4513.0 - Higher Criminal Courts, Australia, 1996-97  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/08/1998   
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  • Majority of higher court defendants have a guilty outcome - ABS (Media Release)


August 27, 1998
Embargoed: 11:30 AM (AEST)
Majority of higher court defendants have a guilty outcome - ABS

Almost 80 per cent of defendants dealt with by Australia's Supreme, District and County courts in the 1996/97 financial year resulted in guilty outcomes, according to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Males made up almost 90 per cent of defendants.

The statistics, drawn from court administrative information, cover the more serious offences heard by Australia's criminal courts. Included are counts of the number of defendants initiated, finalised and pending within the Higher Courts, information on how defendants enter and leave the Higher Courts and how long it takes for a defendant's case to be finalised. In addition, information is presented for the first time on the age and sex of defendants and their initial and final pleas.

Data in the publication Higher Criminal Courts, Australia, 1996/97, show that:
  • Nationally, there were 15,706 defendants who had criminal cases initiated in the Higher Courts and 15,657 defendants who had criminal cases finalised in the Higher Courts during 1996/97.
  • Of the 15,657 defendants with criminal cases finalised during 1996/97, 12,186 defendants (77.8 per cent) either pleaded guilty or were found guilty at trial. The majority of these guilty defendants (83.9 per cent) actually pleaded guilty.
  • Detailed finalisation information was not available for all defendants in Queensland. In the other States and Territories, 2,215 defendants were finalised with a trial outcome during 1996/97. Of these defendants, 1,017 (45.9 per cent) were acquitted and 1,198 (54.1 per cent) were found guilty.
  • Almost half (49.3 per cent) of the Higher Court defendants who had an initial plea of not guilty later changed their plea to guilty.
  • The median duration from initiation to finalisation for defendants finalised during 1996/97 was 19.7 weeks. The median duration was longest in New South Wales and Victoria (30.7 weeks and 22.9 weeks respectively) and shortest in Western Australia and Tasmania (13.0 weeks and 13.9 weeks respectively).
  • The majority of defendants dealt with in the Higher Courts during 1996/97 were male (88.5 per cent). The median age of defendants finalised was 28.8 years of age. Over 60 per cent of defendants finalised were aged between 17-34 years and one in five defendants (20.8 per cent) were aged between 20-24 years.
  • There were 6,477 defendants with cases in progress at the start of 1996/97 and 7,102 defendants with cases in progress at the end of 1996/97, an increase of 9.6 percent over the reference period. (Figures exclude Queensland where data was unavailable.)
  • For the 7,102 defendants with cases unfinalised at 30 June 1997, the median elapsed time since the start of the case for these defendants was 22.6 weeks. (These figures exclude Queensland.)

Higher Criminal Courts, Australia, 1996/97 (cat. no. 4513.0) is available from ABS bookshops in all capital cities.

(Please note: the statistics do not cover cases relating to appeals and breaches of bonds.)