4513.0 - Criminal Courts, Australia, 2011-12 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 14/02/2013   
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Contents >> All Courts >> Summary


Data in this chapter are drawn from the data cube Criminal Courts, Australia.

In 2011-12, there were a total of 572,251 defendants finalised in Australia's criminal courts: 15,479 in the Higher Courts; 523,168 in the Magistrates' Courts; and 33,604 in the Children's Courts. Between 2010-11 and 2011-12, the number of defendants finalised across all criminal courts decreased by 2%, resulting from decreases in all three court levels.

Graph Image for DEFENDANTS FINALISED, All Courts, 2006-07 to 2011-12

Males continued to account for the majority of defendants, making up 77% of the All Courts population.

In 2011-12, the number of defendants decreased for both males and females. Males decreased by 3% (from 452,491 in 2010-11 to 440,569) and females decreased by 2% (from 124,993 in 2010-11 to 122,965).

Graph Image for DEFENDANTS FINALISED, All Courts, Sex, 2006-07 to 2011-12

The Higher Courts had a higher proportion of male defendants (88%) than the Magistrates' (77%) and Children's Courts (79%).

For All Courts, 508,345 or 89% of defendants were finalised by an adjudicated outcome. There were 490,469 defendants proven guilty, representing 86% of all finalisations. From 2010-11 to 2011-12, the only methods of finalisation to increase were acquitted and withdrawn by prosecution (by 1% and 9% respectively).

Methods of finalisation varied for defendants across the court levels. Acquittals were more common in the Higher Courts (8%) than in the Magistrates' (3%) and Children's Courts (4%). A greater proportion of defendants were proven guilty in the Magistrates' Courts (86%) than the Higher or Children's Courts (both 79%).

The offences with the highest number of defendants varied across the court levels. The top three offences for each court level were:
  • Higher Courts: illicit drug offences, acts intended to cause injury and sexual assault
  • Magistrates' Courts: traffic and vehicle regulatory offences, acts intended to cause injury and public order offences
  • Children's Courts: acts intended to cause injury, theft and unlawful entry with intent.

For All Courts, of those defendants proven guilty, 89% were sentenced to a non-custodial order. This proportion has not changed since 2009-10. However, the majority of guilty defendants in the Higher Courts (88%) received custodial orders.

At the state and territory level, Queensland contributed the most to the national defendant population with 159,395 defendants (28%), followed by New South Wales with 144,390 defendants (25%) and Victoria with 97,412 defendants (17%).

Graph Image for DEFENDANTS FINALISED, All Courts, Proportion of defendants by states and territories

There was some variation in the distribution of methods of finalisation across the states and territories at the All Courts level. The proportion of cases withdrawn by the prosecution was higher in South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory (both 22%), the Northern Territory (21%) and Victoria (11%) compared with the national level (9%).

The proportions of defendants proven guilty also varied across the states and territories. In Western Australia 92% of defendants were proven guilty, while in the Australian Capital Territory 65% of defendants were proven guilty.

Custodial orders were handed down to 38% of guilty defendants in the Northern Territory, 19% in the Australian Capital Territory, 15% in Tasmania, 14% in South Australia and 12% in New South Wales and Victoria. All these figures were higher than the national average of 11%.

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