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Newsletters - Crime and Justice Statistics - Issue Number 16, April 2004

In this issue:

Measuring Crime Victimisation in Australia: The impact of different collection methodologies
NCCJS Meetings
Upcoming Publications
Staff News
Crime and Justice on the Web
NCCJS Contact Points

Measuring Crime Victimisation in Australia: The impact of different collection methodologies

There are a number of ways in which individuals, the community and governments know about crime, and there are a number of different sources of statistics on crime. Users may ask which of the various statistics available are the 'right' ones. However, it is not a simple process to reduce such a complex social issue to a single set of numbers.

The expectation that different sources of crime victimisation statistics should produce similar figures forms the basis that one source or the other is wrong. Such expectations arise out of the false belief that different data sources are always measuring the same thing, and are utilising the same methodologies.

There are a range of national collections which present statistics on crime victimisation. One of the issues facing users of these data is determining which of the collections best meets their needs. In order to determine this, the statistics need to be well understood for them to be useful in making informed decisions.

An ABS Information Paper, Measuring Crime Victimisation in Australia: The impact of different collection methodologies (cat. no. 4522.0.55.001) was released on 5 February 2004.

The aim of this Information Paper is to increase understanding of the nature of crime victimisation measurement in Australia and why the findings from different data sources may differ. In order to facilitate this the Information Paper includes the following:
  • an outline of national crime victimisation statistics available from several different sources in the Australian context
  • comparisons between the statistics from these sources
  • methodological differences between survey sources
  • possible impacts of the methodological differences between the survey vehicles.

The Information Paper focuses predominately on survey methodology, however references are also made to differences between survey and administrative data.

Statistics from the following two ABS administrative collections were utilised in the paper:
  • Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia (cat. no. 4510.0)
  • Causes of Death (cat. no. 3303.0).

Differences between and within administrative collections are discussed, and a working example using the two collections above is given.

Statistics from four national survey collections were also included in the paper:
  • Crime and Safety, 2002 (cat. no. 4509.0)
  • General Social Survey, 2002 (cat. no. 4159.0)
  • Women's Safety Survey, 1996 (cat. no. 4128.0)
  • International Crime Victims Survey, 2000 (Australian component conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology).

There are numerous elements that combine to make up a single survey methodology, and differences between surveys in one or more of these may impact on the overall data collection. Those outlined and investigated in the Information Paper include:
  • sample design and selection
  • scope and coverage
  • questionnaire format and content
  • survey procedure
  • response rate.

Ultimately users must decide which measure of crime is fit for their purpose. The information in this paper can help inform that decision.

The Information Paper is available on the ABS web site. Please email <> if you have any queries about the paper, or would like further information.


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

Criminal Courts, Australia (4513.0)

On 25 February 2004, the ABS released Criminal Courts, Australia 2002-03, more than 6 weeks earlier than last year’s release. The publication provides a picture of the characteristics of defendants dealt with by the Higher Criminal Courts, including information on the offences and sentence types associated with those defendants. Magistrates’ Criminal Courts data are also available on an experimental basis.

Of the 16,643 finalised Higher Criminal Court defendants in 2002-03, almost 90% were finalised by adjudication (proven guilty or acquitted). Of these adjudicated defendants:
  • Of all defendants, nearly nine in ten (87%) were men and half were men aged between 20-34 years.
  • Men were more likely than women to have a principal offence of sexual assault and related offences (12% of men, compared to 1% of women).
  • Women were more likely than men to have a principal offence of deception and related offences (19% of women, compared to 6% of men).
  • Defendants finalised at trial (guilty verdict or acquitted) with a principal offence of homicide and related offences had an acquittal rate of 36%. The acquittal rate for those with a principal offence of sexual assault and related offences was 51%.
  • Most defendants were proven guilty (93%). The proportion of defendants proven guilty was highest for unlawful entry with intent and dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons (both 98%).
  • The proportion of defendants proven guilty for illicit drug offences, theft and related offences, and deception and related offences was 97% each.
  • Over one-third of women proven guilty received a non-custodial sentence, compared to less than one-quarter of men.
  • Just over half of defendants proven guilty (55%) received custodial orders to be served (excluding fully suspended sentences). For both men and women, these were the main sentence types, although the proportion was higher for men (58%) than women (38%).

Graph: Defendants proven Guilty

Prisoners in Australia (4517.0)
    On 22 January 2004, the ABS released Prisoners in Australia 2003, 4 weeks earlier than last year’s release. The publication provides indicators on the characteristics of prisoners, sentence lengths, and offences for which offenders are imprisoned, and provides a basis for measuring change over time.

    In the past 10 years, the prisoner population in Australia increased by nearly 50%, from 15,866 in 1993 to 23,555 in 2003. This increase has exceeded the 15% growth in the Australian adult population in the same period.

    From 1993 to 2003 (at 30 June), the female prisoner population increased by 110%, compared to a 45% increase in the male prisoner population. Overall, the adult imprisonment rate increased from 119 to 153 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.

    Other changes in the prison population in the 1993-2003 period include:
    • The proportion of Indigenous people in the prison population has risen from 15% to 20%.
    • The mean age of prisoners has increased from 31 years to 34 years.
    • The proportion of unsentenced prisoners has increased from 12% to 20%.
    • The proportion of sentenced prisoners serving an aggregate sentence length of 10 years or more has increased from 9% to 13%.
    • Sentenced prisoners with a most serious offence of homicide and related offences increased from 9% to 10% and assault from 11% to 13%.

    At June 2003, there were 23,555 prisoners in Australia, an increase of 5% since 30 June 2002. The mean aggregate sentence length was
    4.9 years and the mean expected time to serve was 3.2 years.

    Other findings as at 30 June 2003 include:
    • Indigenous prisoners were proportionally more likely to be serving shorter sentences than the overall prisoner population, with 42% of Indigenous prisoners expected to serve less than 12 months. This is compared with 31% of all prisoners.
    • Nearly 55% of prisoners were males aged 20-34 years.
    • Females represented 7% of the total prisoner population.
    • Almost 60% of male prisoners and 50% of female prisoners are known to have prior imprisonment.
    • Nearly 1 in 2 sentenced prisoners had a most serious offence involving violence or the threat of violence.

    Graph: Prisoners

    Corrective Services, Australia (4512.0)

    The December quarter 2003 issue of Corrective Services, Australia was released on 25 March 2004. This publication presents time series information on persons in custody and community-based corrections. Details are provided by state/territory on prisoner counts and rates of imprisonment by type of custody, legal status, sentence type and Indigenous Status.

    Graph: Persons in Prison Custody

    Between the December quarters 2002 and 2003 the number of unsentenced prisoners rose from 4,470 to 4,851, an increase of 9%. Unsentenced prisoners represented 21% of all persons in custody in the December quarter 2003.


    Differences in Recorded Crime Statistics (DiRCS)

    Current work on the DiRCS project has focused on the preparation of a Scenario Based Testing exercise (sub-project 5). This exercise will present a number of scenarios to a sample of police officers, and ask them to report what offence types (if any) they would record for each scenario. The results of the exercise will give the NCSU a consistent base upon which to measure differences in the RCS rates. The scenarios were carefully developed to ensure the impact of the characteristics of an incident on the police decision to record can be compared across jurisdictions.

    Work on sub-project 3 is continuing. This project was to be a quantitative analysis of the number of incidents reported by telephone that are recorded on an electronic police recording system. It was found that a quantitative analysis is not possible, so instead a detailed qualitative analysis of the factors that influence the recording is being conducted. A draft national report will be presented to the Crime Board in May.

    Development of a framework for measuring e-crime

    A framework for measuring e-crime statistics is being developed by an officer outposted at the Australian Hi-Tech Crime Centre. This will provide conceptual information for e-crime, identify key policy issues and related information needs, list data sources currently available and identify gaps in the data.

    The framework is designed to improve general knowledge about the extent of reported e-crime, the nature of the offences, characteristics of both those who commit e-crime and those who are victims of e-crime, as well as the level of underreporting of e-crime and the associated reasons. This information will assist in determining the appropriate level of resources assigned to investigating the area of e-crime.

    The e-crime framework will be finalised and presented for endorsement, to the Crime Board of Management at the May 2004 meeting. Any questions relating to the framework should be directed to

    National Information Development Plan for Crime and Justice

    The consultation process for the National Information Development Plan (NIDP) is now complete. A draft version of the Plan has been prepared and circulated to members of the NCCJS' governing and advisory bodies for comment. The draft presents a conceptual framework for information in the crime and justice field, discusses information demand and currently available data, and proposes a plan for information development that addresses the priority data needs of users of crime and justice information.

    Over the coming months, preliminary feedback on the NIDP will be incorporated and a revised version will be more widely distributed for comment to stakeholders involved in the consultation process.

    If you have questions about the NIDP, email

    Sexual Assault Statistical Overview

    A conclusion of the Sexual Assault Information Development Framework (IDF) (cat. no. 4518.0), released in August 2003, was that there is a need to bring together currently available information to provide a broad, statistical overview of the whole field of sexual assault. In the policy context of working to reduce the incidence of sexual assault and to ameliorate its impacts, this will form part of an information base which is needed to assist in planning of service delivery, planning and targeting of other program delivery, and evaluation of programs.

    Following the release of the IDF, the National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics is undertaking a project to produce Sexual Assault in Australia: A Statistical Overview. Drawing on selected ABS and non-ABS data sources, it will present information about the key elements of the conceptual framework contained in the IDF; context, risk, incidents, responses, impacts and prevention.

    The statistical overview is scheduled for release in mid-2004. For further information, contact

    NCCJS Meetings

    The following meetings have been held since October 2003:
    • Corrective Services Advisory Group, 11 November 2003 & 16 March 2004
    • Courts Board of Management, 12 November & 17 March 2004
    • Police Statisticians Group, 11 December 2003 & 22 March 2004
    • Courts Practitioner Group, 9 March 2004
    • Courts Advisory Group, 10 March 2004
    • Crime Advisory Group, 24 March 2004.

    Forthcoming meetings:
    • Crime Board of Management, 11 May 2004
    • Corrective Services Board of Management, 12 May 2004.

    Upcoming Publications

    June 2004: Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia, 2003 (cat. no. 4510.0).

    June 2004: Sexual Assault in Australia: A Statistical Overview (cat. no. 4523.0).

    24 June 2004: Corrective Services, Australia, March Quarter 2004 (cat. no. 4512.0).

    September 2004: Corrective Services, Australia, June Quarter 2004 (cat. no. 4512.0).

    Staff News

    In October 2003, Maxine McDermott joined the NCCJS in the Statistical Management Unit. Fiona Dowsley began work in the Corrective Services Unit in November 2003.

    During the same period Lyn Imlach left the NCCJS to move to another government department, and Karen Gelb left on maternity leave.

    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.

    Would you prefer to receive an electronic version of the newsletter?

    If so, please send your email details to The newsletter can also be viewed on the ABS web site at

    NCCJS Contact Points

    Fax: (03) 96157373


    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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