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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Defendants can have their charges finalised via different methods (see Appendix 2). The main categories of finalisation are: adjudicated finalisations, where there is a guilty plea or the court has made a finding as to the guilt or otherwise of the defendant; transfer between courts; withdrawal by the prosecution; and other methods such as the defendant being deceased or considered unfit to plead.
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 increased each year from 2005-06 to 2008-09 before decreasing from 2009-10 to 2011-12. Overall for this period, the number of defendants finalised has decreased by 8%, from 569,163 in 2005-06 to 523,166 in 2011-12.
Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory were the only states and territories to experience an increase in the numbers of defendants finalised in the Magistrates' Courts in 2011-12. The largest decreases occurred in Western Australia (11%), Tasmania (10%) and New South Wales (8%).
In 2011-12, more than three-quarters (77%) of finalised defendants were male and less than one–quarter were female (22%). This ratio has remained relatively stable since 2005–06. These proportions are similar across the states and territories, ranging from 82% for males in the Australian Capital Territory to 75% in Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania.
Over half of all defendants finalised in the Magistrates' Courts were aged under 35 years - under 20 year olds accounted for 8%, 20 to 24 year olds accounted for 20%, 25 to 29 year olds accounted for 16% and 30 to 34 year olds accounted for 13%.
Principal offence - traffic and vehicle regulatory offences
Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences accounted for the largest proportion (42% or 219,853) of defendants finalised in the Magistrates' Courts in 2011-12. This was slightly lower than the proportion of defendants with this offence in the previous year (43% in 2010-11). The majority of these defendants had their charges adjudicated (94% or 205,751); of these almost all (98%) were proven guilty.
Within the broad category of traffic offences, defendants had their charges adjudicated in the following sub categories:
Of the 201,030 defendants proven guilty of traffic offences, the majority (84%) were sentenced to a monetary order and 4% received a custodial order.
Sex, age and principal offence - traffic and vehicle regulatory offences
For both males and females, traffic and vehicle regulatory offences was the most common offence for defendants in the Magistrates' Courts. However, for females this offence was more consistently spread across age groups, representing more than 40% of defendants for every age group except under 20 years.
For males, the proportion of defendants with traffic and vehicle regulatory offences generally increased with age. Male defendants aged under 20 accounted for 30% compared with 56% of males aged 55 years and over.
The age group with the highest number of defendants finalised for traffic offences as the principal offence was 20 to 24 years for both males and females (30,240 and 9,013 defendants respectively).
Principal offence - offences other than traffic
After traffic offences, the largest proportion of defendants in 2011-12 were finalised for acts intended to cause injury (11%), public order offences (8%) and theft, illicit drug offences, dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons and offences against justice (all 7%).
Sex, age and principal offence - offences other than traffic
Following traffic and vehicle regulatory offences, the most common offences for finalised defendants were:
The most common offences for male defendants under 20 years old were public order offences (12%) followed by theft, acts intended to cause injury and dangerous or negligent driving (all 10%). For all other age groups, the most common offence was acts intended to cause injury.
For female defendants, the offence profile was different: