Illicit drug court cases drop in 2021-22

Media Release

A 22 per cent decrease in defendants with illicit drug offences was behind a decline in Australian criminal courts finalisations in 2021–22, according to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

William Milne, ABS head of crime and justice statistics, said: “There were 43,667 defendants with illicit drugs as their main offence, accounting for almost one in ten defendants finalised in criminal courts across the country. That’s down from 55,973 defendants with this offence in the previous year.”

The drop in illicit drug court cases aligned with police results for 2021–22.

“Victoria was the only state to see an increase in defendants on illicit drug charges in 2021–22. This appears to be due to the courts clearing COVID-19-related backlogs,” Mr Milne said.

Today's release follows the Recorded Crime Offenders release, issued by the ABS last month. Further information, including state and territory data, can be found in Criminal Courts Australia, 2021–22, available as a free download from the ABS website.

Media notes

  • Illicit drug offences relate to the possessing, selling, dealing or trafficking, importing or exporting, manufacturing or cultivating of drugs or other substances prohibited under legislation.
  • A court case is ‘finalised’ when all criminal charges are formally completed with a judgement of whether a defendant is guilty, or ceases to be a unit of work through other methods such as being withdrawn by the prosecution.
  • When reporting ABS data you must attribute the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or the ABS) as the source.
  • For media requests and interviews, contact the ABS Media Team via (8.30am-5pm Mon-Fri).
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