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Criminal Courts, Australia

National statistics about defendants dealt with by criminal courts including demographic, offence, outcome and sentence information

Reference period
2018-19

Key statistics

  • There were 576,101 defendants finalised in Australian criminal courts.
  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences remained the most common principal offence, comprising 34% of defendants.
  • Fines remained the most common sentence type for guilty defendants (55%, 271,517).

Defendants finalised

This chapter presents information about defendants finalised¹ in Australian state and territory criminal courts between 1 July 2018 and 30 June 2019.

All courts²

Australian state and territory criminal courts finalised 576,101 defendants in 2018–19, a decrease of 3% (16,354) from the previous year. This was the second consecutive annual decrease in the number of defendants finalised nationally.

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The total number of defendants comprised:

  • 91% (526,716) in the Magistrates’ Courts
  • 5% (30,178) in the Children’s Courts
  • 3% (19,205) in the higher courts.

 

The rate of defendants finalised nationally was 2,599 per 100,000 persons aged 10 years and over – the lowest defendant rate since 2010–11.

Summary characteristics

Of all defendants finalised during 2018–19:

  • Three in four were male (75%, 434,823)
  • The median age was 33 years
  • Most were proven guilty³ (86%, 497,868).
     

Principal offence

Around three-quarters of all defendants had a principal offence in one of five offence categories:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences – 34% (197,901)
  • Assault – 12% (71,010)
  • Illicit drug offences – 11% (63,308)
  • Theft – 8% (48,161)
  • Offences against justice (including breach of violence or non-violence restraining orders) – 8% (43,538).
     
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Traffic offences have consistently been the most common principal offence (since 2010–11), accounting for more than a third of all defendants finalised over the time series.

However, these offences decreased for the third consecutive year, down 4% (8,937) during 2018–19, which contributed to most of the overall decline in defendants finalised during the reference period. This was partly due to a shift in responsibility for the management of fines (outside the court system) across several states and territories.

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Principal sentence

Fines remained the most common sentence type – handed down to over half (55%, 271,517) of defendants proven guilty – with 99% of these issued by the Magistrates’ Courts.

The median fine amount (for all offence types) was $500 – unchanged from the previous year.

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  1. Other non-custodial orders include good behaviour bond/recognisance orders, licence disqualification/suspension/amendment, forfeiture of property order, nominal penalty and other non-custodial orders n.e.c.


There were 45,858 defendants sentenced to custody in a correctional institution during 2018–19, an increase of less than one percent from the previous year. Of these:

  • 28% (13,049) had a principal offence of acts intended to cause injury (including assault)
  • 11% (5,008) had a principal offence of illicit drug offences.
     

The median sentence length for custody in a correction institution (for all offences) was 8 months.

Higher courts

More serious cases are heard in the higher courts, where in 2018–19, there were 19,205 defendants finalised – an increase of one percent (247) from the previous year.

Of these defendants:

  • 81% (15,481) were proven guilty
  • 11% (2,148) had their matter(s) withdrawn by the prosecution
  • 6% (1,182) were acquitted
  • One percent (244) were transferred to other court levels.
     

Principal offence

During 2018–19, over half of all defendants finalised in the higher courts had one of the following principal offences:

  • Deal or traffic in illicit drugs – 22% (4,145) – a decrease of 2% (100) from the previous year
  • Assault – 20% (3,902) – an increase of 8% (288)
  • Sexual assault – 15% (2,809) – an increase of 4% (106).
     

Principal sentence

In the higher courts, the majority of defendants proven guilty were sentenced to custody in a correctional institution (70%, 10,824). The principal offences which most commonly resulted in a sentence of custody in a correctional institution sentence in the higher courts were:

  • Homicide and related offences (89%, 316 defendants)
  • Robbery/extortion (83%, 1,159 defendants)
  • Dangerous/negligent acts (77%, 307 defendants).


The median sentence length for custody in a correctional institution was two and a half years.

For the 11% of defendants (1,738) who were sentenced to a non-custodial order, most received a sentence of a community supervision or work order (1,085).

Magistrates’ Courts

There were 526,716 defendants finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts during 2018–19 (representing 91% of all defendants finalised nationally), a decrease of 3% (18,535) from the previous year.

Of these defendants:

  • 87% (458,856) were proven guilty
  • 8% (39,887) had their matter(s) withdrawn by the prosecution
  • 3% (17,372) were transferred to other court levels
  • 2% (9,981) were acquitted.
     

Principal offence

The four most common principal offences for defendants finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts were:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences – 37% (196,236), most commonly regulatory driving offences (125,228) and driver licence offences (64,839)
  • Assault – 12% (60,672)
  • Illicit drug offences – 11% (56,500), most commonly possess or use offences (35,809)
  • Offences against justice – 8% (42,275), with more than half of these defendants charged with breaching a violence or non-violence order (24,295).
     

Principal sentence

In the Magistrates’ Courts, the majority of defendants proven guilty were sentenced to a non-custodial order (88%, 405,263), including:

  • Fines (270,098), with a median fine amount of $500
  • Community supervision or work orders (38,667).


Over one in ten (12%) defendants were sentenced to a custodial order (53,587) – mostly custody in a correctional institution (33,683). The median sentence length for these defendants was 6 months.

Children’s Courts

There were 30,178 defendants finalised in the Children’s Courts during 2018–19, representing a 7% (1,934) increase from the previous year. The increase in the Children’s Courts is largely attributable to a state legislative change in Queensland from February 2018 which transferred responsibility for offenders aged 17 years, from the Magistrates’ Court to the youth justice system.

Of those defendants finalised during 2018–19:

  • 78% (23,533) were proven guilty
  • 11% (3,333) had their matter(s) withdrawn by the prosecution
  • 4% (1,233) were transferred to other court levels
  • 3% (931) were acquitted.
     

Principal offence

More than half of all defendants finalised in the Children’s Courts had one of three principal offences:

  • Assault –21% (6,440)
  • Theft – 20% (6,056)
  • Unlawful entry with intent – 13% (4,053).
     

Principal sentence

In the Children’s Courts, the majority (90%, 21,275) of defendants proven guilty were sentenced to a non-custodial order. The most common of these were ‘other non-custodial orders’ (13,120), which include good behaviour bonds, recognisance orders, licence disqualification/suspension, forfeiture of property orders and nominal penalties.

One in ten defendants proven guilty were sentenced to a custodial order (2,256). This was most commonly custody in a correctional institution (1,346). More than half of these defendants had a principal offence of:

  • Acts intended to cause injury – 31% (419)
  • Unlawful entry with intent – 26% (353).


The median sentence length of custody in a correctional institution was 6 months.

Footnotes

  1. A ‘finalised defendant’ refers to a person or organisation for whom, all charges relating to the one case have been formally completed within the reference period so that they cease to be an item of work to be dealt with by the court. Note that defendants may be counted twice where they have been transferred from one of the three court levels and then finalised in another within the same reference period (see methodology – ‘Transfers’).
  2. All Courts data refer to the grouping of the higher, Magistrates' and Children's Courts.
  3. Throughout this publication the phrase ‘proven guilty’ refers to instances where defendants have pled guilty, were found guilty by the court or were guilty ex parte.
  4. Excludes life and indeterminate imprisonment (see methodology – ‘Further information on principal sentence and quantum’).
  5. This includes breaches relating to family and domestic violence (FDV) orders, and other violence orders.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants

This chapter presents Indigenous status data about defendants finalised¹ in the criminal courts of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory².

Summary characteristics

During 2018–19, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants remained fairly stable in:

  • The Northern Territory – down 2% (112) to 5,611
  • Queensland – down less than one percent (160) to 24,435
  • South Australia – down one percent (53) to 4,582.
     

In New South Wales an increase of 6% (846) was recorded.

The proportion of all finalised defendants who identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander also remained stable during the period. The proportions for 2018–19 were:

  • 79% in the Northern Territory
  • 23% in Queensland
  • 20% in South Australia
  • 17% in New South Wales.
     

Principal offence

Acts intended to cause injury was the most common principal offence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants in:

  • New South Wales – 40% (6,347)
  • Northern Territory – 39% (2,215)
  • South Australia – 32% (1,470).
     

In Queensland, the most common principal offence was offences against justice (16%, 4,031).

Principal sentence

In each of the selected states and territories, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants proven guilty ranged from 65% (2,998) in South Australia to 86% (4,846) in the Northern Territory.

Of those proven guilty, the majority were sentenced to a non-custodial order:

  • Queensland – 74% (15,236)
  • South Australia – 71% (2,126)
  • New South Wales – 66% (8,464).
     

In the Northern Territory, the most common sentence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants was custody in a correctional institution (60%, 2,920).

During 2018–19, the median sentence length for custody in a correctional institution³ for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants remained stable from the previous year, ranging from 3 months in the Northern Territory to 12 months in New South Wales.

Defendant rates

The rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants (per 100,000 Aboriginal and Torres Islander persons) has been trending down over the past 5 years (since 2013–14) in three of the four states/territories, including:

  • South Australia, down 2,758 to 13,520 defendants
  • Northern Territory, down 2,039 to 9,103 defendants
  • Queensland, down 1,927 to 13,848 defendants.
     

In New South Wales, the rate increased by 17% (1,117) to 7,503 defendants since 2013–14.

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  1. Rate per 100,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons for each state/territory. The rates have been revised to use updated population estimates (see methodology – ‘Rate of defendants finalised’)
  2. During 2017–18, adult cautions came into effect in South Australia, resulting in a continued reduction in the number of defendants referred to the criminal courts for less serious offences (see methodology – ‘South Australia’)

Footnotes

  1. Excludes defendants with a principal offence of traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (ANZSOC Division 14) and dangerous or negligent operation of a vehicle (ANZSOC Subdivision 041) (see methodology – ‘Indigenous status’).
  2. Indigenous status data for other states and territories are not of sufficient quality and/or did not meet ABS standards for national reporting in 2018–19 (see methodology – ‘Indigenous status’).
  3. Excludes life and indeterminate imprisonment (see methodology – ‘Further information on principal sentence and quantum’).
  4. Rates have been revised. For information on the crude rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants (see methodology – ‘Rate of defendants finalised’).

New South Wales

During 2018–19, the number of defendants finalised decreased by less than one percent (333) to 160,177. This comprised over a quarter (28%) of all defendants finalised nationally, making it the largest contributing state or territory to the national total, equal to Queensland (also 28%).

Summary characteristics

  • The rate of defendants finalised was 2,252 per 100,000 persons (aged 10 years and over).
  • The median age of defendants was 33 years.
  • More than three-quarters (77%) of defendants were male.
     

Court level

The majority (93%, 149,405) of defendants were finalised in the Magistrates' Courts.

From the previous year, the number of defendants finalised in the:

  • Higher courts increased by 5% (236)
  • Children’s Courts decreased by 2% (132)
  • Magistrates’ Courts decreased by less than one percent (437).
     

Principal offence

Nearly two-thirds of defendants had one of the following principal offences:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences – 39% (63,163)
  • Assault – 16% (24,922)
  • Illicit drug offences – 11% (17,280).
     

Between 2017–18 and 2018–19, the most notable movements occurred for:

  • Weapons/explosives (up 15%, 581), which increased in most states/territories
  • Fraud/deception (down 6%, 275)
  • Dangerous/negligent acts (down 6%, 260).
     

Method of finalisation

Of the defendants finalised during 2018–19:

  • 88% (140,594) were proven guilty
  • 5% (7,966) had their matters withdrawn by the prosecution
  • 4% (6,828) were acquitted
  • 4% (4,516) were transferred to other court levels.
     

Principal sentence and sentence length

The overall proportions of non-custodial and custodial sentences remained fairly stable since last year. Of the 140,594 defendants proven guilty in 2018–19:

  • 86% (120,791) were sentenced to a non-custodial order, an increase of less than one percent (987)
  • 14% (19,804) were sentenced to a custodial order, a decrease of 2% (399).


The most common non-custodial order was a fine (48%, 58,009), with a median fine amount of $500.

The most common custodial order was custody in a correctional institution (60%, 11,958), with a median sentence length¹ of 12 months

New sentencing options were introduced in New South Wales in September 2018, impacting on some sentence types².

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants

During 2018–19, the number of defendants who identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander³ increased by 6% (846) to 15,812 defendants. The principal offences that were the largest contributors to the increase were:

  • Acts intended to cause injury, up 5% (306)
  • Offences against justice, up 22% (237)
  • Theft, up 8% (139).


Just under a quarter (24%, 3,152) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants who were proven guilty were sentenced to custody in a correctional institution.

Footnotes

  1. Excludes life and indeterminate imprisonment (see methodology – ‘Further information on principal sentence and quantum’).
  2. See methodology – ‘New South Wales’.
  3. Excludes defendants with a principal offence of traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (ANZSOC Division 14) and dangerous or negligent operation of a vehicle (ANZSOC Subdivision 041) (see methodology – ‘Indigenous status’).

Victoria

During 2018–19, the number of defendants finalised decreased 6% (7,123) to 108,727 defendants. This represented 19% of all defendants finalised nationally.

Summary characteristics

  • The rate of defendants finalised was 1,867 per 100,000 persons (aged 10 years and over).
  • The median age of defendants was 33 years.
  • Three–quarters (75%) of defendants were male.
     

Court level

The majority of defendants were finalised in the Magistrates' Courts (93%, 101,034), which decreased by 7% (8,003) from 2017–18.

The decrease was largely attributable to a legislative change¹ relating to infringement matters, which resulted in a decline in the number of cases commenced and dealt with by the Magistrates’ Courts, particularly for traffic offences. There was also a decrease in offences against justice (mostly voting offences).

The number of defendants finalised in both the higher courts and Children’s Courts increased during 2018–19, up 11% to 2,190 and 14% to 5,504, respectively.

Principal offence

More than half of all defendants had one of the following principal offences:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences – 37% (40,249)
  • Assault – 14% (15,195)
  • Theft – 8% (8,812).


Since 2017–18, decreases were recorded across several offence categories. Numerically the largest decreases were:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences, down 9% (4,198), partially due to legislative changes related to fines
  • Offences against justice, down 21% (2,023), in part due to a peak in failure to vote offences during the previous year
  • Miscellaneous offences, down 18% (1,270).


There was also a decrease in public order offences, down 10% (208).

Over the same period, the largest increase was weapons/explosives, up 12% (405). This offence increased in most states and territories during 2018–19.

Method of finalisation

Of the defendants finalised during 2018–19:

  • 88% (96,029) were proven guilty
  • 11% (11,755) had their matters withdrawn by the prosecution, a decrease of 28% (4,677), following a large number of failure to vote offences being withdrawn in 2017–18
  • Less than one percent were either acquitted (402) or were transferred to other court levels (536).
     

Principal sentence and sentence length

Of the 96,029 defendants proven guilty during 2018–19:

  • 91% (87,009) were sentenced to a non-custodial order, a decrease of 4% (3,203)
  • 9% (9,015) were sentenced to a custodial order, an increase of 12% (964).


The most common non-custodial order was a fine (47%, 45,587), with a median fine amount of $582. The number of defendants sentenced to fines decreased by 9% (4,497), which accounted for most of the overall decline in non-custodial orders during 2018–19.

The most common custodial order was custody in a correctional institution (92%, 8,293), which increased by 15% (1,081). The median sentence length² was 3 months.

Footnotes

  1. See methodology – ‘Victoria’.
  2. Excludes life and indeterminate imprisonment (see methodology – ‘Further information on principal sentence and quantum’).

Queensland

During 2018–19, the number of defendants finalised increased by 2% (3,236) to 158,553 defendants. This represented 28% of all defendants finalised nationally – equal with New South Wales.

Summary characteristics

  • The rate of defendants finalised was 3,597 per 100,000 persons (aged 10 years and over).
  • The median age of defendants was 31 years.
  • Three-quarters (75%) of defendants were male.
     

Court level

The majority of defendants were finalised in the Magistrates' Courts (89%, 140,512), an increase of less than one percent from 2017–18

The number of defendants finalised in both the higher courts and Children’s Courts increased during 2018–19, up 5% to 6,967 and 22% to 11,070, respectively.

The increase in the Children’s Courts is largely attributable to a state legislative change in February 2018. This change resulted in the transfer of responsibility for offenders aged 17 years from the Magistrates’ Court to the youth justice system.

Principal offence

Just under two-thirds (65%) of defendants had one of the following principal offences:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences – 28% (43,836)
  • Illicit drug offences – 15% (23,966)
  • Theft – 11% (17,665)
  • Offences against justice – 11% (16,886).


Between 2017–18 and 2018–19, most offences increased, with the largest percentage increases occurring for:

  • Weapons/explosives, up 18% (920) - this offence increased in most states and territories
  • Robbery/extortion, up 26% (427)
  • Sexual assault and related offences, up 11% (307).
     

Method of finalisation

Of the defendants finalised during 2018–19:

  • 85% (135,531) were proven guilty
  • 8% (12,202) had their matters withdrawn by the prosecution
  • 6% (9,079) were transferred to other court levels
  • Less than one percent (1,381) were acquitted.
     

Principal sentence and sentence length

Of the 135,531 defendants proven guilty during 2018–19:

  • 115,253 (85%) were sentenced to a non-custodial order, most commonly a fine (83,260), with a median fine amount of $400
  • 20,282 (15%) were sentenced to a custodial order, most commonly custody in a correctional institution (13,429), with a median sentence length¹ of 9 months.


During 2018–19, custody in a correctional institution increased by 4% (491). Numerically, the main principal offence contributors to this were weapons/explosives (up 24%, 176) and theft (up 9%, 121).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants

During 2018–19, nearly a quarter of all defendants finalised in Queensland (23%, 24,435) identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander², a decrease of less than one percent (160) from the previous year.

The most common principal offences were:

  • Offences against justice – 16% (4,031)
  • Assault – 16% (3,919).


Nearly one in five (19%, 3,818) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants who were proven guilty were sentenced to custody in a correctional institution.

Footnotes

  1. Excludes life and indeterminate imprisonment (see methodology – ‘Further information on principal sentence and quantum’).
  2. Excludes defendants with a principal offence of traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (ANZSOC Division 14) and dangerous or negligent operation of a vehicle (ANZSOC Subdivision 041) (see methodology – ‘Indigenous status’).

South Australia

During 2018–19, the number of defendants finalised decreased by 8% (2,694) to 33,157 defendants. This was the second consecutive annual decrease, and the lowest number of defendants finalised in the state since 2010–11.

Most of the decrease occurred in the Magistrates’ Courts (7%, 2,174). This was partly due to system changes and the continued diversion of traffic infringements away from the courts¹.

Summary characteristics

  • The rate of defendants finalised was 2,151 per 100,000 persons (aged 10 years and over).
  • The median age of defendants was 34 years.
  • More than three-quarters (78%) of defendants were male.
     

Court level

The majority of defendants were finalised in the Magistrates' Courts (91%, 30,069).

From the previous year, the number of defendants finalised in each court level decreased by:

  • 22% (343) in the higher courts
  • 9% (172) in the Children’s Courts
  • 7% (2,174) in the Magistrates’ Courts.
     

Principal offence

Nearly half (44%) of all defendants had one of the following principal offences:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences – 27% (8,920)
  • Assault – 17% (5,559).


Decreases were recorded across most offence categories during 2018–19. Numerically the largest were:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences, down 10% (1,035)
  • Illicit drug offences, down 10% (321)
  • Assault, down 6% (332).


There were also decreases in sexual assault (down 15%, 166), abduction/harassment (down 15%, 30) and miscellaneous offences (down 15%, 114).

The only increase was recorded for weapons/explosives, up 10% (153) to 1,726 defendants, which increased in most states and territories during 2018–19.

Method of finalisation

Of the defendants finalised during 2018–19:

  • 70% (23,179) were proven guilty
  • 24% (7,949) had their matters withdrawn by the prosecution¹
  • 4% (1,431) were transferred to other court levels
  • One percent (232) were acquitted.
     

Principal sentence and sentence length

Of the 23,179 defendants proven guilty during 2018–19:

  • 79% (18,227) were sentenced to a non-custodial order, most commonly a fine (56%, 10,173) with a median fine amount of $900. The majority of fines were for traffic and vehicle regulatory offences.
  • 21% (4,949) were sentenced to a custodial order, most commonly custody in a correctional institution (2,061), for which the median sentence length² was 5 months.
     

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants

During 2018–19, one in five defendants finalised in South Australia (20%, 4,582) identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander³, a decrease of one percent from the previous year.

The most common principal offence for both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous defendants was assault (32% or 1,461 and 24% or 3,864, respectively).

Nearly one in five (18%, 530) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants who were proven guilty were sentenced to custody in a correctional institution.

Footnotes

  1. See methodology – ‘South Australia’.
  2. Excludes life and indeterminate imprisonment (see methodology – ‘Further information on principal sentence and quantum’).
  3. Excludes defendants with a principal offence of traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (ANZSOC Division 14) and dangerous or negligent operation of a vehicle (ANZSOC Subdivision 041) (see methodology – ‘Indigenous status’).

Western Australia

During 2018–19, the number of defendants finalised decreased by 6% (5,852) to 85,846 defendants.

Summary characteristics

  • The rate of defendants finalised was 3,785 per 100,000 persons (aged 10 years and over).
  • The median age of defendants was 32 years.
  • Nearly three-quarters of defendants were male (73%, 62,734).
     

Court level

The majority of defendants were finalised in the Magistrates' Courts (92%, 78,783).

From the previous year, the number of defendants finalised in each court level decreased by:

  • 9% (443) in the Children’s Courts
  • 6% (5,299) in the Magistrates’ Courts
  • 4% (112) in the higher courts.
     

Principal offence

Three-quarters of defendants had one of the following principal offences:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences – 36% (30,615)
  • Illicit drug offences – 14% (11,683)
  • Offences against justice – 9% (7,409)
  • Assault – 9% (7,331)
  • Theft – 8% (7,186).


Between 2017–18 and 2018–19, the largest numerical decreases occurred for:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences, down 12% (4,317)
  • Illicit drug offences, down 6% (730).
     

Method of finalisation

Of the defendants finalised during 2018–19:

  • 92% (78,908) were proven guilty
  • 3% (3,001) had their matter(s) withdrawn by the prosecution
  • 2% (2,127) were transferred to other court levels
  • One percent (909) were acquitted.
     

Principal sentence and sentence length

Of the 78,908 defendants proven guilty during 2018–19:

  • 90% (71,115) were sentenced to a non-custodial order, most commonly a fine (64,175), with a median fine amount of $500
  • 10% (7,791) were sentenced to a custodial order, most commonly custody in a correctional institution (4,704), with a median sentence length¹ of 9 months.
     

Footnotes

  1. Excludes life and indeterminate imprisonment (see methodology – ‘Further information on principal sentence and quantum’).

Tasmania

During 2018–19, the number of defendants finalised decreased by 6% (887)¹ to 13,396 defendants.

Summary characteristics

  • The rate of defendants finalised was 2,842 per 100,000 persons (aged 10 years and over).
  • The median age of defendants was 32 years.
  • Around three-quarters (76%) of defendants were male.
     

Court level

The majority of defendants were finalised in the Magistrates' Courts (92%, 12,266).

From the previous year, the number of defendants finalised in each court level decreased by:

  • 6% (849) in the Magistrates’ Courts¹
  • 4% (19) in the higher courts
  • 3% (19) in the Children’s Courts.
     

Principal offence

Nearly seven in ten defendants had one of the following principal offences:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences – 36% (4,832), which represented a decrease of 14% (814) from 2017–18
  • Assault – 17% (2,288)
  • Offences against justice – 8% (1,082)
  • Theft – 8% (1,010).
     

Method of finalisation

Of the defendants finalised during 2018–19:

  • 75% (10,094) were proven guilty
  • 13% (1,789) were acquitted
  • 6% (858) had their matter(s) withdrawn by the prosecution
  • 5% (646) were transferred to other court levels¹.
     

Principal sentence and sentence length

Of the 10,094 defendants proven guilty during 2018–19:

  • 78% (7,882) were sentenced to a non-custodial order, most commonly a fine (5,367), with a median fine amount of $400
  • 22% (2,209) were sentenced to a custodial order, either custody in a correctional institution (1,093), a fully suspended sentence (1,084), or custody in the community (30).


The median sentence length for those sentenced to custody in a correctional institution² was 4 months.

Footnotes

  1. Data prior to 2018–19 may be understated. See methodology – ‘Tasmania’.
  2. Excludes life and indeterminate imprisonment (see methodology – ‘Further information on principal sentence and quantum’).

Northern Territory

During 2018–19, the number of defendants finalised decreased by 2% (266) to 10,804 defendants.

Summary characteristics

  • The rate of defendants finalised was 5,148 per 100,000 persons (aged 10 years and over).
  • The median age of all defendants was 31 years.
  • Four in five defendants (79%) were male.
     

Court level

The majority of defendants were finalised in the Magistrates' Courts (89%, 9,628).

From the previous year, the number of defendants finalised in each court level:

  • Increased by 8% (57) in the Children’s Courts
  • Decreased by 3% (318) in the Magistrates’ Courts
  • Was unchanged in the higher courts.
     

Principal offence

Around two-thirds of defendants had one of the following principal offences:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences – 30% (3,202)
  • Assault – 24% (2,599)
  • Offences against justice – 12% (1,302), mostly breach of violence or non-violence orders.¹


Decreases were recorded across most offence categories during 2018–19. Numerically the largest were:

  • Assault, down 8% (221)
  • Offences against justice, down 9% (123).


There were also decreases for homicide offences.

Method of finalisation

Of the defendants finalised during 2018–19:

  • 89% (9,628) were proven guilty
  • 6% (632) had their matter(s) withdrawn by the prosecution
  • 3% (346) were transferred to other court levels
  • 2% (195) were acquitted.
     

Principal sentence and sentence length

Of the 9,628 defendants proven guilty during 2018–19:

  • 52% (4,979) received a non-custodial order, most commonly a fine (3,447), with a median fine amount of $761
  • 48% (4,650) received a custodial sentence, which was the highest proportion of custodial sentences nationally.


Of the defendants sentenced to a custodial order:

  • 81% (3,782) were sentenced to custody in a correctional institution, with a median sentence length² of 3 months
  • 17% (781) were given fully suspended sentences.
     
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants

During 2018–19, nearly four in five (79%, 5,611) defendants finalised in the Northern Territory identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander³, a decrease of 2% (112) from the previous year. The number of non-Indigenous defendants also decreased (4%, 62) to 1,393 defendants.

The most common principal offence for both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous defendants was Acts intended to cause injury (39% or 2,215 and 26% or 365, respectively).

More than half (60%, 2,920) of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants proven guilty were sentenced to custody in a correctional institution.

Footnotes

  1. This includes breaches relating to family and domestic violence (FDV) orders, and other violence orders.
  2. Excludes life and indeterminate imprisonment (see methodology – ‘Further information on principal sentence and quantum’).
  3. Excludes defendants with a principal offence of traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (ANZSOC Division 14) and dangerous or negligent operation of a vehicle (ANZSOC Subdivision 041) (see methodology – ‘Indigenous status’).

Australian Capital Territory¹

During 2018–19, there were 5,443 defendants finalised, comprising less than one percent of all defendants finalised nationally.

Summary characteristics

  • The rate of defendants finalised was 1,473 per 100,000 persons (aged 10 years and over) – the lowest of the states and territories.
  • The median age of all defendants was 32 years.
  • Nearly three-quarters (74%) of all defendants were male.
     

Court level

The majority of defendants were finalised in the Magistrates' Courts (92%, 5,021). A further 4% (219) were finalised in the Children’s Courts, and 4% (198) in the higher courts.

Principal offence

Over two-thirds of defendants had one of the following principal offences:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences – 57% (3,080)
  • Assault – 12% (672).


The largest decrease during 2018–19 was for offences against justice, down by 92% (1,930) to 171 defendants. The decrease was mostly due to a cyclical spike in failure to vote offences in the previous year.

Method of finalisation

Of the defendants finalised during 2018–19:

  • 72% (3,902) were proven guilty
  • 18% (1,004) had their matter(s) withdrawn by the prosecution
  • 7% (364) were acquitted
  • 3% (173) were transferred to other court levels.


The reduction in voting offences finalised in court contributed to the decreases in the number of defendants whose matter(s) were withdrawn by the prosecution (down 62%, 1,657) and found guilty ex-parte (down 71%, 732).

Principal sentence and sentence length

Of the 3,902 defendants proven guilty during 2018–19:

  • 77% (3,016) were sentenced to a non-custodial order, most commonly a fine (1,493), with a median fine amount of $400. The number of defendants given fines decreased by 40% (1,005).
  • 23% (882) were sentenced to a custodial order, most commonly custody in a correctional institution (534), with a median sentence length² of 6 months.
     

Footnotes

  1. In 2018, Australian Capital Territory data were migrated to the Integrated Court Management System which has different data entry and extraction procedures from the previous recording system. Caution should therefore be used when making historical comparisons (see methodology – ‘Australian Capital Territory’).
  2. Excludes life and indeterminate imprisonment (see methodology – ‘Further information on principal sentence and quantum’).

Experimental family and domestic violence statistics¹

These experimental family and domestic violence (FDV) statistics include all defendants finalised during 2018–19 who had at least one FDV related offence², noting that these defendants may have also been finalised for other non-FDV offences during the period.

This release includes additional information about FDV related breach of violence orders, for each selected state and territory. This is included separately at the end of this chapter.

Key findings

Across all selected states and territories³ the majority of FDV defendants:

  • Were male (80–85% for each state and territory)
  • Had their matters finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts (89–98%)
  • Had their charges proven (63–85%).

 

The median age of FDV defendants ranged from 32 to 35 years across the states and territories.

Of those proven guilty, the majority were sentenced to a non-custodial order, with the exception of the Northern Territory where custody in a correctional institution was most common (71%, 2,044).

Across most states and territories the most common principal FDV offence² was assault (47–58%), except in Queensland (22%, 3,521) and Western Australia (41%, 2,394). In these two states, breach of violence order was most common (69%, 11,118 and 41%, 2,429 respectively).

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  1. Proportion of all finalised defendants who had at least one FDV related offence (see methodology for experimental family and domestic violence statistics).
  2. The denominator for this graph includes only those defendants with selected offences (see methodology for experimental family and domestic violence statistics).

New South Wales

The number of FDV defendants finalised in New South Wales was 27,397, an increase of 5% (1,267) since 2017–18.

The majority of FDV defendants:

  • Had their matters finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts (93%, 25,441)
  • Were male (80%, 21,990)
  • Had their charges proven (75%, 20,657).


Of the 20,657 FDV defendants proven guilty:

  • 77% (15,963) were sentenced to a non-custodial order
  • 23% (4,694) were sentenced to a custodial order, mostly custody in a correctional institution (64%, 2,991).


Most FDV defendants had a principal FDV offence of:

  • Assault (55%, 15,121) or
  • Breach of violence order (17%, 4,702).
     
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  1. Differences in how FDV related offences are identified, charged and prosecuted by police across states and territories can impact the comparability of offence data presented in this publication (see methodology for experimental family and domestic violence statistics).

Victoria

The number of FDV defendants finalised in Victoria was 16,156, a decrease of one percent (201) since 2017–18.

The majority of FDV defendants:

  • Had their matters finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts (94%, 15,135)
  • Were male (83%, 13,388)
  • Had their charges proven (84%, 13,645).


Of the 13,645 defendants proven guilty for an FDV offence:

  • 83% (11,310) were sentenced to a non-custodial order
  • 17% (2,333) were sentenced to a custodial order, mostly custody in a correctional institution (96%, 2,233).


Most FDV defendants had a principal FDV offence of:

  • Assault (47%, 7,551) or
  • Breach of violence order (32%, 5,160).
     
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  1. Differences in how FDV-related offences are identified, charged and prosecuted by police across states and territories can impact the comparability of offence data presented in this publication (see methodology for experimental family and domestic violence statistics).

Queensland

The number of FDV defendants finalised in Queensland was 16,207, an increase of less than one percent (95) since 2017–18.

The majority of FDV defendants:

  • Had their matters finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts (90%, 14,581)
  • Were male (85%, 13,740)
  • Had their charges proven (82%, 13,284).
     

Of the 13,284 FDV defendants proven guilty:

  • 61% (8,116) were sentenced to a non-custodial order
  • 39% (5,168) were sentenced to a custodial order, mostly custody in a correctional institution (73%, 3,769).
     

Most FDV defendants had a principal FDV offence of:

  • Breach of violence order (69%, 11,118) or
  • Assault (22%, 3,521).
     
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  1. Differences in how FDV related offences are identified, charged and prosecuted by police across states and territories can impact the comparability of offence data presented in this publication (see methodology for experimental family and domestic violence statistics).

Western Australia

The number of FDV defendants finalised in Western Australia was 5,861, a decrease of 2% (106) since 2017–18.

The majority of FDV defendants:

  • Had their matters finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts (94%, 5,505)
  • Were male (84%, 4,935)
  • Had their charges proven (81%, 4,775).
     

Of the 4,775 FDV defendants proven guilty:

  • Just over three-quarters (76%, 3,645) were sentenced to a non-custodial order
  • 24% (1,130) were given a custodial order, of whom 56% (628) were sentenced to custody in a correctional institution.
     

Most FDV defendants had a principal FDV offence of:

  • Breach of violence order (41%, 2,429) or
  • Assault (41%, 2,394).
     
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  1. Differences in how FDV related offences are identified, charged and prosecuted by police across states and territories can impact the comparability of offence data presented in this publication (see methodology for experimental family and domestic violence statistics).

​​​​​​​Tasmania

The number of FDV defendants finalised in Tasmania was 1,678, an increase of 7% (104) since 2017–18.

The majority of FDV defendants:

  • Had their matters finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts (98%, 1,642)
  • Were male (83%, 1,401)
  • Had their charges proven (63%, 1,062).
     

Of the 1,062 FDV defendants proven guilty:

  • Almost two-thirds (65%, 693) were sentenced to a non-custodial order
  • 35% (369) were sentenced to a custodial order, mostly custody in a correctional institution (67%, 248).
     

Most FDV defendants had a principal FDV offence of:

  • Assault (54%, 900) or
  • Breach of violence order (37%, 626).
     
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  1. Differences in how FDV related offences are identified, charged and prosecuted by police across states and territories can impact the comparability of offence data presented in this publication (see methodology for experimental family and domestic violence statistics).

Northern Territory

The number of FDV defendants finalised in the Northern Territory was 3,391, a decrease of 4% (135) since 2017–18.

The majority of FDV defendants:

  • Had their matters finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts (94%, 3,187)
  • Were male (84%, 2,845)
  • Had their charges proven (85%, 2,898).
     

Of the 2,898 FDV defendants proven guilty:

  • 79% (2,296) were sentenced to a custodial order, mostly custody in a correctional institution (89%, 2,044)
  • Just over one in five (21%, 602) were sentenced to a non-custodial order.
     

Most FDV defendants had a principal FDV offence of:

  • Assault (57%, 1,946) or
  • Breach of violence order (35%, 1,176).
     
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  1. Differences in how FDV related offences are identified, charged and prosecuted by police across states and territories can impact the comparability of offence data presented in this publication (see methodology for experimental family and domestic violence statistics).

Australian Capital Territory

There were 611 FDV defendants finalised⁴ in the Australian Capital Territory during 2018–19.

The majority of FDV defendants:

  • Had their matters finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts (89%, 545)
  • Were male (81%, 494)
  • Had their charges proven (76%, 462).
     

Of the 462 FDV defendants proven guilty:

  • 59% (272) were sentenced to a non-custodial order
  • 41% (190) were sentenced to a custodial order, mostly custody in a correctional institution (65%, 123).
     

Most FDV defendants had a principal FDV offence of:

  • Assault (58%, 354)
  • Property damage (16%, 98)
  • Breach of violence order (15%, 90).
     
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  1. Differences in how FDV related offences are identified, charged and prosecuted by police across states and territories can impact the comparability of offence data presented in this publication (see methodology for experimental family and domestic violence statistics).

Breach of violence order offences⁵

This section contains information about defendants finalised for at least one FDV related ‘breach of violence order’ offence. These statistics include all instances where a finalised defendant had a breach offence, regardless of whether or not the breach offence was their principal FDV offence.⁶ As such, the data in this section will not necessarily be the same as the principal FDV offence data presented earlier.

The following graph displays two measures relating to breaches of FDV violence orders. One is for the total number of finalised defendants with at least one FDV breach offence (represented by blue); the other is for the number of defendants for whom the FDV breach offence was their principal FDV offence (represented by green). As such, the ‘green’ population is a subset of the ‘blue’ population.

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New South Wales

During 2018–19, at least one offence of ‘FDV related breach of violence order’ was finalised for:

  • 9,522 defendants, accounting for 35% of all FDV defendants
  • Around half of these defendants had additional charges finalised relating to another FDV offence type⁷ (51%, 4,820).
     

Victoria

During 2018–19, at least one offence of ‘FDV related breach of violence order’ was finalised for:

  • 8,601 defendants, accounting for 53% of all FDV defendants
  • Two in five defendants had additional charges finalised in the court relating to another FDV offence type⁷ (40%, 3,441).
     

Queensland

During 2018–19, at least one offence of ‘FDV related breach of violence order’ was finalised for:

  • 13,037 defendants, accounting for 80% of all FDV defendants
  • 15% (1,919) of these defendants had additional charges finalised relating to another FDV offence type⁷.
     

Western Australia

During 2018–19, at least one offence of ‘FDV related breach of violence order’ was finalised for:

  • 2,754 defendants, accounting for 47% of all FDV defendants
  • Around one in ten defendants had additional charges finalised relating to another FDV offence type⁷ (9%, 325).
     

Tasmania

During 2018–19, at least one offence of ‘FDV related breach of violence order’ was finalised for:

  • 997 defendants, accounting for 59% of all FDV defendants
  • 37% of defendants had additional charges finalised relating to another FDV offence type⁷ (371).
     

Northern Territory

During 2018–19, at least one offence of ‘FDV related breach of violence order’ was finalised for:

  • 1,854 defendants, accounting for 55% of all FDV defendants
  • 37% of defendants had additional charges finalised relating to another FDV offence type⁷ (678).
     

Australian Capital Territory

During 2018–19, at least one offence of ‘FDV related breach of violence order’ was identified for:

  • 129 defendants, accounting for 21% of all FDV defendants
  • Three in ten defendants had additional charges finalised relating to another FDV offence type⁷ (39).
     

Footnotes

  1. For more information on how defendants/offences in each state and territory are identified or classified as ‘FDV’, including how information recorded by police and transferred to the courts has a bearing on this, refer to the methodology for experimental family and domestic violence statistics.
  2. FDV offences included in this collection: ANZSOC Divisions 01 Homicide and related offences, 02 Acts intended to cause injury, 03 Sexual assault and related offences and 05 Abduction/harassment; Sub-divisions 049 Other dangerous or negligent acts and 121 Property damage; and Group 1531 Breach of violence order.
  3. Excludes data for South Australia (see methodology for experimental family and domestic violence statistics).
  4. In 2018, Australian Capital Territory data were migrated to the Integrated Court Management System which has different data entry and extraction procedures from the previous recording system. Caution should therefore be used when making historical comparisons (see methodology – ‘Australian Capital Territory’).
  5. Users are advised to exercise caution when making comparisons across states and territories, due to differences in recording practices.
  6. See FDV methodology .
  7. FDV offences included in this collection: ANZSOC Divisions 01 Homicide and related offences, 02 Acts intended to cause injury, 03 Sexual assault and related offences and 05 Abduction/harassment; Sub-divisions 049 Other dangerous or negligent acts and 121 Property damage; and Group 1531 Breach of violence order.

Data downloads

Criminal courts, table concordance, 2017–18 to 2018–19

Guide to finding data in the criminal courts publication tables, 2018–19

1 Defendants finalised, Australia (tables 1 to 6)

2 Defendants proven guilty, Australia (tables 7 to 11)

3 Indigenous status, selected states and territories (tables 12 to 15)

4 Defendants finalised, New South Wales (tables 16 to 20)

5 Defendants finalised, Victoria (tables 21 to 25)

6 Defendants finalised, Queensland (tables 26 to 30)

7 Defendants finalised, South Australia (tables 31 to 35)

8 Defendants finalised, Western Australia (tables 36 to 40)

9 Defendants finalised, Tasmania (tables 41 to 45)

10 Defendants finalised, Northern Territory (tables 46 to 50)

11 Defendants finalised, Australian Capital Territory (tables 51 to 55)

12 Rate of defendants finalised, Australia (tables 56 to 64)

13 Sentence length and fine amount, Australia (tables 65 to 73)

14 Defendants of family and domestic violence, experimental data, (FDV tables 1 to 17)

All data cubes

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4513.0.