4519.0 - Recorded Crime - Offenders, 2015-16  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 08/02/2017   
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This chapter presents statistics about the characteristics of offenders aged 10–17 years who were proceeded against by police during the period 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016. Characteristics of the offenders include sex and age, as well as the principal offence for which a youth offender was proceeded against by police.

For this edition of the publication there has been a change in the definition of a “youth offender”. Whereas in previous years a youth offender was defined as being aged 10–19 years, this chapter is based on offenders aged 10–17 years. This change was made in order to bring the collection into line with the commonly accepted definition used in the field of youth justice. The change has also been applied to previous reference periods in this publication, to provide a consistent basis for comparisons over time.

Certain offences are excluded from the Recorded Crime – Offenders collection. For further information about the scope and counting methodology of the collection refer to paragraphs 3–15 of the Explanatory Notes.

Between 2014–15 and 2015–16, the number of youth offenders (aged 10–17 years) increased by less than 1% (or 341 offenders) to a total of 54,974 offenders.

However, after accounting for population growth the youth offender rate per 100,000 persons declined slightly (by less than 1%). Since the beginning of the time series in 2008–09, the youth offender rate has fallen by 25% (from 3,187 to 2,390 offenders per 100,000 persons), predominantly due to the decline in the number of youth offenders (from 71,421 to 54,974). (Table 18)

In 2015–16, youth offenders comprised 13% of the total offender population. In comparison, people aged 10–17 years represented 11% of the total Australian Estimated Resident Population (ERP) aged 10 years and over as at 31 December 2015. (Table 18 and Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0))


The predominant principal offence committed by youth offenders was Theft, which comprised 35% of all youth offenders. Approximately half of those offenders were proceeded against for public transport fare evasion (although it should be noted that fare evasion is not a police responsibility in all jurisdictions (see Explanatory Notes paragraphs 50–82)). The second most prevalent principal offence was Acts intended to cause injury (15%), followed by Illicit drug offences (11%).

Over the period 2008–09 to 2015–16, the number of youth offenders declined across most offence categories. The largest percentage decreases in the number of youth offenders were for:
  • Homicide and related offences, which fell by 69% (from 73 to 23)
  • Property damage and environmental pollution, which fell by 49% (from 7,109 to 3,605)
  • Public order offences, which fell by 49% (from 10,733 to 5,520). (Table 18)

Two notable exceptions to this trend were:
  • Illicit drug offences, which increased by 49% since 2008–09 (from 3,916 to 5,814 youth offenders).
  • Sexual assault and related offences, which increased by 52% (from 1,103 to 1,672 youth offenders). It should be noted that the increase was driven by Non-assaultive sexual offences, which increased from 243 to 823 offenders. (Table 21)


In 2015–16, there were approximately two and a half times more male than female youth offenders (39,067 and 15,825 respectively). In comparison, for the total offender population there were over three times more male than female offenders (323,949 and 97,304 respectively). (Tables 1 and 20)

Youth offender rates were higher for males than females for every year of age. The greatest difference was for those aged 10 years, where the offender rate for males was approximately five times more than the rate for females. The smallest difference was for 13 year olds, where the offender rate for males was just under two times the rate for females.

The youth offender rate was higher for males than females for every offence category, but the difference was most pronounced for Dangerous/negligent acts (male offender rate was eight times higher than the female offender rate) and Prohibited/regulated weapons (seven times). The smallest difference was for Theft, where the male youth offender rate was one and a half times higher than the female rate. (Table 20)


While offender rates generally increased with each year of age within the youth population, there were some notable exceptions. The highest offender rates for Acts intended to cause injury and Theft were for those aged 16 years, Unlawful entry with intent was most prevalent for 15 year olds, and the offender rate for Sexual assault and related offences was highest for those aged 14 years. (Table 20)

Graph Image for YOUTH OFFENDERS, Offender rate(a) by age and selected principal offences, 2015-16

Footnote(s): (a) Rate per 100,000 population for the age group of interest (see Explanatory Notes paragraphs 16-19).

Source(s): Recorded Crime - Offenders


In 2015–16, the youth offender rate, as measured per 100,000 persons aged 10–17 years, was highest in the Northern Territory (3,288) and lowest in the Australian Capital Territory (1,176).

Western Australia had the highest proportion of youth offenders to total offenders, with those aged 10–17 years representing 16% of total offenders for the state.

The distribution of offenders by principal offence was similar between states and territories, although New South Wales had a higher proportion with a principal offence of Theft (51%) than any other jurisdiction. This was predominantly due to the inclusion of fare evasion offences in New South Wales.

Theft was the most prevalent principal offence in all jurisdictions, with the exception of Tasmania and the Northern Territory, where the most prevalent offences were, respectively, Public order offences (21%) and Acts intended to cause injury (17%).

While the national offender rate was higher for youth than for the general population, this was not the case in every state and territory. In South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory, people aged 10–17 years were less likely to be offenders of crime than the adult population. (Table 19)