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There was variation across states and territories in the types of principal offences that defendants were charged with in the Children's Courts in 2007-08. Acts intended to cause injury accounted for the largest proportion of final charges for defendants in New South Wales (27%), Tasmania (24%) and the Australian Capital Territory (20%). In South Australia and the Northern Territory, road traffic offences accounted for the largest proportion of final charges (32% and 26% respectively). For the remaining states and territories the most prevalent offence types were: theft and related offences in Queensland (20%); dangerous or negligent acts and road traffic offences in Western Australia (both 20%); and deception in Victoria (39%).
In 2007-08, over three quarters (78% or 25,019) of defendants heard in the Children's Courts were male, while females accounted for 22% (6,925). The number of males decreased 5% from the 26,387 defendants heard in 2006-07, while the number of females decreased 12% (down from 7,836).
The most prevalent principal offence for male defendants was acts intended to cause injury (15%), followed by unlawful entry with intent (14%), and theft (13%).
In contrast, deception was the most prevalent principal offence type for females (20%), followed closely by acts intended to cause injury (19%). The proportion of females with this latter principal offence increased from 14% (1,110 females) in 2006-07 to 19% (1,283) in 2007-08. This was higher than the proportion for males in both years (13% and 15% respectively).
Unlawful entry with intent accounted for a much lower proportion of female defendants (5%) than males (14%), while proportionally there were more females heard for theft (16%) compared to 14% of males.
The largest proportion of defendants heard in the Children's Courts were aged 17 years at the time of finalisation (28% or 8,936), followed by those aged 16 years (23% or 7,381). Those aged 10 to 12 years comprised 2% (725), no change from 2006-07.
Younger defendants (those aged between 10 to 14 years of age) are more likely to be charged with property offences, but as they become older these offence types start to decline and more defendants are charged with offences against the person, road traffic or deception offences (mainly fare evasion). However, in 2007-08 a reasonable proportion of young offenders were heard in the Children's Courts for acts intended to cause injury: 17% of 10-12 year olds, 19% of 13 year olds, and 16% of 14 year olds.
The type of offence defendants were charged with in the Children's Courts varied by age:
In 2007-08, 1,251 or 4% of defendants adjudicated in the Children's Courts in Australia were acquitted.
The largest proportion of defendants acquitted had the following principal offences: acts intended to cause injury accounting (27%), public order offences (15%), theft (13%), property damage and unlawful entry with intent (both 8%).
The proportion of defendants acquitted were greater than the national average for Tasmania and the Northern Territory (16% and 12% respectively). South Australia had the smallest number at 0.3%.
Defendants proven guilty
Defendants are referred to as 'convicted' where they were proven guilty of at least one of the final charges laid against them in a court. This includes defendants who pleaded guilty or are found guilty, including those found guilty ex-parte.
Defendants proven guilty in the Children's Courts accounted for 30,735 (96%) of defendants adjudicated in 2007-08.
For those proven guilty, the largest proportion of defendants had the following principal offences: acts intended to cause injury (15%), theft (14%), unlawful entry with intent (13%), and road traffic and deception offences (both 11%).
Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia (all 99%) and Victoria (97%) had larger proportions of defendants with proven guilty outcomes than the national average (96%).