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Newsletters - Crime and Justice Statistics - Issue Number 14, May 2003

In this issue:

The National Information Development Plan for Crime and Justice
NCCJS Meetings
Upcoming Publications
Staff News
Thank you to our readers
Crime and Justice of the Web
NCCJS Contact Points

The National Information Development Plan for Crime and Justice

The National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics (NCCJS) is currently working on the development of a National Information Development Plan (NIDP) for the Crime and Justice sector.

This NIDP will assist in establishing the framework for future work in the area, and will provide a basis for building effective partnerships with other agencies that collect or have a need for data on crime and justice.


The objectives detailed in the ABS Corporate Plan provide a clear picture of the ABS perspective for the next few years. These include strategies for developing an expanded and improved national statistical service, with a shared commitment at both commonwealth and state government levels to the concept of a national statistical service that delivers the statistics required by key users, no matter what their source. An improved national statistical service cannot be achieved by the ABS alone. Rather, partnerships with other agencies that also collect, use or disseminate crime and justice data are critical to the successful provision of statistics to users. The key strategies that will lead to the development of solid partnerships include:
  • for each field of statistics, agreeing on national information development plans that set out the specific activities that will lead to the increased availability of non-ABS data and that specify the roles and responsibilities of key players;
  • developing and promoting a protocol that sets out the obligations of government agencies in the management and publication of statistical data from their administrative sources; and
  • promoting and supporting good statistical and data management practices.


The NIDP for the Crime and Justice field will lead to both better use of existing data, and to improved data availability in the future. The objectives of the NIDP are to:
  • identify national (including state/territory) needs for data in crime and justice;
  • assess those needs and evaluate relative priorities;
  • identify current data sources (both ABS and non-ABS) and their present and potential uses;
  • identify gaps in data collection with reference to national data requirements; and
  • develop strategies to meet those needs in the future via strong partnerships with other crime and justice agencies.

The major output of the project will be the National Information Development Plan for Crime and Justice, to be released by the ABS in 2004.


In order to identify key policy issues relevant to each agency in relation to crime and justice, as well as the data needs in relation to these issues, the NCCJS plans to conduct an extensive consultation process. As part of this process, a series of workshops and consultations will be held from March through July this year.

The NCCJS will meet with jurisdictions to discuss priorities in addressing the issues and related data needs. As the NCCJS will be cataloguing significant current data sources that address priority needs, information will also be sought on data that agencies currently collect, and other significant data that agencies have access to or knowledge of in relation to crime and justice. A commitment will be sought to develop partnerships that can support the strategies constructed to fill priority data gaps.


Karen Gelb
Assistant Director, NCCJS
Email: <>.


Copies of all publications can be ordered by contacting the ABS National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.

Corrective Services, Australia

The December quarter 2002 issue of Corrective Services, Australia (cat. no. 4512.0) was released on 27 March 2003. Commencing from this issue, the publication includes community-based corrections data for the current reference period.

Prisoners in Australia

Prisoners in Australia, 2002 (cat. no. 4517.0) was released on 20 February 2003, 5 weeks earlier than last year's release. The publication contains a range of national and state/territory data on prisoner counts and rates by personal characteristics (age, sex, Indigenous status, country of birth), whether sentenced or unsentenced, offence and sentence length. A ten-year time series for a range of variables is also included.

There were 22,492 prisoners in Australia on 30 June 2002, an increase of less than 1% on the 22,458 prisoners at 30 June 2001. The imprisonment rate of 148 prisoners per 100,000 adult population represents a 1% decrease on the rate of 151 prisoners per 100,000 adult population at 30 June 2001. This is the first decrease in the national imprisonment rate in the period 1992-2002.

Graph: Imprisonment rates

One of the most notable features in 2002 was the age and sex distribution of prisoners. More than half (56%) of Australia's 22,492 prisoners were males aged between 20 and 35. In comparison, this cohort represented 14% of the total Australian adult population.

The imprisonment rate for males was 282 per 100,000 adult male population and for females it was 19 per 100,000 adult female population. The 25-29 year age group had the highest imprisonment rates for both males and females, with 639 male prisoners per 100,000 adult males and 51 female prisoners per 100,000 adult females.

Graph: Imprisonment rates, by age

The age profile for Indigenous prisoners is younger than that for the overall prisoner population, with the median age for Indigenous prisoners of 28.9 years being 2.3 years less than the 31.2 years for all prisoners. Nearly 6% of all Indigenous males aged 25-29 years were in prison at 30 June 2002 (compared with 0.6% of all males aged 25 to 29 years).

For both male and female prisoners, the largest proportions of most serious offences/charges for which they were either sentenced or being held on remand were:
  • assault (14% of males, 13% of females)
  • robbery (14% of males, 12% of females)
  • unlawful entry with intent (13% of males, 11% of females).

There were proportionally more males in prison for sexual assault (10% of males, 1% of females), while deception and related offences was the most serious offence for 9% of females and 3% of males.

There were some notable changes that occurred between the 1992 and 2002 prisoner censuses, including:
  • the prisoner population increased from 15,559 at 30 June 1992 to 22,492 at 30 June 2002. The 45% increase in the number of prisoners during this period exceeded the 15% growth in the Australian adult population
  • while males continue to be the majority of the prisoner population, the proportion of prisoners who were female increased from 5% in 1992 to 7% in 2002
  • the proportion of prisoners who were Indigenous rose from 14% in 1992 to 20% in 2002
  • all states and territories recorded increases in prisoner numbers. The increases in the number of prisoners varied from 134% in Queensland to 17% in New South Wales.

Recorded Crime, Australia

On 29 May 2003, the ABS will release Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia 2002. This will be the tenth issue of the publication. This publication will present information on the personal characteristics of victims, levels of victimisation and characteristics associated with the offence such as location, outcome of investigation, and weapon use. The publication has a national focus, however more detailed state and territory data will be available separately as companion tables.

Criminal Courts, Australia

On 9 April 2003, the ABS released Criminal Courts, Australia 2001-02 (cat. no. 4513.0) (formerly Higher Criminal Courts, Australia), 8 weeks earlier than last year’s release. Improvements in the quality of offence and penalty information at the Supreme and Intermediate Court levels - which in the previous issue was included as experimental data in the Appendices - has resulted in this data being incorporated into the main suite of tables. Consequently, the focus of the publication will change from measuring the criminal workload of the courts to describing defendants - their personal characteristics, offences, outcomes and penalties.

For the first time, companion tables are available for this publication. This issue also includes a range of new tables focusing on defendants finalised in the Magistrates' Court. The new tables have been included as experimental data due to various coverage and data quality issues.


Offender Based Statistics Collection

The development of a collection of all offenders proceeded against and recorded by police is nearing completion. The Offender Based Statistics (OBS) collection will improve general knowledge about crime and the characteristics of those who commit crime, as well as the level of contact police have with offenders. Information on offenders proceeded against by police will assist in bridging the gap that exists nationally between information that is known about victims of crime and the subset of defendants who are proceeded against in the criminal courts. Offender information assists in evaluating the effect of crime and justice policy at the national level.

The OBS framework has been finalised subject to endorsement by the National Crime Statistics Unit (NCSU) Board of Management at the May 2003 meeting. The final framework incorporates the populations of unique offender, offenders each time they are proceeded against, and all offences recorded. Characteristics of the offenders include age, sex, Indigenous status and method of proceeding (by court action or alternative).

The first collection phase is scheduled for the reference period of 1 July 2002 to 30 June 2003, with a publication release expected in late 2003 or early 2004.

Differences in Recorded Crime Statistics

The NCSU project investigating the differences in recorded crime statistics is progressing. The project has 7 sub-projects which investigate the funnelling of crime information from people's experience of crime, their reporting to police, police recording of the crime and the extraction of this data to produce the national Recorded Crime Statistics collection. The Steering Committee (representation agreed to by the NCSU Board) met for the first time in December 2002, and again in March 2003, to discuss the status of the projects and key issues for consideration.

The analysis comparing the 1998 and 2002 National Crime and Safety Surveys with the Recorded Crime Statistics data is nearing completion. An analysis of state and territory police operating procedures has also begun.

Development of a National Offence Index

As part of the quality improvement processes for the representation of offence information in crime and justice collections, the NCCJS has developed a National Offence Index (NOI). The NOI is a ranking of all offence categories in the Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC) according to their level of seriousness. All ASOC groups and selected supplementary codes, i.e. divisions and subdivisions, are ranked.

The NOI is based on the Offence Seriousness Index developed by the Crime Research Centre (CRC) in Western Australia in 1991. Following evaluation of the CRC Index output, the Index was amended to reflect the actual penalties (type and quantum) handed down to defendants, as well as more current perceptions on harm and culpability.

The level of seriousness of an offence is determined according to the degree of harm suffered by the victim and the culpability of the offender. The determination of the level of harm and the culpability of the offender is a subjective assessment and can change over time. In addition, it is often reflective of a person's experience with particular types of crime. Therefore, it should be noted that this Index is reflective of the general perceived level of seriousness of offences at this time.

The NOI was presented at the Advisory and Practitioner groups for crime, courts and corrections in late 2002. The groups endorsed the need for the Index and there was general agreement on the approach and structure. It is acknowledged that some minor amendments may be made as the NOI develops further.

The NOI will be utilised to select the principal offence for adjudicated defendants included in the ABS' Criminal Courts publication released in April 2003. Application of the NOI is currently being investigated for other ABS crime and justice collections.

NCCJS Meetings

The following meetings have been held since October 2002:
  • Corrections Advisory Group, 12 Nov 2002 & 5 March 2003
  • Crime Advisory Group, 22 Nov 2002 & 26 March 2003
  • Courts Advisory Group, 22 Nov 2002 & 26 March 2003.
  • Police Statisticians Group, 4 Dec 2002.

Forthcoming meetings:
  • Corrections Board of Management, 13 May 2003
  • Crime Board of Management, 14 May 2003 & 24 Sept 2003.

Upcoming Publications

29 May 2003: Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia 2002 (cat. no. 4510.0).

June 2003: Crime and Safety, Australia, April 2002 (cat. no. 4509.0).

26 June 2003: Corrective Services, Australia, March Quarter 2003 (cat. no. 4512.0).

September 2003: Corrective Services, Australia, June Quarter 2003 (cat. no. 4512.0).

Staff News

In January 2003, Karen Gelb returned from maternity leave to work on the NIDP for the Crime and Justice sector, and Catherine Farrugia joined the NCCJS in the Statistical Management Unit.

During the same period Jackie Cooper and Kay Forster left the ABS, and Robert Letheby left the NCCJS to work in the Environment Statistics area of the ABS. Robert was in the NCCJS for almost two years, and led his team in the notable improvement in timeliness of the Prisoner Census publication, as well as shifting the focus of crime and justice publications to social datasets as well as workflow measures. Kay worked in the NCCJS since its inception, and her contribution to coordination and networking, and her understanding of the crime and justice environment will be greatly missed.

Thank you to our readers

Thank you to the many people who responded to our survey, included with the last issue of this Newsletter. Almost 40% of our readers responded, and largely with positive comments. It is pleasing to see that our newsletter is read and appreciated so widely, and your comments will be used to ensure our Newsletter continues to meet your needs.

Crime and Justice on the Web

For more information about Crime and Justice statistics, look for our theme page on the ABS web site. From the ABS home page click on ‘Themes’, then ‘Crime and Justice’. These pages are a centralised source that links all ABS information on crime and justice and related areas in one place.

NCCJS Contact Points

(03) 9615 7372


Postal Address:

National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics
Australian Bureau of Statistics
GPO Box 2796Y
Melbourne VIC 3001

Commonwealth of Australia 2008

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