4513.0 - Criminal Courts, Australia, 2017-18 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 28/02/2019   
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ALL COURTS1

During 2017–18, there were 592,455 defendants finalised by Australia’s state and territory criminal courts, a decrease of 2% on the previous year. This was the first decrease in the number of defendants finalised nationally since 2012–13. (Table 1)

DEFENDANTS FINALISED, 2010–11 to 2017–18
DEFENDANTS FINALISED, 2010–11 to 2017–18

Australian Bureau of Statistics
Commonwealth of Australia 2019.


During 2017–18:

  • The rate of defendants finalised was 2,714 per 100,000 persons (aged 10 years and over).
  • Most defendants were finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts (92%, 545,251). (Tables 1 and 48)

FIGURE 1: NUMBER OF DEFENDANTS FINALISED, Court level, 2017–18


FIGURE 1: NUMBER OF DEFENDANTS FINALISED, Court level, 2017–18

Footnote(s): (a) Defendants may be counted twice where they have been transferred from one of the three court levels and then finalised in another within the same reference period. See Explanatory Note 25. (b) Excludes organisations.

Australian Bureau of Statistics
Commonwealth of Australia 2019.


Summary characteristics

Of all defendants finalised during 2017–18:
  • 88% had their matter(s) adjudicated (519,253), most of whom were proven guilty (507,169)
  • Three in four defendants were male (446,606)
  • The median age was 32 years. (Table 1)

Principal offence

Three-quarters of all defendants finalised during 2017–18 had a principal offence in one of five offence categories:
  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences – 35% (206,838)
  • Acts intended to cause injury – 13% (78,343), predominantly Assault (72,103)
  • Illicit drug offences – 11% (63,508)
  • Offences against justice – 8% (49,347)
  • Theft – 8% (46,629). (Table 1)
    Overall, there was little movement between 2016–17 and 2017–18 across the offence categories, with most changing by less than 5%. However, there were some notable movements, including the following decreases:
    • Public order offences, which decreased for the fifth consecutive year (down 13% to 24,288 defendants during 2017–18) to reach their lowest level since 2010–11
    • Theft, which decreased by 6% (2,766) during 2017–18, down to 46,629 defendants
    • Illicit drug offences, which only decreased by 2% (1,494), but this follow a six year increase in these offences
    • Vehicle registration/roadworthiness offences, which decreased by 14% (1,139) from 2016–17, and 71% (16,999) from 2010–11.

    Part of the decrease in these offences may be attributed to an increasing number of some ‘lower level’ offences, such as public disorder and minor drug possession, being diverted away from the court process.2

    Notable increases (between 2016–17 and 2017–18) included:
    • Offences against justice, up by 4% (2,071 defendants), mostly due to a 40% (2,614) rise in offences against government operations (which includes failing to vote at an election).
    • Robbery/extortion, up by 13% (to 4,993 defendants), to reach their highest level since 2012–13. (Table 1)

    DEFENDANTS FINALISED, Selected principal offence, 2010–11 to 2017–18
    DEFENDANTS FINALISED, Selected principal offence, 2010–11 to 2017–18

    Australian Bureau of Statistics
    Commonwealth of Australia 2019.


    Principal Sentence

    During 2017–18, 86% of all defendants finalised (507,169) in Australia’s criminal courts had their charge(s) proven. (Table 1)

    Monetary orders remained the most common sentence type – handed down to approximately three in five (300,095) defendants proven guilty – with 99% of these orders issued by the Magistrates’ Courts. (Table 7)

    The most common monetary order was a fine (97%), with a median fine amount (for all offence types) of $500. (Tables 7 and 60)

    DEFENDANTS PROVEN GUILTY, Principal sentence, 2016–17 to 2017–18
    DEFENDANTS PROVEN GUILTY, Principal sentence, 2016–17 to 2017–18

    Footnote(s): (a) Includes good behaviour bond/recognisance orders, licence disqualification/suspension/amendment, forfeiture of property orders, nominal penalty and other non-custodial orders not elsewhere classified.

    Australian Bureau of Statistics
    Commonwealth of Australia 2019.


    There were 45,434 defendants sentenced to custody in a correctional institution during 2017–18, an increase of 3% on the previous year. Of these:
    • 28% had a principal offence of Acts intended to cause injury (12,938)
    • 11% had a principal offence of Illicit drug offences (5,163). (Tables 7 and 10)

    The median sentence length for custody in a correction institution3 (for all offences) was 8 months.

    Homicide and related offences received the largest median sentence length4 of 8 years. (Tables 57 and 58d)

    Footnotes

    1 All Courts data refer to the grouping of the Higher, Magistrates' and Children's Courts.
    2 See Explanatory Notes 83, 91, 93 and 95.
    3 Excluding life and indeterminate imprisonment (see Explanatory Note 48).
    4 Excludes sentence length data for Tasmanian Higher Courts (see Explanatory Note 104).