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Federal Defendants, Australia

Statistics about the number of defendants with federal offences dealt with by the Higher, Magistrates' and Children's criminal courts

Reference period
2018-19

Key statistics

During 2018–19:

  • There were 10,162 federal defendants finalised, a decrease of 18% (2,242) from the previous year.
  • There were decreases in the number of federal defendants finalised in all states and territories.
  • The most common principal federal offence type was Harassment and threatening behaviour (39%, 3,915 defendants).
  • The most common sentence was a monetary order. Of the 7,037 federal defendants proven guilty, 43% (3,018) received a monetary order.

Key findings

There were 10,162 federal defendants finalised in 2018–19, a decrease of 18% (2,242) from the previous year. This represents around 2% of total defendants finalised (576,101) in Australia’s state and territory criminal courts over the same period, as reported in Criminal Courts, Australia, 2018–19 (cat no. 4513.0).

Summary characteristics relating to federal defendants finalised are presented below.

Federal defendants finalised, summary characteristics, 2018-19

Demographics% finalised (no.)
Males
78% (7,883)
Females
19% (1,960)
Organisations3% (273)
Median age37 Years
Court level
% finalised (no.)
Magistrates' Court
87% (8,862)
Higher Court10% (995)
Children's Court3% (304)
Top 3 Principal Offences – ANZSOC(a)
% finalised (no.)
Harassment and threatening behaviour
39% (3,915)
Offences against government operations, n.e.c.12% (1,181)
Obtain benefit by deception8% (853)
Method of finalisation
% finalised (no.)
Proven guilty
69% (7,037)
Withdrawn by prosecution20% (2,044)
Transferred(b)7% (732)
Acquitted3% (312)
Sentence type
% proven guilty (no.)
Fines
40% (2,781)
Other non-custodial orders(c)30% (2,122)
Custody in a correctional facility14% (957)
a. Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification (ANZSOC) (cat.no. 1234.0). Refer to Appendix 1 and Explanatory Notes in the Methodology.
b. To other court levels.
c. Includes good behaviour bond/recognisance orders, licence disqualification/suspension/amendment, forfeiture of property order, nominal penalty and other non-custodial orders n.e.c.

 

Harassment and threatening behaviour continues to be the most common offence

The most common principal federal offence type in 2018–19 was Harassment and threatening behaviour (39%, 3,915 defendants). Harassment and threatening behaviour offences have more than doubled since 2010–11, and have represented the most common federal offence type for the last four years.

During 2018–19, the majority of defendants with this principal federal offence were classified to the federal offence group ‘Communications’¹, indicating that the harassment and/or threatening behaviour occurred via carriage services (eg. mobile telephone or internet).

Harassment and threatening behaviour, summary characteristics, 2018-19

Summary counts 
Finalised (no.)
3,915
Movement from 2017–18down 3% (128)
Proven guilty69% (2,712)
Sex
% finalised (no.)
Male
82% (3,195)
Female18% (716)
Sentence Type
% proven guilty (no.)
Custodial orders
15% (400)
Non-custodial orders85% (2,313)
   
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The most common sentence was a monetary order

Of the 7,037 federal defendants proven guilty in 2018–19, 43% (3,018) received a monetary order. Of these, more than half had a principal federal offence of either:

  • Offences against government operations n.e.c. (29%, 862). These were mostly ‘Tax’¹ offences.
  • Harassment and threatening behaviour (23%, 686). These were mostly ‘Communications’¹ offences such as those occurring online.
     
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A sentence of custody in a correctional institution was received by 14% (957) of federal defendants proven guilty. Of these, the most common principal federal offences were Harassment and threatening behaviour (29%, 273) and Illicit drug offences (21%, 197), mostly Import or export illicit drugs (170).

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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.
     

States and territories

There were decreases in the number of federal defendants finalised in all states and territories during 2018–19.

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  1. In 2018–19, South Australian data were extracted from the new SAPOL Shield 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 page).
  2. In 2018, Australian Capital Territory data were migrated to the Integrated Court Management System (ICMS) which has different data entry and extraction procedures from the previous recording system. Caution should therefore be used when making historical comparisons (see Methodology page).


The largest percentage decreases occurred in the Australian Capital Territory (56%, 600) and South Australia (48%, 209).

The decrease in the Australian Capital Territory was mostly due to Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences. In South Australia, the largest decreases occurred for Offences against justice n.e.c. and Obtain benefit by deception offences.

A monetary order was the most common principal federal sentence type across all states and territories, ranging from 32% (764) of federal defendants proven guilty in New South Wales, to 67% in both Western Australia (316) and the Australian Capital Territory (166). These were mostly fines.

The majority of defendants sentenced to a fine were finalised for ‘Tax’ offences, ‘Communications’ offences, or ‘Transport’ ¹ offences.

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Footnotes

  1. Offence data in this publication are presented based on ANZSOC, and also by ‘Federal Offence Group’. Refer to Appendix 4 and Explanatory Notes in the Methodology.

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 7)

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4515.0.