4513.0 - Criminal Courts, Australia, 2009-10 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/06/2011   
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Contents >> Higher Courts >> INTRODUCTION


This chapter presents information about defendants finalised in the criminal jurisdiction of the Higher Courts in 2009-10. The Higher Courts refers to the grouping of the Intermediate (the District or County Court) and Supreme Court levels.

Higher Courts are in operation in all states and territories of Australia. These courts try and sentence matters relating to indictable and serious criminal offences.

Higher Courts data presented here exclude cases such as bail reviews and applications to amend sentences or penalties which do not require the adjudication of charges. Also excluded are breach of bail or parole cases, appeal cases, tribunal matters and defendants for whom a bench warrant is issued, but not executed.

The offence categories referred to relate to the principal offence, i.e. the most serious offence type with which the defendant was charged. For more information about principal offence see the Explanatory Notes paragraphs 40-44.

National data for the Higher Courts are available from 1995.


  • The number of defendants finalised in the Higher Courts decreased by 2%, from 17,207 in 2008-09 to 16,834 in 2009-10, the first annual decrease since 2006-07.
  • The proportion of male to female defendants had remained relatively stable since 2004-05 with males accounting for approximately 87% of the total.
  • Of those defendants finalised in the Higher Courts, 86% (14,409) were finalised by a guilty plea or a court determination of their guilt or innocence. Withdrawal of charges by the prosecution accounted for 13% of finalisations.
  • Defendants finalised for charges of sexual assault had the lowest proportion (59%) proven guilty of all principal offences. This offence also had the largest proportion of charges acquitted (19%).
  • The majority (92% or 13,193) of defendants whose cases were adjudicated in the Higher Courts in 2009-10 were proven guilty. Of those defendants proven guilty, 89% pleaded guilty and 10% were found guilty following a trial.
  • Approximately 8 in 10 defendants proven guilty were sentenced to custodial orders.

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