4500.0 - Crime and Justice News, May 2003  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 01/11/2002   
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Corrective Services, Australia

The June quarter 2002 issue of Corrective Services, Australia was released on 26 September 2002. While the national figures showed a continuing slight upward movement in the average daily number of prisoners between the June quarters 2001 and 2002, large variations in the size and direction of changes were apparent at the state and territory level. During the period from June quarter 2001 to June quarter 2002, Tasmania's average daily prisoner population increased by 18%, with a 10% increase in the period March quarter to June quarter 2002. Western Australia, however, recorded a decrease of 11% between the June quarters 2001 and 2002.

While the actual number of prisoners in Australia has increased between the June quarters 2001 and 2002, when compared to the growth in Australia's adult population, the growth in the number of prisoners has not kept pace with the increase in the adult population. This has resulted in Australia's imprisonment rate decreasing by 1% over this period. While the Northern Territory continues to have the highest imprisonment rate of 473 prisoners per 100,000 adult population in the June quarter 2002, this was 7% lower than the June quarter 2001 figure.


Higher Criminal Courts, Australia

On 4 June 2002, Higher Criminal Courts, Australia 2000-2001 was released. For the first time, experimental data on offence and penalties associated with finalised adjudicated defendants were included in the publication. The available data shows that the five principal offence categories that accounted for the majority of adjudicated defendants who appeared in Australia's Higher Courts during 2000-01 were:
  • acts intended to cause injury (includes assault) (13%)
  • illicit drug offences (12%)
  • unlawful entry with intent (11%)
  • offences related to robbery and extortion (11%)
  • offences related to sexual assault (10%).

Of the defendants proven guilty in the Higher Criminal Courts during 2000-01, excluding the ACT, approximately 55% received a sentence of imprisonment. The proportion was highest for those proven guilty of homicide and related offences (89%).

GRAPH - DEFENDANTS PROVEN GUILTY, Sentenced to imprisonment (a) - 2000-01
(a) The 2000–01 data on offence and penalty has been classified as "experimental" due to data quality issues. For more detail on the "experimental" offence and penalty data, refer to the Explanatory Notes section of Higher Criminal Courts, Australia 2000–01 (cat. no. 4513.0).
(b) Includes other offence types not separately listed in the chart.

Other findings presented in the Higher Criminal Courts, Australia publication included:
  • of the 5,459 defendants who initially pleaded not guilty, 58% changed their plea during proceedings
  • the median duration for finalised defendants was 21 weeks, compared to 22 weeks the previous year
  • the largest reduction in the median duration for finalised defendants was in New South Wales, where the median decreased by 9 weeks (26%) since the previous year
  • one in two of all defendants were aged between 17 and 29 years, with males representing 87% of all finalised defendants.

Recorded Crime, Australia

Recorded Crime Australia 2001 was released on 30 May 2002. In 2001, the offence categories with the largest number of recorded victims were other theft (699,262), unlawful entry with intent (435,524) and assault (151,753).

For the first time in this publication, data on knives and syringes as weapons has been separately identified. A knife was the most common type of weapon used in attempted murder (33% of victims were attacked with a knife), murder (29%) and robbery (23%). Syringes were less likely to be used as a weapon than firearms or knives. In relation to the overall level of weapon use, the majority of victims did not have a weapon used against them, with the exception of murder and attempted murder victims. However, during the period 1995-2001, for most offences a person was increasingly likely to be a victim of a crime involving the use of a weapon.

Contrasting with most other offence types, the overall number of murders and the murder victimisation rate has been relatively stable. There has, however, been a decrease in the likelihood that a person will become a victim of murder involving a weapon, as indicated in the following graph:


For all offence categories, younger people (aged 24 years or less) had the greatest likelihood of being a victim. Persons aged 15-19 years were over 4 times more likely to be a victim of sexual assault and over 3 times more likely to be a victim of robbery than the general population. Children aged 14 years or less had a sexual assault victimisation rate of 173 per 100,000, over twice the rate for the total population.