The largest number of defendants charged with criminal offences in Australia each year, are finalised in the Magistrates' Courts. The number of defendants finalised at this court level has increased by 18% since 2003-04 (from 527,374 to 619,542 in 2007-08).
Defendants can have their charges finalised via several different methods of finalisation (see Appendix 2). The main categories of finalisation are: adjudicated finalisations, where the court has made a finding as to the guilt or otherwise of the defendant; finalisation by transfer between courts; withdrawn by prosecution; and other methods such as defendant deceased or unfit to plead.
Charges withdrawn by the prosecution
Defendants finalised through charges being withdrawn by the prosecution has declined from 9% of all finalised defendants in 2003-04 to 7% in 2007-08.
During 2007-08, the following offences had the largest proportion of defendants finalised via the withdrawal of charges by the prosecution:
- abduction (32% or 81 defendants);
- robbery and extortion (22% or 521);
- sexual assault (19% or 728); and
- acts intended to cause injury (14% or 7,352).
Victoria (10%), South Australia (10%), and the Australian Capital Territory (22%) had larger proportions of defendants whose charges were withdrawn than the national average (7%). Tasmania had the smallest proportion of defendants whose charges were withdrawn, at 1%.