criminal offences for the Higher and Magistrates' Courts. A finalised defendant is a person or organisation for whom all charges in a case have been formally completed so that they cease to be an item of work.

The diagram below shows a summary of the number of defendants finalised by court level, method of finalisation and, for defendants proven guilty, whether they received a custodial or non-custodial order as their principal sentence in 2015–16.





(a) Defendants will be counted twice where they are transferred from one of the three court levels and then finalised in another within the same reference period. See Explanatory Notes paragraphs 35-37.
(b) Includes defendants with an unknown method of finalisation.
(c) Includes defendants transferred to other court levels, deceased, unfit to plead, and transferred to non-court agencies. Also includes defendants with cases withdrawn by prosecution and other non-adjudicated finalisations n.e.c.
(d) Includes defendants deceased, unfit to plead, and transferred to non-court agencies. Also includes defendants with cases withdrawn by prosecution and other non-adjudicated finalisations n.e.c.
(e) Includes defendants for whom a principal sentence is unknown.

DEFENDANT NUMBERS

In 2015–16, there were a total of 602,759 defendants finalised in Australian state and territory criminal courts. The number of defendants finalised has been increasing since 2012–13. (Table 1)

Graph Image for NUMBER OF DEFENDANTS FINALISED, All Courts, 2008-09 to 2015-16

Source(s): Criminal Courts, Australia


At the state and territory level, the largest contributors to the national number of defendants finalised were:
  • Queensland accounting for 29% (174,987);
  • New South Wales accounting for 26% (153,894); and
  • Victoria accounting for 19% (115,988). (Table 2)

There were increases in the number of defendants finalised in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland while numbers in the remaining jurisdictions decreased. The largest increase occurred in New South Wales (7% or 10,467 defendants), while the largest decrease occurred in South Australia (8% or 3,409 defendants). (Tables 15 and 27)

Decreases in the number of defendants finalised in South Australia were partially due to the transfer of responsibility of the collection and enforcement of fines from the Courts Administration Authority to the new Fines Enforcement and Recovery Unit managed by the South Australian Attorney-General's Department. For more information refer to Explanatory Notes paragraph 86.

Graph Image for NUMBER OF DEFENDANTS FINALISED, All Courts, States and territories, 2011-12 to 2015-16

Source(s): Criminal Courts, Australia


COURT LEVEL

The majority of defendants continue to be finalised in the Magistrates' Courts. In 2015–16, 93% (559,844) of all defendants were finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts, 5% (26,944) in the Children’s Courts, and the remaining 3% (15,971) were finalised in the Higher Courts. The increase in the number of defendants was reflected in the Magistrates' Courts (3% or 14,748) and the Higher Courts (5% or 749), while the Children's Courts experienced a decrease of 3% (900). The number of defendants in the Children's Courts has decreased by 36% (15,254 defendants) since 2008–09. (Table 1)

Graph Image for NUMBER OF DEFENDANTS FINALISED, Children's Courts, 2008-09 to 2015-16

Source(s): Criminal Courts, Australia


The Northern Territory had the lowest proportion of defendants finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts in 2015–16 (88% or 11,234 defendants) while Victoria had the highest proportion (94% or 108,699 defendants). The Northern Territory had the highest proportion of defendants finalised in the Children’s Court (8% or 973 defendants). (Table 2)

SEX

In 2015–16, males accounted for the majority of defendants finalised (76% or 457,047), while females accounted for 23% (137,887) and the remaining 1% (6,148) of defendants were organisations. (Table 1)

Between 2014–15 and 2015–16, there was a greater percentage increase in the number of female defendants than the number of male defendants. The number of females increased by 5% (6,401), while the number of males increased by 2% (8,453). (Table 1)

This was also reflected in Recorded Crime – Offenders 2015–16, where the female offenders increased by 5% compared to male offenders increasing by less than 1%. (Table 1 in the 2015–16 issue of Recorded Crime – Offenders, Australia (cat. no. 4519.0))

AGE

The median age of all defendants finalised in 2015–16 remained unchanged at 31 years compared with 2014–15. Defendants finalised in Victoria and South Australia had the highest median age at 33 years, while those in Queensland and Northern Territory had the lowest median age at 30 years. (Table 2)

The number of defendants aged 10–19 years has decreased from 15% (106,855) of all defendants finalised in 2008–09 to 10% (61,791) in 2015–16. (Table 1)

This decrease in younger defendants finalised in Australian state and territory criminal courts has been reflected in the number of offenders aged 10–19 years proceeded against by police which has decreased from 29% of all offenders proceeded against in Australia in 2008–09 to 21% in 2015–16. (Table 5 of Recorded Crime – Offenders, Australia (cat. no. 4519.0))

Graph Image for NUMBER OF DEFENDANTS FINALISED, All Courts, Age group, 2008-09 to 2015-16

Source(s): Criminal Courts, Australia


METHOD OF FINALISATION

In 2015–16, 87% (526,672) of all defendants finalised were proven guilty. The remaining defendants were finalised by other methods including withdrawn by prosecution (8% or 48,027); transfer to other court levels (3% or 14,836); or acquitted (2% or 11,623). (Table 1)

Defendants were more likely to be proven guilty for:
  • Dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons (94%);
  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (93%); and
  • Public order offences (92%).

The lowest proportion of defendants who were proven guilty was for:
  • Homicide and related offences (39%);
  • Sexual assault and related offences (42%); and
  • Robbery, extortion and related offences (52%). (Tables 1 and 7)

However, for the offences with a lower proportion proven guilty, the proportion of defendants transferred from the Magistrates’ to the Higher Courts is higher than for other offences (see Explanatory Notes paragraph 41).

In the Higher Courts, the proportion of defendants who were proven guilty for these offences was:
  • 72% for Homicide and related offences;
  • 64% for Sexual assault and related offences; and
  • 86% for Robbery, extortion and related offences. (Tables 1 and 7)

DURATION FROM INITIATION TO FINALISATION

Duration from initiation to finalisation represents the time elapsed between the date of initiation and the date of finalisation for a defendant who has been finalised.

Overall, cases where the defendant was acquitted had a longer median duration (21 weeks) than those where the defendant was proven guilty (6 weeks).

For defendants acquitted, the median duration by court level was:
  • 46 weeks in the Higher Courts;
  • 19 weeks in the Magistrates' Courts; and
  • 18 weeks in the Children's Courts.

For defendants who were proven guilty, the median duration by court level was:
  • 30 weeks in the Higher Courts;
  • 5 weeks in the Magistrates' Courts; and
  • 8 weeks in the Children's Courts. (Table 6)

Graph Image for MEDIAN DURATION, Court level by selected method of finalisation, 2015-16

Source(s): Criminal Courts, Australia


PRINCIPAL OFFENCE

Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences reached its highest level since 2012–13 and was the most prevalent principal offence, accounting for 37% (223,286) of all defendants finalised in 2015–16. More than half of these defendants (61% or 136,367) were finalised for Regulatory driving offences which included offences such as exceeding the prescribed content of alcohol or other substance limit, exceeding the legal speed limit and parking offences.

Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences were also the primary contributor to the increase in the total number of defendants finalised in 2015–16 (5% or 10,898 defendants). The increase in 2015–16 was driven by an increase in the offence Exceed the prescribed content of alcohol or other substance limit (19% or 11,373 defendants), specifically drug-driving offences, and was particularly evident in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia. Police Annual Reports for these jurisdictions indicate there has been an increased focus on targeting driving while under the influence of drugs. (Table 1)

Other prevalent principal offences were:
  • Acts intended to cause injury (12% or 71,123 defendants), of which 92% (65,561) were Assault;
  • Illicit drug offences (11% or 63,541 defendants), of which 59% (37,201) were Possess and/or use illicit drugs;
  • Theft and related offences (8% or 46,933 defendants); and
  • Offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations (7% or 44,648 defendants), of which 46% (20,325) were Breach of violence and non-violence restraining orders. (Table 1)

The increase in the overall number of defendants finalised was partially offset by a decrease in the number of Public order offences (17% or 6,621 defendants), most notably in Queensland and Western Australia. (Table 1)

Graph Image for NUMBER OF DEFENDANTS FINALISED, All Courts, Selected principal offence, 2014-15 to 2015-16

Source(s): Criminal Courts, Australia


In the Higher Courts in 2015–16, the most prevalent offences were:
  • Illicit drug offences (27% or 4,274 defendants);
  • Sexual assault and related offences (19% or 3,000 defendants); and
  • Acts intended to cause injury (18% or 2,856 defendants).

In 2015–16, the most prevalent principal offence in the Magistrates’ Courts was Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (40% or 221,571 defendants). This was followed by:
  • Acts intended to cause injury (11% or 62,576 defendants); and
  • Illicit drug offences (10% or 58,092 defendants).

In 2015–16, the most prevalent principal offences in the Children’s Courts were:
  • Theft and related offences (21% or 5,729 defendants);
  • Acts intended to cause injury (21% or 5,692 defendants); and
  • Unlawful entry with intent/burglary, break and enter (15% or 3,914 defendants). (Table 1)

Principal offence by sex

Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences was the most common principal offence for both male (36% or 164,811) and female (39% or 53,711) defendants finalised in 2015–16.

The next most prevalent principal offences for male defendants were:
  • Acts intended to cause injury (13% or 57,160 defendants); and
  • Illicit drug offences (11% or 48,868 defendants).

For female defendants, the next most prevalent offences were:
  • Theft and related offences (12% or 16,231 defendants); and
  • Illicit drug offences (11% or 14,620 defendants). (Table 4)

Graph Image for PROPORTION OF DEFENDANTS FINALISED, All Courts, Selected principal offence by sex, 2015-16

Source(s): Criminal Courts, Australia