Federal Defendants, Australia

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    Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)


    The Federal Defendants collection includes statistics about finalised defendants charged with federal offences, that are dealt with by the criminal jurisdiction of the Higher (Supreme and Intermediate), Magistrates' and Children's Courts of Australia, for all states and territories. Prior to 2011-12, the publication excluded some or all data for Tasmania and was titled "Federal Defendants, Selected States and Territories" accordingly.

    Commonwealth offences have expanded over recent years to include terrorism, child sex tourism and illegal fishing along with drug importation and tax and welfare fraud. The increasing number of federal offences and offenders has brought attention to the need for comparable national data to provide an evidence base for policy development about sentencing and penalties for this group of offenders. The collection provides nationally comparable data to assist in achieving consistency across Australia in the treatment of federal offenders in state and territory criminal courts.

    All defendants with at least one charge against a Commonwealth legislation who have been finalised in the Higher, Magistrates' or Children's Criminal Courts within the reference period. Defendants with charges against both Commonwealth legislation and State and Territory legislation are still within scope of the collection, however only federal offences are counted for the purposes of this collection.


    Conceptual framework
    The collection contains information on the number of federal defendants finalised within the reference period in the Higher, Magistrates' and Children's Criminal Courts. Finalised defendants include persons charged with Commonwealth criminal offences for each court level as well as organisations charged with Commonwealth criminal offences for the Higher and Magistrates' Courts. A federal defendant is a finalised defendant who has been charged with at least one offence against Commonwealth legislation, irrespective of whether they have also been charged with any offences under state/territory legislation. Defendants are counted for each case they have finalised during the reference period, except where cases are finalised on same day - from 2010-11 such cases are 'merged' to create a single defendant. This step aligns with the methodology of Criminal Courts, Australia, of which this collection is a sub-set.

    Main outputs
    The publication Federal Defendants, Australia (cat. no. 4515.0) presents statistics on the number of federal defendants finalised within the reference period in the Higher, Magistrates' and Children's Criminal Courts. Statistics are available on:

    • age and sex
    • method of finalisation
    • principal offence
    • principal sentence

    The publication also presents counts of federal offences classified to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification (ANZSOC) and to alternative groupings of Commonwealth Acts and sections ("federal offence groups").

    The Federal Defendants collection adopts a number of national classifications:

    • Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification (ANZSOC)
    • National Offence Index (NOI)
    • Age
    • Sex
    • State/territory
    • Court level
    • Method of finalisation
    • Sentence type

    The ANZSOC and the NOI provide a framework for classifying federal defendant information for statistical purposes and ensuring that the data are compiled on a consistent basis across the states and territories. The classifications are hierarchical and so allow for different levels of detail to be recorded depending on the level of detail in the source information.

    Other concepts (summary)

    The Federal Defendants collection comprises a subset of all defendants finalised in the criminal courts. However, as federal defendants may also be charged with state and territory offences, the difference between all finalised defendants in the criminal courts and finalised federal defendants does not necessarily equal the defendants with state/territory offences.

    New South Wales
    South Australia
    Western Australia
    Northern Territory

    Comments and/or Other Regions
    Tasmanian data were not available for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 Federal Defendants collections. The 2010-11 Federal Defendants collection included data for Tasmanian Magistrates' and Children's Courts only. From 2011-12, data for all court levels are included for Tasmania.

    The geographic definition of Australia, as used by the ABS, includes Other Territories. However, these territories are generally out of scope for ABS collections. For the federal defendants data, defendants in Higher, Magistrates' and Children's Courts cases heard in the criminal courts on Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island are included in the counts for Western Australia, where applicable. Defendants finalised in Jervis Bay Territory are not included in any counts in this publication.


    Frequency comments

    The Federal Defendants collection was first published for the period 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009. From 2011-12 data are collected from all states and territories. Complete national data are only available from 2011-12.


    Data availability comments

    The Federal Defendants collection is a financial year collection and statistics are released annually. The publication comprises a summary of findings and data cubes, all of which are available from the ABS website. Prior to 2011-12 the summary of findings included web content and a PDF. From 2011-12 only web content is released.

    17/05/2016 09:00 AM