4515.0 - Federal Defendants, Australia, 2017-18 Quality Declaration 
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KEY FINDINGS

There were 12,404 federal defendants finalised in 2017–18, a decrease of 7% (1,000) from the previous year. (Table 1)

Federal defendants accounted for 2% of total defendants finalised (592,455), as reported in Criminal Courts, Australia, 2017–18 (cat. no. 4513.0).

Summary characteristics relating to federal defendants finalised are presented below.


FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED, Summary characteristics, 2017–18


Demographics
% (no.)

Males
Females
Median age
75% (9,256)
21% (2,602)
38 Years

Court level

Magistrates'
Higher
Children's
90% (11,190)
8% (952)
2% (261)

Top 3 Offences – ANZSOC(a)

Harassment and threatening behaviour
Offences against government operations, n.e.c.
Obtain benefit by deception
33% (4,043)
20% (2,481)
10% (1,181)

Method of finalisation

Proven guilty
Withdrawn by prosecution
Transfer(b)
Acquitted
69% (8,542)
22% (2,693)
7% (813)
3% (331)

Sentence type

Fines
Other non-custodial orders(c)
Custody in a correctional institution
47% (3,998)
25% (2,129)
12% (1,007)

Footnote(s): (a) Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification (ANZSOC) (cat.no. 1234.0). Refer Appendix 1 and Explanatory Notes 18–19. (b) To other court levels. (c) Includes good behaviour bond/recognisance orders, licence disqualification/suspension/amendment, forfeiture of property order, nominal penalty and other non-custodial orders n.e.c.


Harassment and threatening behaviour continues to be most common offence

The most common federal offence type in 2017–18 was Harassment and threatening behaviour (33%, 4,043 defendants). These offences have more than doubled since 2010–11, and have been the most common federal offence type for the last three years. (Table 1)

During 2017–18, the majority of defendants with this principal federal offence were classified to the Federal Offence Group ‘Communications’1, indicating that the offending behaviour occurred via carriage services such as telecommunications devices or the Internet.


HARASSMENT AND THREATENING BEHAVIOUR, Summary characteristics, 2017–18

Summary counts

Finalised
Proven Guilty
Movement from 2016–17
Movement from 2010–11
4,043
68% (2,748)
up 2% (94)
up 132% (2,300)

Sex

Male
Female
83% (3,359)
17% (678)

Sentence Type

Custodial orders
Non-custodial orders
17% (473)
83% (2,279)



Federal defendants most commonly received a monetary order

Over half of the 8,542 federal defendants proven guilty in 2017–18 received a monetary order (51%, 4,340). Of these, over three in five had a principal federal offence of either:
  • Offences against government operations n.e.c. (44%, 1,915) – these were mostly fines issued for taxation offences; or
  • Harassment and threatening behaviour (19%, 807).

A sentence of custody in a correctional institution was received by 12% (1,007) of federal defendants proven guilty. Almost half of these had a principal federal offence of either:
  • Harassment and threatening behaviour (32%, 326); or
  • Import or export illicit drugs (17%, 170). (Table 4)

FEDERAL DEFENDANTS PROVEN GUILTY, Selected principal federal sentence, 2016–17 and 2017–18
Graph Image for FEDERAL DEFENDANTS PROVEN GUILTY, Selected principal federal sentence, 2016–17 and 2017–18
Footnote(s): (a) Includes good behaviour bond/recognisance orders, licence disqualification/suspension/amendment, forfeiture of property order, nominal penalty and other non-custodial orders n.e.c.

Commonwealth of Australia 2019

States and territories

There were decreases in the number of federal defendants finalised in all states and territories in 2017–18, except in the Australian Capital Territory where defendants increased 37% (290). (Table 3)

PERCENTAGE CHANGE IN FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED, States and territories, 2016–17 to 2017–18
Graph Image for PROPORTIONAL CHANGE IN FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED, States and territories, 2016–17 to 2017–18
Commonwealth of Australia 2019

The increase in the Australian Capital Territory was driven by Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (up 50%, 274), primarily due to an increase in parking offences at the Australian National University.

The largest percentage decreases in the number of defendants finalised occurred in:
  • the Northern Territory (37%, 96), mostly due to Miscellaneous offences relating to the Federal Offence Group ‘Environmental’1; and
  • Western Australia (26%, 344), largely due to a decrease in Offences against government operations n.e.c. and the Federal Offence Group ‘Justice’1.

Fines were the most common principal federal sentence type across all states and territories, ranging from 35% (39) of federal defendants proven guilty in Tasmania, to 79% in Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory (647 and 354 respectively). (Table 3)

In Western Australia, the majority of defendants sentenced to a fine were for taxation offences, and in the Australian Capital Territory the majority were for parking offences.

PROPORTION OF FEDERAL DEFENDANTS PROVEN GUILTY SENTENCED TO A FINE, States and territories, 2017–18
Graph Image for PROPORTION OF FEDERAL DEFENDANTS PROVEN GUILTY GIVEN A FINE, States and territories, 2017–18
Commonwealth of Australia 2019

Footnotes
1 Offence data in this publication are presented based on ANZSOC, and also by ‘Federal Offence Group’. Refer Appendix 4 and Explanatory Notes 24–26.