The Federal Defendants, Australia data relates to persons and organisations charged with an offence against Commonwealth legislation, whose case(s) have been finalised within the criminal jurisdictions of the Higher, Magistrates' or Children's Courts between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2020.
The data covers federal defendant demographics, principal federal offence, sentencing and case duration information. Data on federal offenders in prison is included in Prisoners in Australia.
Defendants whose cases relate only to offences under state or territory legislation are not in scope of this release, but are included in Criminal Courts, Australia.
Charges against Commonwealth legislation can be prosecuted by state and territory police agencies, the Australian Federal Police, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, state Directors of Public Prosecutions, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Australian Tax Office and other (generally Commonwealth) authorities.
The Australian Road Rules (maintained by the National Transport Commission) only apply in each state and territory if they have been enacted by legislation. For example, in the Northern Territory, offences against the Australian Road Rules are identified as federal offences. However, to ensure consistency across all states and territories, the Australian Road Rules and the associated state and territory enacting legislation, are excluded from the scope of the Federal Defendants collection.
For comparability purposes, federal offences based on national laws enacted under state and territory legislation are excluded from the scope of the Federal Defendants collection from 2016–17. Data for 2015–16 (published in the 2016–17 issue) were revised to reflect this change. Caution should be used when making historical comparisons.
The geographic definition of Australia, as used by the ABS, includes 'Other Territories'. Defendants finalised 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.
Statistics presented in this publication are compiled based on administrative unit record data supplied to the ABS by the agencies responsible for courts administration in each state and territory, with the exception of Queensland (where data are supplied via the Office of the Government Statistician), and New South Wales (where data are supplied via the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research).
To ensure consistency between the states and territories, each one is required to provide data coded to national classifications and standards.
The principal counting unit for this collection is the finalised defendant. A finalised defendant is defined as a person or organisation for whom all charges within a case have been formally completed so that they cease to be an active item of work for the court during the reference period. The method of finalisation for each charge at case completion may be a guilty outcome, acquittal, withdrawal, transfer, or other outcome.
The Federal Defendants collection does not enumerate unique persons, instead the following counting rules are applied:
- Where a defendant is finalised for more than one case, on the same date and in the same court level, their records are merged and they are counted as one finalised defendant
- Where a defendant is finalised for more than one case, on separate dates within the reference period, they will be counted once for each date they were finalised
- Where a defendant is finalised in the Magistrates' Courts whilst other charges are committed to, and finalised in the Higher Courts, they will be counted once for each court level they were finalised in during the reference period.
The following counting rules apply with regards to defendants transferred from, or between court levels:
- Defendants transferred from one Higher Court level to another Higher Court level are considered as initiated only once (in the level they first entered) and finalised only once (from the level they finally left)
- Defendants transferred from a Magistrates' Court to a Higher Court (or vice versa) are considered as initiated twice (once in each of the courts) and finalised twice (once in each of the courts)
- Defendants transferred between the Children's Courts and the Magistrates' or Higher Courts (or vice versa) are considered to be initiated twice (once in each of the courts) and finalised twice (once in each of the courts)
- Defendants transferred from the Magistrates' or Children's Courts to Specialist Courts for finalisation (e.g. Drug Courts, Indigenous Courts) are considered finalised (by transfer) in the criminal court that initiated the transfer. Defendants may then, upon completion of the program, return to the court that requested the transfer, for an additional finalisation.
For the first time in 2019–20, transfers have been excluded from defendant counts in some tables to remove the double-counting of defendants who were transferred and subsequently adjudicated in a different court level. Excluding transfers provides a more accurate representation of defendant characteristics, particularly for more serious offences where transfers are more common.
The Census and Statistics Act 1905 provides the authority for the ABS to collect statistical information, and requires that statistical output shall not be published or disseminated in a manner that is likely to enable the identification of a particular person or organisation. To minimise the risk of identifying individuals in aggregate statistics, a technique called perturbation is used to randomly adjust cell values and summary variables. This technique, applied to the collection from 2013–14, involves small random adjustment of the data and is considered the most satisfactory technique for avoiding the release of identifiable statistics while maximising the range of information that can be released. These adjustments have a negligible impact on the underlying pattern of the statistics.
The result of perturbation is that a given published cell value will be consistent across all tables, but the sum of the components may add to more or less than 100%. Readers are advised to use the published totals rather than deriving totals based on the components. Small values may be proportionally more affected by perturbation than large values. Users are advised against conducting analyses and drawing conclusions based on small values.