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4515.0 - Federal Defendants, Australia, 2011-12 Quality Declaration 
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 16/05/2013   
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EXPLANATORY NOTES


INTRODUCTION

1 This publication presents information on the characteristics of federal defendants dealt with by Australian state and territory criminal courts. This includes information on the offences and sentences associated with those defendants.

2 The information relates to the criminal jurisdiction of the Higher (Supreme and Intermediate), Magistrates' and Children's Courts in each state and territory. The criminal jurisdiction of the courts includes the trial and sentencing of persons and organisations charged with criminal offences in Australia.

3 Federal defendants are a subset of all criminal courts defendants. Information relating to all defendants finalised in the criminal courts is available in the publication Criminal Courts, Australia (cat. no. 4513.0).

DATA SOURCE

4 These statistics are derived from data about each federal defendant provided to the ABS by the state and territory agencies responsible for courts administration. The ABS receives data directly from these agencies in all states and territories except for New South Wales (where data are supplied via the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research), and Queensland (where data are supplied via the Office of the Government Statistician).

5 In order to ensure consistency between the states and territories, the statistics have been compiled according to national standards and classifications. Consistency of data requires the states and territories to provide data coded according to the national standards and classifications.

SCOPE

6 The scope of the statistics in this publication includes all defendants with at least one Commonwealth legislative offence that has been finalised in the Higher, Magistrates' or Children's Courts. Defendants with charges against both Commonwealth legislation and State and Territory legislation are still within scope of the collection, however only federal offences are counted for the purposes of this publication.

7 The Federal Defendants collection is limited to defendants finalised; that is a person or organisation for whom all charges have been formally completed so that the defendant ceases to be an item of work to be dealt with by the court.

8 The geographic definition of Australia, as used by the ABS, includes 'Other Territories'. However, these territories are generally out of scope for ABS collections. For the federal defendants data, defendant cases heard in the criminal courts on Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island are included in the counts for Western Australia, where applicable. Defendants finalised in Jervis Bay Territory are not included in any counts in this publication.

Higher Courts

9 Data includes defendants finalised in the original jurisdiction of the Supreme and Intermediate Criminal Courts. Children treated as adults by the courts are included in the Higher Courts collection.

Magistrates' Courts

10 Data includes defendants finalised in the original jurisdiction of the Magistrates' Criminal Courts. Children treated as adults by the courts are included in the Magistrates' Courts collection.

Children's Courts

11 Data includes defendants finalised in the original jurisdiction of the Children's Criminal Courts.

12 In all states and territories, children aged under 10 years cannot be charged with a criminal offence. The maximum age that defendants are considered a child or juvenile is under the age of 18 years in all states and territories, except Queensland. In Queensland, defendants are considered adults if aged 17 years and over at the time the offence was committed.

Exclusions

13 The Higher, Magistrates' and Children's Courts data exclude cases heard in the criminal jurisdiction of the courts which do not require the adjudication of charges (e.g. bail reviews and applications to amend sentences or penalties). Also excluded are breach of bail or parole cases, appeal cases, tribunal matters and defendants for whom a bench warrant is issued but not executed.

14 The Magistrates' and Children's Courts data exclude finalisations in specialist courts, such as Drug Courts, Electronic Courts, Fine Recovery Units, Family Violence Courts and Indigenous Courts. Defendants referred to these specialist courts from mainstream courts will be included in the mainstream courts data as transfers.

15 The Australian Road Rules are maintained by the National Transport Commission but only apply if they are adopted in each state and territory through local legislation. In the Northern Territory, offences against the Australian Road Rules are identified as federal offences. To ensure consistency across all states and territories, the Australian Road Rules and their state/territory enacting legislation are excluded from the scope of the Federal Defendants collection.

REFERENCE PERIOD

16 The statistics in this collection relate to federal defendants who had criminal cases finalised within the Higher, Magistrates' and Children's Courts during the reference period 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012.

CLASSIFICATIONS

17 The national classifications used to collect and produce data on federal defendants are:

  • Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification (ANZSOC) (refer to Appendix 1)
  • Method of finalisation (Appendix 2) and
  • Sentence type (Appendix 3).

18 The classifications provide a framework for classifying criminal court information for statistical purposes, promoting data that are compiled on a consistent basis across states and territories. The classifications have a hierarchical structure and therefore allow for different levels of detail to be recorded depending on the level of detail in the source information. Associated with each classification are coding rules which ensure that the counting of information is consistent across states and territories.

Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification (ANZSOC)

19 The offence categories used for federal defendants statistics in this publication are classified to the Australian and New Zealand Offence Classification (ANZSOC) (cat. no. 1234.0). ANZSOC provides a national framework for classifying offences for statistical purposes. The first release of this classification was the Australian Standard Offence Classification 1997 (cat. no. 1234.0) (ASOC97). In 2008 the ABS released the second edition of the Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC08), which reflected changes that had occurred in criminal legislation since the first edition was released, as well as satisfying emerging user requirements for offence data. The ASOC was renamed ANZSOC in July 2011 to reflect its adoption in New Zealand. ANZSOC contains the same offence details and classification as ASOC.

National Offence Index (NOI)

20 The National Offence Index (NOI) is a ranking of all ANZSOC Groups and supplementary ANZSOC codes (ANZSOC Divisions and/or ANZSOC Subdivisions). This ranking is based on the concept of seriousness of offence, with a ranking of 1 relating to the ANZSOC code containing the most serious offence.

21 The NOI was revised in 2009 to accommodate the changes made in ASOC08 and supersedes the first version of the NOI, which was released in 2002. Principal federal offence information in this publication are based on the 2009 edition of the NOI.

22 The assumptions and rules underpinning the NOI, in particular defining 'offence seriousness' and the impact of this definition on the ranking of offences, need to be considered when using the principal federal offence data in this publication. However, it is important to note that these technical issues are only of practical significance where a choice must be made between output categories. For example, although some sexual assault and related offences are ranked ahead of illicit drug and related offences, they are unlikely to co-occur. For more information see National Offence Index, 2009 (cat. no. 1234.0.55.001).

Method of Finalisation

23 This classification categorises how an offence and defendant has been finalised by a court. Main categories include adjudications, non-adjudications and transfers. For more information see Appendix 2 and paragraph 31-37.

Sentence Type

24 This classification is used to assign a sentence to offences that are proven guilty. It is also used to determine a principal sentence for a defendant who has been proven guilty. For more information see Appendix 3 and paragraphs 43-46 & 48.

Federal Offence Groups

25 This publication presents an alternative set of groupings for offence data. The federal offence groups classify the various Commonwealth Acts and Sections into broad categories or themes. More information is provided at Appendix 5.

26 The federal offence groups have been modified for 2011-12. Details of the change are provided at Appendix 4. Caution should be taken when comparing 2011-12 data for federal offence groups with previous years.

COUNTING METHODOLOGY

Finalised defendant

27 The principal counting unit for the federal defendants collection is the finalised defendant. A defendant is a person or organisation against whom one or more criminal charges have been laid and which are heard together as the one unit of work by a court at a particular level. It should be noted that the collection does not enumerate unique persons or organisations. If a person or organisation is a defendant in a number of criminal cases dealt with and finalised separately within the courts during the reference period, this person or organisation will be counted more than once within that reference period.

28 Prior to 2010-11, defendants were counted for each case they had finalised during the reference period, irrespective of whether multiple cases were finalised on the same day at the same hearing. From the 2010-11 publication, a further step is taken.

29 If the defendant has more than one case which is finalised on the same day and at the same hearing, this is counted as one defendant case, irrespective of the dates of initiation. This is called merging defendant records.

30 This counting rule is consistent with the Criminal Courts collection.

METHOD OF FINALISATION

31 Method of finalisation describes how a criminal charge is concluded by a criminal court level. For the purposes of the Federal Defendants collection, one method of finalisation is applied to each offence and each defendant within the Higher, Magistrates' and Children's Courts.

TRANSFERS BETWEEN HIGHER COURT LEVELS

32 Defendants who transfer from one Higher Court level to another Higher Court level are considered as initiated only once (in the level they first entered) and finalised only once (from the level they finally left).

TRANSFERS BETWEEN MAGISTRATES' AND HIGHER COURT LEVELS

33 Defendants who transfer from the Magistrates' Court level to the Higher Court level (or vice versa) are considered as initiated twice (once in each of these levels) and finalised twice (once in each level). Defendants may have some charges finalised in the Magistrates' Courts whilst other charges are committed to the Higher Courts.

TRANSFERS BETWEEN CHILDREN'S COURTS AND MAGISTRATES' OR HIGHER COURT LEVELS

34 Defendants who transfer between the Children's Courts and the Magistrates' or Higher Courts (or vice versa) are considered to be initiated twice (once in each court level) and finalised twice (once in each court level).

HIGHER COURTS

35 Where a defendant finalised in a Higher Court has multiple charges and these have different methods of finalisation, the defendant method of finalisation code is determined by the following order of precedence:
  • defendant deceased
  • unfit to plead
  • not guilty by reason of mental illness/condition
  • guilty finding by court
  • charge proven n.f.d.
  • guilty plea by defendant
  • acquitted by court
  • charge unproven n.f.d.
  • charge unproven n.e.c.
  • transfer from a Higher Court to a Magistrates' Court
  • other transfer between court levels n.e.c.
  • transfer to non-court agency
  • withdrawn by the prosecution
  • other non-adjudicated finalisation n.e.c.
  • unknown/not stated.

MAGISTRATES' COURTS

36 Where a defendant finalised in a Magistrates' Court has multiple charges and these have different methods of finalisation, the defendant method of finalisation code is determined by the following order of precedence:
  • defendant deceased
  • unfit to plead
  • not guilty by reason of mental illness/condition
  • guilty finding by court
  • charge proven n.f.d.
  • guilty plea by defendant
  • guilty ex-parte
  • acquitted by court
  • charge unproven n.f.d.
  • no case to answer at committal
  • charge unproven n.e.c.
  • committed for trial
  • transfer from a Magistrates' Court to a Higher Court n.f.d.
  • committed for sentence
  • transfer from a Magistrates' Court to a Higher Court n.e.c.
  • other transfer between court levels n.e.c.
  • transfer to non-court agency
  • withdrawn by the prosecution
  • other non-adjudicated finalisation n.e.c.
  • unknown/not stated.

CHILDREN'S COURTS

37 Where a defendant finalised in a Children's Court has multiple charges and these have different methods of finalisation, the defendant method of finalisation code is determined by the following order of precedence:
  • defendant deceased
  • unfit to plead
  • not guilty by reason of mental illness/condition
  • guilty finding by court
  • charge proven n.f.d.
  • guilty plea by defendant
  • guilty ex-parte
  • acquitted by court
  • charge unproven n.f.d.
  • no case to answer at committal
  • charge unproven n.e.c.
  • committed for trial
  • transfer from a Children's Court to a Higher court n.f.d.
  • committed for sentence
  • transfer from a Children's Court to a Higher court n.e.c.
  • transfer from a Children's Court to a Magistrates' Court
  • other transfer between court levels n.e.c
  • transfer to non-court agency
  • withdrawn by the prosecution
  • other non-adjudicated finalisation n.e.c.
  • unknown/not stated.

PRINCIPAL FEDERAL OFFENCE

38 Where a finalised defendant has multiple charges the principal federal offence is determined by:
  • the type of finalisation and/or
  • the highest ranked ANZSOC using the NOI.

39 The type of finalisation is considered in the following order:
  • defendant deceased, unfit to plead, or not guilty by reason of mental illness
  • charges proven
  • charges not proven
  • transfer of charges
  • charges withdrawn
  • other non-adjudicated finalisation
  • unknown/not stated.

40 Where a defendant has a single charge within the type of finalisation (e.g. charges proven, charges not proven, transfer of charges etc.), the principal federal offence is the relevant ANZSOC code (refer to paragraph 19) associated with that charge.

41 Where a defendant has multiple charges, each with the same type of finalisation - for example, the defendant has been found guilty of all charges - the NOI is used to determine the principal federal offence. The principal federal offence is determined as the charge with the highest ranked ANZSOC Group in the NOI. Where the defendant has an offence that is unable to be determined via the NOI (due to missing offence information or the offence being mapped to an ANZSOC code that is not included in the NOI), and this offence cannot be determined as more or less serious than another offence within the same type of finalisation, the principal federal offence is coded to 'not able to be determined'. For more information about the NOI refer to paragraphs 20-22.

42 There is presently no similar hierarchy for classification of the detailed Act and Section level information from which the federal offence groups are derived. As such, whilst defendant level information in this publication can be presented by ANZSOC, there is no way of representing defendants by a single federal offence group. Data presented by federal offence groups are therefore only available at the offence level.

PRINCIPAL SENTENCE

43 Federal defendants who are proven guilty have sentence information reported against them at the offence level. This enables the presentation of two views of sentencing data: the sentence for an offence and the principal sentence for the defendant.

44 A defendant can receive a single sentence for a single offence proven guilty, a single sentence for multiple offences proven guilty, multiple sentences for multiple offences proven guilty and/or multiple sentences assigned to the one offence proven guilty. Where a defendant has multiple sentences, the principal sentence is selected by applying the hierarchy of the Sentence Type Classification (see Appendix 3). This is usually, though not necessarily, the sentence associated with the principal federal offence.

45 It should be noted that not all sentence types are available to magistrates and judges in all jurisdictions. For example, in the Higher Courts, all states and territories with the exception of Western Australia have provision for the use of partially suspended imprisonment sentences. Whether a sentencing option is available in a particular state/territory and court level should be considered when making comparisons.

46 Defendants with a method of finalisation of 'not guilty by reason of mental illness/condition' (an acquitted outcome) may have a specific kind of sentence or order imposed on them by the court. However, these sentences are not within the scope of this collection as the definition of principal sentence, for the purpose of this collection, is that it only applies to defendants with a method of finalisation of proven guilty.

OFFENCES

47 The secondary counting unit for the Federal Defendants collection is the offence. Rather than apply an order of precedence to the offences for each defendant case to enable the defendant to be represented by one principal federal offence (as in the chapter Federal Defendants), the Federal Defendants collection allows for the counting of all offences finalised. These counts are presented in the chapter Federal Defendants and the data cubes. The count of offences will be the same or higher than the count for defendants.

OFFENCE SENTENCES

48 The third counting unit for the Federal Defendants collection is offence sentences. This is an extension of the offence counting unit for offences that are proven guilty. A proven guilty offence may have more than one sentence type. When this occurs the offence will be counted for each sentence type handed down.

REVISIONS

49 There have been revisions to the 2010-11 data for federal defendants and offences. The data for the Higher Courts, Tasmania and Australia totals were impacted by a processing error in the 2010-11 publication. Revised data have been included in tables 1 and 3 (Federal Defendants, Australia data cube), table 1 (Offences by Federal Offence Group data cube), and tables 1, 2 and 3 (Tasmania data cube).

STATE / TERRITORY SPECIFIC ISSUES

50 The Australian Capital Territory has a higher proportion of defendants with a principal federal offence of traffic offences than other states and territories. This is due to parking offences charged under the Australian National University Parking and Traffic Statute 2007.

COMPARISONS TO OTHER ABS DATA

Criminal Courts collection

51 Federal defendants are a subset of all criminal courts defendants. Information relating to all defendants finalised in the criminal courts is available in the publication Criminal Courts, Australia (cat. no. 4513.0). However, as a federal defendant may also be charged with state or territory offences, the difference between all finalised defendants in the criminal courts and finalised federal defendants does not equal the count of defendants charged with state or territory offences.

COMPARISONS TO NON-ABS SOURCES

52 Due to differing scope and counting rules the data in this publication may not be comparable to data published in other national and state/territory publications.

CONFIDENTIALITY OF TABULAR DATA

53 Table cells containing small values have been randomly adjusted to avoid releasing confidential information. Due to this randomisation process, totals may vary slightly across and within tables.

RELATED PUBLICATIONS

ABS publications

54 ABS publications which may be of interest include:
55 Current publications and other products released by the ABS are listed on the ABS website. The ABS also issues a daily Release Advice on the website which details products to be released in the week ahead. The National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics (NCCJS) releases a newsletter titled Crime and Justice News (cat. no. 4500.0) that is published on the ABS website, and emailed to subscribers of the NCCJS electronic mailing list. The NCCJS can be contacted by email through <crime.justice@abs.gov.au>.

Non-ABS publications

56 Non-ABS sources of criminal court statistics which may be of interest include:

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