Federal Defendants, Australia

This is not the latest release View the latest release

National statistics about defendants with federal offences in criminal courts including demographic, offence, outcome and sentence information

Reference period
2021-22 financial year

Key statistics

  • 8,092 federal defendants finalised in 2021–22, up 2% from the previous year
  • Harassment and threatening behaviour remained the most common principal federal offence (56%)
  • Most judgements resulted in a guilty outcome (95%)
  • Almost one-third of those with a guilty outcome received a fine (31%)

Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in restrictions that affected the volume of defendants finalised in the Criminal Courts over recent years. This context should be considered when comparing the federal defendants data for 2021–22 with earlier years.

Federal Defendants in Australian Courts

This publication presents data related to defendants charged with an offence against Commonwealth (federal) legislation, who were finalised in an Australian criminal court in 2021–22. The data is a subset of the Criminal Courts, Australia collection.

The counting unit is a finalised defendant (see Glossary), excluding transfer between court levels.

There were 8,092 federal defendants finalised in 2021–22, an increase of 2% (148) from the previous year.

This represented 2% of total defendants finalised (488,936) in Australia’s state and territory criminal courts over the same period, as reported in Criminal Courts, Australia, 2021–22.

The median age of federal defendants was 37 years, and males accounted for more than three-quarters (78%).

Summary characteristics of federal defendants, 2021–22
DemographicsDefendants (no.)Defendants (%)
Median age37.4 years 
Court level (a)Defendants (no.)Defendants (%)
Higher Courts86910
Magistrates' Court7,79887
Children's Court2683
Top 4 Principal Federal Offences (b)Defendants (no.)Defendants (%)
Harassment and threatening behaviour4,51556
Obtain benefit by deception5707
Non-assaultive sexual offences5246
Offences against government operations2803
Adjudicated finalisations Defendants (no.)Defendants (%)
Guilty outcome5,64795
Top 4 Principal SentencesDefendants (no.)Defendants (%)
Good behaviour bonds/recognisance1,28123
Custody in a correctional institution103918
Community supervision or work orders5219

a. Includes transfer to other court levels

b. based on Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification (ANZSOC). See Methodology for full classification.

Principal federal offence

The most common principal offences in 2021–22 were:

  • harassment and threatening behaviour (56% or 4,515 defendants), such as nuisance phone calls or sending threatening messages
  • obtain benefit by deception (7% or 570 defendants), such as identity fraud
  • non-assaultive sexual offences (6% or 524 defendants), such as the possession or distribution of child abuse material or grooming offences
  • offences against government operations (3% or 280 defendants), such as taxation offences

a.  excludes defendants finalised by transfer to other court levels

Harassment and threatening behaviour

Across the time series, the proportion of defendants of harassment and threatening behaviour has continued to increase, accounting for 17% of defendants in 2010–11 compared with 56% in 2021–22.

For defendants of this offence in 2021–22:

  • 82% (3,686) were male
  • Most (4,508) were classified to the ‘communications’ federal offence group, indicating the offence occurred online or by phone
  • 94% (3,102) of judgements had a guilty outcome
  • 10% (320) with a guilty outcome were sentenced to custody in correctional institution

Court outcomes

In 2021–22, of the federal defendants whose charges resulted in a court judgement, most (95% or 5,647) had a guilty outcome. For these defendants:

  • A third (33%) were sentenced to a monetary order
  • 23% were sentenced to a good behaviour bond
  • 18% were sentenced to custody in a correctional institution

Across the time series, the proportion of defendants sentenced to monetary orders decreased from 49% in 2010-11 to 33% in 2021-22, and custody in a correctional institution increased slightly over this time (13% to 18%).

Data Downloads

Guide to finding data in the federal defendants publication tables

Federal defendants, Australia (Tables 1 to 4)

Federal defendants, Federal Offence Group, Australia (Tables 5 to 8)

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4515.0.

Back to top of the page