Latest release

Criminal Courts, Australia

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

Reference period
2019-20 financial year

Key statistics

 

  • 486,422 defendants were finalised in Criminal Courts, down 16% from 2018–19.
  • 75% of defendants finalised were male.
  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences remained the most common principal offence (34%).
  • Fines were the most common principal sentence (53% of defendants with a guilty outcome).

 

Impact of COVID-19 on data

The introduction of COVID-19 related restrictions in March 2020 affected the volume of defendants finalised in the Criminal Courts. Court operations were affected by the temporary closures in courts across all jurisdictions and the deferral of some cases. The restrictions also coincided with a fall in the number of offenders proceeded against by police for the same crime period which likely reduced the number of court cases. This should be considered when interpreting the Criminal Courts data for the 2019–20 reference period, and when comparing to earlier years.

Defendants finalised in Criminal Courts

This chapter presents information about defendants finalised in Australian state and territory Criminal Courts between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2020. ‘All Courts’ data refer to the grouping of the Higher, Magistrates' and Children's Courts.

Australian state and territory Criminal Courts finalised a total of 486,422 defendants, a decrease of 16% from the previous year. Of the defendants finalised:

  • 416,844 (86%) had a guilty outcome
  • 38,718 (8%) had their charges withdrawn
  • 17,213 (4%) were transferred to other court levels for further action
  • 11,908 (2%) were acquitted

To avoid double counting of defendants who have both been finalised by transferring from one court level and also finalised in another, the data ‘excludes transfers’ where indicated.

Defendant characteristics

The rate of defendants finalised (excluding those transferred to other court levels) was 2,083 per 100,000 persons – the lowest rate since the beginning of the time series in 2010–11.

Of the 469,208 defendants finalised (excluding transfers and organisations) during 2019–20:

  • Three in four were male (75% or 352,534 defendants)
  • The median age was 33 years
  • Most were finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts (91%, or 427,815 defendants)
Download

(a) Includes defendants for whom sex could not be determined and organisations. 

Principal offence

Three-quarters (75%) of defendants finalised (excluding transfers) had a principal offence in one of the following five offence categories:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences – 33% (157,110 defendants)
  • Acts intended to cause injury (includes assault) – 14% (65,579 defendants)
  • Illicit drug offences – 11% (50,497 defendants)
  • Theft – 9% (40,781 defendants)
  • Offences against justice – 8% (36,664 defendants)

Between 2018–19 and 2019–20 there was a reduction in the counts of defendants finalised across most offence types, but the distribution (based on the proportion each offence contributed) remained relatively stable.

Download

Principal sentence

For the 416,844 defendants with a guilty outcome:

  • The most common principal sentence was a monetary order (55% or 227,407 defendants), of which the vast majority involved a fine
  • The median fine amount was $500
  • 43,189 defendants (10%) were sentenced to custody in a correctional institution
  • Just over one-quarter of defendants (27% or 11,615) sentenced to custody in a correctional institution had a principal offence of assault
  • The median sentence length for custody in a correctional institution (for all offence types) was nine months
Download

(a) 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.

Higher Courts

The most serious charges are heard in the Higher Courts, where in 2019–20 there were 17,364 defendants finalised. This was a decrease of 10% (1,841) from the previous year.

Of those defendants finalised:

  • 14,114 defendants had a guilty outcome
  • 1,922 had their matter(s) withdrawn by the prosecution
  • 937 were acquitted
  • 196 were transferred to other court levels

Principal offence 

During 2019–20, over half of defendants finalised in the Higher Courts (excluding transfers) had one of the following principal offences:

  • Assault – 20% (3,498 defendants), a decrease of 9% (359) from the previous year
  • Deal or traffic in illicit drugs – 19% (3,273), a decrease of 21% (849)
  • Sexual assault – 15% (2,657), a decrease of 5% (143)

Principal sentence

In the Higher Courts, the majority of the 14,114 defendants with a guilty outcome were sentenced to custody in a correctional institution (73%, 10,325). Defendants in the Higher Courts with the following principal offences had the greatest proportions sentenced to custody in a correctional institution:

  • Homicide and related offences (90% or 284 defendants)
  • Robbery/extortion (84% or 1,243 defendants)
  • Weapons/explosives (81% or 321 defendants)

The median sentence length imposed by the Higher Courts for custody in a correctional institution was two years and ten months.

For the 11% of defendants (1,515) who were sentenced to a non-custodial order, two-thirds received a sentence of a community supervision or work order (967 defendants).

Magistrates’ Courts

There were 443,777 defendants finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts during 2019–20. This was a decrease of 16% (82,939) from the previous year.

Of those defendants:

  • 383,646 defendants had a guilty outcome
  • 33,621 had their matter(s) withdrawn by the prosecution
  • 15,960 were transferred to other court levels
  • 9,983 were acquitted

Principal offence

The five most common principal offences for defendants finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts (excluding transfers) were:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences – 36% (155,835 defendants), most commonly regulatory driving offences (98,981) and driver licence offences (52,057)
  • Assault – 12% (50,304 defendants)
  • Illicit drug offences – 11% (44,993 defendants), most commonly possession or use offences (30,301)
  • Theft – 8% (35,730 defendants)
  • Offences against justice – 8% (35,651 defendants), most commonly breaching a violence or non-violence order (21,904)

Principal sentence

In the Magistrates’ Courts, the majority of the 383,646 defendants with a guilty outcome were sentenced to a non-custodial order (87% or 334,146), including:

  • Fines (221,282 defendants), with a median fine amount of $500
  • Community supervision or work orders (34,288 defendants)

Over one in ten (13%) defendants were sentenced to a custodial order (49,491), including custody in a correctional institution for 31,790 defendants. The median sentence length for these defendants was 6 months.

Children’s Courts

There were 25,279 defendants finalised in the Children’s Courts during 2019–20, representing a 16% (4,899) decrease from the previous year.

Of those defendants:

  • 19,082 defendants had a guilty outcome
  • 3,171 had their matter(s) withdrawn by the prosecution
  • 1,050 were transferred to other court levels
  • 991 were acquitted

Principal offence

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

  • Assault – 23% (5,516)
  • Theft – 19% (4,681)
  • Unlawful entry with intent – 13% (3,096)

Principal sentence

In the Children’s Courts, the majority of the 19,082 defendants with a guilty outcome were sentenced to a non-custodial order (90% or 17,243 defendants). The most common of these were ‘other non-custodial orders’ (given to 10,519 defendants), which include good behaviour bonds, recognisance orders, licence disqualification/suspension, forfeiture of property orders and nominal penalties.

One in ten defendants with a guilty outcome were sentenced to a custodial order (1,841 defendants), most commonly custody in a correctional institution (1,070). More than half of these defendants had a principal offence of:

  • Acts intended to cause injury – 37% (396)
  • Unlawful entry with intent – 21% (223)

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

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants

This chapter presents Indigenous status data about defendants finalised in the criminal courts of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory. The data from these states and territory were of sufficient quality and met the ABS standard for national reporting in 2019–20.

Defendants proceeded against for traffic offences often do not have Indigenous status information recorded, therefore defendants with a principal offence of Dangerous or negligent operation of a vehicle or Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences are excluded from the following statistics.

Summary characteristics

During 2019–20, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants finalised (excluding those transferred to other court levels) were:

  • Queensland – down 19% to 18,631 defendants
  • Northern Territory – down 14% to 4,648
  • New South Wales – down 3% to 14,737
  • South Australia – down less than one percent to 4,348

The proportion of total defendants (excluding transfers) who identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander remained stable, at:

  • 79% in the Northern Territory
  • 23% in Queensland
  • 23% in South Australia
  • 18% 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:

  • Northern Territory – 42% (1,963)
  • New South Wales – 40% (5,901)
  • South Australia – 31% (1,329)

In Queensland, the most common principal offence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants was offences against justice (17% or 3,248 defendants). As mentioned above, traffic offences are excluded from the data above as Indigenous status is not collected.

Principal sentence

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants with a guilty outcome, out of all finalised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants was:

  • New South Wales – 83% (12,751)
  • Northern Territory – 83% (4,069)
  • Queensland – 82% (16,523)
  • South Australia – 63% (2,901)

Of those with a guilty outcome, the majority were sentenced to a non-custodial order in:

  • Queensland – 69% (11,457)
  • South Australia – 71% (2,059)
  • New South Wales – 65% (8,299)

In the Northern Territory, the most common sentence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants was a custodial sentence, with 64% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants sentenced to custody in a correctional institution (2,623 defendants).

Defendant rates

The rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants (per 100,000 Aboriginal and Torres Islander persons aged 10 years and over) has been declining since 2013–14 in three of the four states/territories:

  • South Australia, down 2472 to 12,331 defendants
  • Northern Territory, down 3,384 to 7,317 defendants
  • Queensland, down 4,988 to 10,154 defendants

In New South Wales, the rate has increased slightly since 2013–14 (up 754 defendants) but decreased since last year to 6,722 defendants (per 100,000 Aboriginal and Torres Islander persons aged 10 years and over).

Download
  1. Excludes defendants finalised by transfer to other court levels. Rate is per 100,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons aged 10 years and over for each state/territory (see Methodology – ‘Rate of defendants finalised’).

New South Wales

During 2019–20, there were 138,131 defendants finalised within New South Wales. This comprised over a quarter (28%) of all defendants finalised nationally, making it the largest contributing state or territory to the national total.

Method of finalisation

Of the defendants finalised during 2019–20:

  • 88% (120,927) had a guilty outcome
  • 5% (7,230) had their matter(s) withdrawn by the prosecution
  • 4% (5,700) were acquitted
  • 3% (3,994) were transferred to other court levels

Defendant characteristics

For the 134,135 defendants finalised (excluding transfers to other court level) in 2019–20:

  • The rate of defendants finalised was 1,860 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

For defendants finalised (excluding transfers) in 2019–20:

  • The majority of defendants were finalised in the Magistrates' Courts (93%, 124,448)
  • 4% of defendants were finalised in the Children’s Courts (5,470)
  • 3% of defendants were finalised in the Higher Courts (4,217)
     

Principal offence

Nearly two-thirds of the defendants finalised (excluding transfers) had one of the following principal offences:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences – 36% (48,430)
  • Assault – 16% (21,994)
  • Illicit drug offences – 10% (14,000)

Principal sentence and sentence length

Of the 120,927 defendants with a guilty outcome in 2019–20, most (84%, 101,844) were sentenced to a non-custodial order.

For defendants with a guilty outcome sentenced to a non-custodial order:

  • Almost half (48%, 48,700) received a fine as their principal sentence
  • The median fine amount was $500

For the 16% (19,081) of defendants with a guilty outcome sentenced to a custodial order:

  • The majority were sentenced to custody in a correctional institution (61%, 11,715)
  • The median sentence length was 12 months

Victoria

In 2019–20, there were 88,932 defendants finalised within Victoria, which represented 18% of defendants finalised nationally.

Method of finalisation

Of all defendants finalised during 2019–20:

  • Most (88%) resulted in a guilty outcome (77,824 defendants)
  • Almost eight in ten (78%) defendants pleaded guilty (69,196 defendants)
  • 12% had their matter(s) withdrawn by the prosecution (10,311 defendants)
  • Less than one percent were acquitted (362 defendants) or had their matter transferred to another court level (426 defendants)

Defendant characteristics

For the 88,506 defendants finalised (excluding transfers to other court levels):

  • The rate of defendants was 1,494 defendants per 100,000 persons (aged 10 years and over)
  • The median age of defendants was 34 years
  • The majority (75%) of defendants were male (66,788 defendants)

Court level

For defendants finalised (excluding transfers) in 2019–20:

  • Nine out of ten defendants (93%) were finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts (81,880 defendants)
  • 5% of defendants were finalised in the Children’s Courts (4,681 defendants)
  • 2% were finalised in the Higher Courts (1,952 defendants)

Principal offence

Three offence types accounted for more than half of the total defendant population (excluding transfers), these were:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (35% or 31,297 defendants)
  • Acts intended to cause injury (15% or 13,003 defendants)
  • Theft (9% or 7,632 defendants)

Principal sentence and sentence length

Of the 77,824 defendants with a guilty outcome in 2019–20, most (89%) were sentenced to a non-custodial order (69,447 defendants).

For defendants with a guilty outcome sentenced to a non-custodial order:

  • Half received a fine as their principal sentence (50% or 34,796 defendants)
  • The median fine amount was $598

Of defendants with a guilty outcome, 11% were sentenced to a custodial order (8,368 defendants):

  • The majority were sentenced to custody in a correctional institution (93% or 7,814 defendants)
  • The median sentence length was 3 months

Queensland

During 2019–20 there were 126,378 defendants finalised within Queensland, which represented a quarter (26%) of defendants finalised nationally.

Method of finalisation

Of all defendants finalised in 2019–20:

  • 84% (105,981 defendants) had a guilty outcome
  • 9% (10,886 defendants) had their matter(s) withdrawn by the prosecution
  • 6% (8,053 defendants) had their charges transferred to another court level
  • 1% (1,212 defendants) of defendants were acquitted

Defendant characteristics

For the 118,322 defendants finalised (excluding transfers to other court levels):

  • The rate of defendants finalised was 2,636 per 100,000 persons (aged 10 years and over)
  • The median age of defendants was 32 years
  • The majority of defendants were male (74% or 87,650 defendants)

Court level

The majority of defendants finalised (excluding transfers) had their cases heard in the Magistrates’ Courts (88% or 104,263 defendants).

The Higher Courts finalised a further 6,432 defendants (5%) and the Children’s Courts finalised 7,623 defendants (6%).

Principal offence

Two-thirds of defendants finalised (77,471 defendants excluding transfers) were comprised of the four following principal offences:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences – 29% or 33,734 defendants
  • Illicit drug offences – 15% or 17,307 defendants
  • Theft – 11% or 13,430 defendants
  • Offences against justice – 11% or 13,000 defendants

Principal sentence and sentence length

Of the 105,981 defendants with a guilty outcome:

  • Just over four-fifths (83% or 88,044 defendants) were sentenced to a non-custodial order, most commonly a fine (72% or 63,398) with a median fine amount of $400
  • 17% (17,941 defendants) were sentenced to a custodial order, most commonly custody in a correction institution (69% or 12,409 defendants), with a median sentence length of 12 months

South Australia

During 2019–20, there were 29,327 defendants finalised within South Australia, which represented 6% of defendants finalised nationally.

Method of finalisation

Of the defendants finalised during 2019–20:

  • 69% (20,337) had a guilty outcome
  • 22% (6,511) had their matter(s) withdrawn by the prosecution
  • 5% (1,590) were transferred to other court levels
  • 2% (474) were acquitted
     

Defendant characteristics

For the 27,738 defendants finalised (excluding transfers to other court levels):

  • The rate of defendants finalised was 1,782 per 100,000 persons (aged 10 years and over)
  • The median age of defendants was 35 years
  • More than three-quarters (79%) of defendants were male

Court level

For defendants finalised (excluding transfers) in 2019–20:

  • The majority of defendants were finalised in the Magistrates' Courts (92%, 25,428)
  • 5% of defendants were finalised in the Children’s Courts (1,318)
  • 4% of defendants were finalised in the Higher Courts (990)

Principal offence

Three offence types accounted for more than half of the total defendant population (excluding transfers), these were:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences – 27% (7,521)
  • Assault – 17% (4,613)
  • Illicit drug offences – 10% (2,809)

Principal sentence and sentence length

Of the 20,337 defendants with a guilty outcome in 2019–20, most (79%, 15,971) were sentenced to a non-custodial order.

For defendants with a guilty outcome sentenced to a non-custodial order:

  • Most (56%, 8,979) received a fine as their principal sentence
  • The median fine amount was $600

Of the 4,366 of defendants with a guilty outcome sentenced to a custodial order:

  • Almost half were sentenced to custody in a correctional institution (46%, 2,009), with a median sentence length of 5 months
  • 37% (1,628) were issued a fully suspended sentence

Western Australia

During 2019–20, there were 78,089 defendants finalised within Western Australia. This comprised 16% of all defendants finalised nationally.

Method of finalisation

Of the defendants finalised during 2019–20:

  • 92% (71,927) had a guilty outcome
  • 3% (2,625) had their matter(s) withdrawn by the prosecution
  • 3% (2,059) were transferred to other court levels
  • One percent (762) were acquitted

Defendant characteristics

For the 76,028 defendants finalised (excluding transfers to other court levels):

  • The rate of defendants finalised was 3,302 per 100,000 persons (aged 10 years and over)
  • The median age of defendants was 33 years
  • Nearly three-quarters of defendants were male (73%, 55,239)

Court level

For defendants finalised (excluding transfers) in 2019–20:

  • The majority of defendants were finalised in the Magistrates' Courts (92%, 69,854)
  • 5% of defendants were finalised in the Children’s Courts (3,701)
  • 3% of defendants were finalised in the Higher Courts (2,466)
     

Principal offence

Three-quarters of defendants (excluding transfers) had one of the following principal offences:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences – 35% (26,494)
  • Illicit drug offences – 14% (10,330)
  • Offences against justice – 9% (7,012)
  • Theft – 9% (6,708)
  • Assault – 9% (6,464)

Principal sentence and sentence length

Of the 71,927 defendants with a guilty outcome in 2019–20, 90% (64,445) were sentenced to a non-custodial order:

  • Nine out of ten (90%, 58,140) received a fine as their principal sentence
  • The median fine amount was $500

For the 10% (7,482) of defendants with a guilty outcome sentenced to a custodial order:

  • 60% were sentenced to custody in a correctional institution (4,475), with a median sentence length of 16 months
  • 40% (3,006) were issued a fully suspended sentence

Tasmania

During 2019–20, there were 10,789 defendants finalised in Tasmania, representing 2% of defendants finalised nationally.

Method of finalisation

Of all defendants finalised during 2019–20:

  • 79% of defendants had a guilty outcome (8,524 defendants)
  • 15% were acquitted (1,608 defendants)
  • 4% were transferred to other court levels (471 defendants)

Defendant characteristics

For the 10,317 defendants finalised (excluding transfers to other court levels):

  • The rate of defendants finalised was 2,160 defendants per 100,000 persons (aged 10 years and over)
  • The median age of defendants was 33 years
  • The majority of defendants were male (76% or 7,819 defendants)
  • The majority of defendants were finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts (90% or 9,239)

Principal offence

Just over six in ten (62%) defendants (excluding transfers) were finalised for the following principal offences:

  • 36% for traffic and vehicle regulatory matter(s) (3,678 defendants)
  • 18% for assault (1,861 defendants)
  • 8% for offences against justice (863 defendants)

Principal sentence and sentence length

Of the 8,524 defendants with a guilty outcome during 2019–20:

  • 77% (6,527 defendants) received a principal sentence of a non-custodial order such as a fine (4,323 defendants), with a median amount of $400
  • 23% (1,995 defendants) were sentenced to a custodial order, either custody in a correctional institution (1,062 defendants), fully suspended sentence (824 defendants) or custody in the community (106 defendants)
  • The median sentence length for those sentenced to custody in a correctional institution was 5 months

Northern Territory

During 2019–20, there were 9,690 defendants finalised within Northern Territory, representing 2% of defendants finalised nationally.

Method of finalisation

Of the defendants finalised during 2019–20:

  • 86% (8,304) had a guilty outcome
  • 8% (737) had their matter(s) withdrawn by the prosecution
  • 4% (410) were transferred to other court levels
  • 3% (246) were acquitted

Defendant characteristics

For the 9,281 defendants finalised (excluding transfers to other court levels):

  • The rate of defendants finalised was 4,354 per 100,000 persons (aged 10 years and over)
  • The median age of all defendants was 32 years
  • More than three-quarters (77%) of defendants were male

Court level

For defendants finalised (excluding transfers) in 2019–20:

  • The majority of defendants were finalised in the Magistrates' Courts (88%, 8,211)
  • 7% of defendants were finalised in the Children’s Courts (660)
  • 4% of defendants were finalised in the Higher Courts (410)

Principal offence

Three offence types accounted for more than half of the total defendant population (excluding transfers), these were:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences – 32% (2,996)
  • Assault – 25% (2,275)
  • Offences against justice – 11% (1,046)

Principal sentence and sentence length

Of the 8,304 defendants with a guilty outcome, 52% (4,277) received a non-custodial order while 48% (4,008) received a custodial order.

For defendants with a guilty outcome sentenced to a non-custodial order:

  • 69% (2,943) received a fine as their principal sentence
  • The median fine amount was $800

For defendants with a guilty outcome sentenced to a custodial order:

  • The majority were sentenced to custody in a correctional institution (84%, 3,365)
  • The median sentence length was 3 months

Australian Capital Territory

During 2019–20, there were 5,081 defendants finalised in the Australian Capital Territory, representing 1% of defendants finalised nationally.

Method of finalisation

Of all defendants finalised during 2019–20:

  • 59% resulted in a guilty outcome (3,021 defendants)
  • 30% were acquitted (1,546 defendants)
  • 6% were withdrawn by the prosecution (298 defendants)
  • 4% were transferred to other court levels (202 defendants)

Defendant characteristics

For the 4,876 defendants finalised (excluding transfers to other court levels):

  • The rate of defendants finalised was 1,309 defendants per 100,000 persons (aged 10 years and over) – the lowest of the states and territories
  • The median age of defendants was 33 years
  • The majority of defendants were finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts (92% or 4,484)

Principal offence

Three-quarters (75%) of defendants (excluding transfers) had one of the following offences:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (63% or 3,048 defendants)
  • Acts intended to cause injury (12% or 587 defendants)

The Australian Capital Territory recorded the lowest rate of defendants finalised for Acts intended to cause injury – 158 defendants per 100,000 persons.

Principal sentence and sentence length

Of the 3,021 defendants with a guilty outcome in 2019–20:

  • The majority were sentenced to a non-custodial order (78% or 2,352 defendants)
  • Of the 675 defendants sentenced to a custodial order, around half (51%) were sentenced to custody in a correction institution (347 defendants)

Experimental family and domestic violence statistics

These experimental family and domestic violence (FDV) statistics include all defendants finalised during 2019–20 who had at least one FDV related offence, noting that these defendants may have also been finalised for other non-FDV offences during the period. For these statistics, an FDV related offence includes: Homicide and related offences, Acts intended to cause injury (such as assault), Sexual assault and related offences, Abduction/harassment, Property damage, Breach of violence order, and Other dangerous or negligent acts.

This release is the first time national FDV data is available and published. For more information on how defendants/offences in each state and territory are identified or classified as ‘FDV’, including how information is recorded by police and transferred to the courts, refer to Methodology for experimental family and domestic violence statistics.

Additional information is included at the end of the chapter about FDV related breach of violence orders for each state and territory.

FDV defendants finalised

In 2019–20, there were 66,498 defendants finalised with at least one FDV related offence¹ (excluding defendants finalised by transfer to other court levels).

Method of finalisation 

Of all FDV defendants finalised in 2019–20:

  • 79% (52,594 defendants) had matter(s) resulting in a guilty outcome
  • 13% (8,440 defendants) had their matter(s) withdrawn by the prosecution
  • 5% (3,305 defendants) were acquitted
  • 3% (1,968 defendants) were transferred to another court level

Most FDV defendants were finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts of Australia (93% or 61,673). A further 4% (2,453 defendants) were finalised in the Higher Courts, and 4% (2,372 defendants) in the Children’s Courts.

Defendant characteristics

In 2019–20, of the 64,530 FDV defendants finalised (excluding transfers to other court levels):

  • Nine out of ten defendants were finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts (93% or 59,754 FDV defendants)
  • The majority were male (83% or 53,239 defendants)
  • The median age of FDV defendants was 34 years

Principal offence

The majority (88% or 56,528) of FDV defendants (excluding transfers) were made up of two principal offences:

  • Acts intended to cause injury – 51% (32,970), which was most commonly Assault (28,295 defendants)
  • Breach of violence order – 37% (23,558 defendants)
Download

Principal sentence and sentence length

Of the 52,594 defendants with a guilty outcome in 2019–20:

  • 70% (36,842 defendants) were sentenced to a non-custodial order including community supervision/work (11,107 defendants), monetary orders (11,838 defendants) and other non-custodial orders (13,897 defendants)
  • 30% (15,747 defendants) were sentenced to a custodial order, most commonly custody in a correctional institution (11,722 defendants)

New South Wales

Of the 25,645 FDV defendants finalised with at least one FDV offence¹ in New South Wales:

  • 78% (19,930 defendants) had a guilty outcome
  • 9% (2,348 defendants) were acquitted of all FDV related offences
  • 2% (562) were finalised by transfer to other court levels

The majority of the 25,083 FDV defendants finalised (excluding transfers):

  • Were male (80% or 19,950 defendants)
  • Had a principal FDV offence of Assault (52% or 13,163 defendants) or Breach of violence order (19% or 4,806 defendants)

Of the 19,930 FDV defendants with a guilty outcome:

  • 76% were sentenced to a non-custodial order (15,158 defendants)
  • 24% were sentenced to a custodial order (4,772 defendants), most commonly custody in a correctional intuition (3,037 defendants)

Victoria

Of the 14,183 defendants finalised with at least one FDV offence¹ in Victoria:

  • 83% (11,784 defendants) had a guilty outcome
  • 16% (2,286 defendants) had their matter(s) withdrawn by the prosecution
  • Less than 1% (57) were transferred to other court levels

The majority of the 14,126 FDV defendants finalised (excluding transfers):

  • Were male (84% or 11,811)
  • Had a principal FDV offence of Assault (46% or 6,524 defendants) or Breach of violence order (33% or 4,594 defendants)

Of the 11,784 defendants with a guilty outcome:

  • 81% were sentenced to a non-custodial order (9,501 defendants)
  • 19% were sentenced to a custodial order (2,281 defendants), most commonly custody in a correctional institution (2,195 defendants)

Queensland

Of the 13,692 defendants finalised with at least one FDV offence¹ in Queensland:

  • 82% (11,205 defendants) had a guilty outcome
  • 10% (1,355 defendants) had their matter(s) withdrawn by the prosecution
  • 7% (938) were transferred to other court levels
  • 1% (159) were acquitted

The majority of the 12,754 FDV defendants finalised (excluding transfers):

  • Were male (85% or 10,805)
  • Had a principal FDV offence of Breach of violence order (74% or 9,398 defendants) or Assault (17% or 2,229 defendants)

Of the 11,205 FDV defendants with a guilty outcome:

  • 58% were sentenced to a non-custodial order (6,497 defendants)
  • 42% were sentenced to a custodial order (4,708 defendants), most commonly custody in a correction institution (3,550 defendants)

South Australia

There were 2,403 defendants finalised with at least one FDV offence¹ in South Australia (excluding transfers). The majority of FDV defendants:

  • Were male (90% or 2,151)
  • Had a principal FDV offence of Assault (63% or 1,517 defendants) or Breach of violence order (28% or 684 defendants)

Of the 1,049 defendants with a guilty outcome:

  • 71% were sentenced to a non-custodial order (745 defendants)
  • 29% were sentenced to a custodial order (304 defendants), most commonly custody in a correctional institution (180 defendants)

Western Australia

Of the 5,559 defendants finalised with at least one FDV offence¹ in Western Australia:

  • 84% (4,672 defendants) had a guilty outcome
  • 8% (449 defendants) had their matter(s) withdrawn by the prosecution
  • 4% (207) were transferred to other court levels
  • 4% (200) were acquitted

The majority of the 5,352 FDV defendants finalised (excluding transfers):

  • Were male (85% or 4,526 defendants)
  • Had a principal FDV offence of Breach of violence order (47% or 2,498 defendants) or Assault (39% or 2,104 defendants)

Of the 4,672 defendants finalised with a guilty outcome:

  • 75% (3,521 defendants) were sentenced to a non-custodial order
  • 25% (1,151 defendants) were given a custodial order, with just over half of these sentenced to custody in a correctional institution (602 defendants)

​​​​​​​Tasmania

There were 1,493 defendants finalised with at least one FDV offence¹ in Tasmania (excluding transfers). The majority of FDV defendants:

  • Were male (82% or 1,217)
  • Had a principal FDV offence of Assault (54% or 813 defendants) or Breach of violence order (34% or 514 defendants)

Of the 1,074 defendants finalised with a guilty outcome:

  • 65% (699 defendants) were sentenced to a non-custodial order
  • 35% (375 defendants) were given a custodial order, with 245 defendants sentenced to custody in a correctional institution

Northern Territory

There were 2,790 defendants finalised with at least one FDV offence¹ in the Northern Territory (excluding transfers). The majority of FDV defendants:

  • Were male (84% or 2,344)
  • Had a principal FDV offence of Assault (59% or 1,653 defendants) or Breach of violence orders (34% or 952 defendants)

Of the 2,475 defendants finalised with a guilty outcome:

  • 80% were sentenced to a custodial order (1,986 defendants), most commonly custody in a correctional institution (1,832 defendants)
  • 20% were sentenced to a non-custodial order (486 defendants)

Australian Capital Territory

There were 529 defendants finalised with at least one FDV offence¹ in the Australian Capital Territory (excluding transfers). The majority of FDV defendants:

  • Were male (82% or 435)
  • Had a principal FDV offence of Assault (55% or 292 defendants) or Breach of violence order (21% or 112 defendants)

Of the 405 defendants finalised with a guilty outcome:

  • 58% were sentenced to a non-custodial order (235 defendants)
  • 42% were given a custodial order (170 defendants), of which just under half were sentenced to custody in a correctional institution (81 defendants)

Breach of violence order offences

This section contains information about defendants finalised for at least one FDV related breach of violence order offence. This is the first time FDV data is available for all states and territories.  Users making comparisons between state and territory data should first refer to the Methodology to understand how variation in identification and recording processes impact the data (see How is FDV defined in this publication?, Counting methodology and State or territory specific information related to FDV data).

The statistics presented include all instances where a finalised defendant had a FDV related breach of violence order offence, regardless of whether the breach offence was considered to be the most serious FDV related offence for the defendant (that is, their principal FDV offence). As such, the data in this section provide a more complete picture for breach offences, but will not necessarily be the same as the principal FDV offence data presented earlier (where only the most serious FDV offence is recorded in the dataset).

Defendants finalised with FDV breaches

During 2019–20, at least one offence of FDV related breach of violence order was finalised (excluding transfers) for 34,946 defendants, accounting for 54% of all FDV defendants. Thirty-three percent (11,388) of these defendants had additional charges finalised relating to another FDV offence type¹.

New South Wales

In New South Wales, at least one offence of FDV related breach of violence order was finalised (excluding transfers) for 9,585 defendants, accounting for 38% of all FDV defendants. Half of these defendants had additional charges finalised relating to another FDV offence type¹ (50% or 4,779).

Victoria

In Victoria, at least one offence of FDV related breach of violence order was finalised (excluding transfers) for 7,814 defendants, accounting for 55% of all FDV defendants. Around two in five defendants had additional charges finalised relating to another FDV offence type¹ (41% or 3,220).

Queensland

In Queensland, at least one offence of FDV related breach of violence order was finalised (excluding transfers) for 10,903 defendants, accounting for 85% of all FDV defendants. Fourteen percent (1,505) of these defendants had additional charges finalised relating to another FDV offence type¹.

South Australia

In South Australia, at least one offence of FDV related breach of violence order was finalised (excluding transfers) for 1,212 defendants, accounting for 50% of all FDV defendants. Forty-four percent (528) of these defendants had additional charges finalised relating to another FDV offence type¹.

Western Australia

In Western Australia, at least one offence of FDV related breach of violence order was finalised (excluding transfers) for 2,831 defendants, accounting for 53% of all FDV defendants. Twelve percent (333) of these defendants had additional charges finalised relating to another FDV offence type¹.

Tasmania

In Tasmania, at least one offence of FDV related breach of violence order was finalised (excluding transfers) for 868 defendants, accounting for 58% of all FDV defendants. Forty-one percent (354) of these defendants had additional charges finalised relating to another FDV offence type¹.

Northern Territory

In the Northern Territory, at least one offence of FDV related breach of violence order was finalised (excluding transfers) for 1,592 defendants, accounting for 57% of all FDV defendants. Forty percent (640) of these defendants had additional chargers finalised relating to another FDV offence type¹.

Australian Capital Territory

In the Australian Capital Territory, at least one offence of FDV related breach of violence order was finalised (excluding transfers) for 141 defendants, accounting for 27% of all FDV defendants. Twenty-one percent (29) of these defendants had additional charges finalised relating to another FDV offence type¹.

Footnotes

  1.  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, 2018–19 to 2019–20

Guide to finding data in the criminal courts publication tables, 2019–20

1 Defendants finalised, Australia (Tables 1 to 6)

2 Defendants with a guilty outcome, 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 72)

14 Defendants of family and domestic violence, experimental data, (FDV Tables 1 to 21)

All data downloads

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4513.0.