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17 Superior courts such as the High Court of Australia and the Federal Court of Australia are excluded from the Criminal Courts and Federal Defendants collections. The Magistrates' and Children's Courts data exclude finalisations in specialist courts, such as Drug Courts, Electronic Courts, Fine Recovery Units, and Indigenous Courts. Defendants referred to these specialist courts may be included in the mainstream courts data as transfers.
18 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 or territory enacting legislation are excluded from the scope of the Federal Defendants collection.
19 The statistics presented in this publication relate to federal defendants who had criminal cases finalised within the Higher, Magistrates' and Children's Courts during the reference period 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016. Selected time series data are also presented within this publication from 2010-11 onwards.
20 The national classifications used to collect and produce data on federal defendants are:
21 These classifications provide a framework for organising criminal court information for statistical purposes, and have a hierarchical structure allowing for different levels of detail to be recorded depending on the level of detail available 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)
22 The offence categories used for Federal Defendants statistics in this publication are classified to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification (ANZSOC) (cat. no. 1234.0) (see Appendix 1). 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. In July 2011, the title Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC) was changed to Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification (ANZSOC). The revised title ANZSOC reflects the international use of the framework to classify criminal behaviour and highlights the collaborative work occurring between Australia and New Zealand. The classification content and structure remains unchanged.
National Offence Index (NOI)
23 The National Offence Index (NOI) (cat. no. 1234.0.55.001) 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 'offence seriousness', with a ranking of 1 relating to the ANZSOC code associated with the most serious offence.
24 The first version of the NOI was released in 2002. This was superseded by the second version, released in 2009 to accommodate the changes made in ASOC08. Offence information for 2010–11 onwards is based on the 2009 edition of the NOI.
25 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 offences, they are unlikely to co-occur.
Method of Finalisation
26 This classification categorises how a defendant has been finalised by a court. Main categories include adjudications, non-adjudications and transfers. For more information see Appendix 2 and paragraphs 36–43.
27 This classification is used to assign a principal sentence to defendants who are proven guilty. For more information see Appendix 3 and paragraphs 50–53.
Federal Offence Group
28 The Federal Offence Group categorises commonwealth Acts and Sections into broad categories that are of a particular interest to users. The Federal Offence Group is not a standard ABS classification and is not related to the ANZSOC. Each Federal Offence Group category may comprise a range of offences that reside in a number of different ANZSOC Divisions. For more information about the groups, including definitions, which Acts have been mapped to each category, and which ANZSOC Divisions are contained in each group, refer to Appendix 4.
29 Caution should be used when comparing Federal Offence Group data with previous years. In 2011-12, a major revision of the Federal Offence Group was undertaken. The number of categories was increased, and there was extensive re-mapping to the new categories. In 2012-13, further refinements were made and data for 2011-12 were revised accordingly. See Explanatory Notes of the 2011-12 and 2012-13 issues of this publication for details of these changes.
30 In 2013-14, another review of the Federal Offence Group was undertaken. The process of assigning commonwealth Acts and Sections to the corresponding groups was simplified by assigning most Acts at the Act level only, rather than at the more detailed Section level. The exception to this was the Criminal Code Act 1995, Crimes Act 1914 and Migration Act 1958 where Section level information was taken into consideration. The Federal Offence Group categories most impacted by these changes were Child sexual exploitation offences, Import/export offences and Security offences. This revision applies to data from 2013-14 onwards. Data for previous years have not been revised.
31 In 2015-16, the Federal Offence Group was expanded to include the new category Terrorism. This category comprises offences committed under Part 5.3 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 including terrorist acts, preparing or training for terrorist acts, or possessing things connected with terrorist acts. In previous years, any terrorism offences would have been mapped to the Security category.
32 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.
33 Where a person or organisation is a defendant in more than one case, and their cases are finalised on the same date and in the same court level, their defendant records will be merged and counted as a single defendant record. This merging rule is used for defendants finalised in the Higher, Magistrates' and Children's Courts.
34 Courts in some jurisdictions operate programs which transfer defendants to drug and other specialist courts for finalisation. These defendants are counted as finalised by transfer in the criminal court level that recommended the transfer. In some instances, defendants may be referred to programs where, upon completion of the program, the defendant returns for finalisation to the court that requested the transfer.
35 A known issue with the federal offence counting unit is that it is technically not a count of all federal offences but a count of all records that are flagged as a federal offence. Given that for the guilty population each record represents a sentence and more than one sentence may be imposed for an offence, this means that the count of Federal offences is overstated.
METHOD OF FINALISATION
36 Method of finalisation describes how a criminal charge is concluded by a criminal court. For the purposes of the Federal Defendants collection, one method of finalisation is applied to each defendant within the Higher, Magistrates' and Children's Courts.
Transfers between Higher Court levels
37 Defendants who transfer from one Higher Court to another Higher Court are considered as initiated only once and finalised only once.
Transfers between the Magistrates' Court and the Higher Court levels
38 Defendants who transfer from the Magistrates' Court to the Higher Court (or vice versa) are considered to be initiated twice (once in each court level) and finalised twice (once in each court level).
39 Defendants with a principal federal offence of Illicit drug offences or Sexual assault and related offences are more likely to be transferred from the Magistrates' Court to the Higher Court than defendants with other offences, and are therefore more likely to have a method of finalisation of a transfer. The high proportion of transfers for these offences should be taken into consideration when interpreting data by method of finalisation as it may impact on the proportion of defendants proven guilty for these offences.
Transfers between Children's Courts and Magistrates' or Higher Court levels
40 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).
41 Where a defendant finalised in a Higher Court has multiple charges and these have different methods of finalisation, the method of finalisation code applied to the defendants is determined by the following order of precedence:
42 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:
43 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:
PRINCIPAL FEDERAL OFFENCE
44 Where a finalised defendant has multiple charges the principal federal offence is determined by:
45 The type of finalisation is considered in the following order:
46 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 22) associated with that charge.
47 Where a defendant has multiple charges, each with the same method 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 23–25.
PRINCIPAL FEDERAL OFFENCE GROUP
48 In order to output the Federal Offence Group at the defendant level, a principal Federal Offence Group category is derived by selecting the category associated with the principal federal offence. For more information on how the principal federal offence is derived, refer to paragraphs 44-47.
49 Where there is more than one Federal Offence Group category associated with an offence, a hierarchy is used to derive the most serious category. This hierarchy has been based on the hierarchy used to derive the principal federal offence, i.e. the National Offence Index (NOI). For more information on the NOI, refer to paragraphs 23-25.
50 Federal defendants who are proven guilty have sentence information reported at the offence level. A defendant can receive:
51 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 offence.
52 It should be noted that not all sentence types are available to magistrates and judges in all jurisdictions. Whether a sentencing option is available in a particular state or territory and court level should be considered when making comparisons.
53 Defendants with a method of finalisation of acquitted (primarily ‘not guilty by reason of mental illness/condition’) 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.
54 The secondary counting unit for the Federal Defendants collection is the federal offence. Rather than apply an order of precedence to the offences for each defendant (to enable the defendant to be represented by one principal federal offence) the Federal Defendants collection allows for the counting of all federal offences finalised. Federal offences have been presented by ANZSOC in Table 24 and the Federal Offence Group in Table 25 in the data cubes.
55 Note that some federal offences will be counted more than once for a proven guilty offence if more than one sentence is handed down. Therefore the count of federal offences may be overstated.
STATE AND TERRITORY SPECIFIC ISSUES
56 The following information highlights events or processes unique to a state/territory that may have impacted on the data for the Federal Defendants collection. For other state and territory specific issues that have impacted on the Criminal Courts collection more generally, refer to paragraphs 72-102 of the Explanatory Notes of Criminal Courts, Australia (cat. no. 4513.0).
57 Impacting on the number of federal offences finalised across all states and territories during the 2014-15 reference period was the increase in the number of defendants finalised for a principal offence of ANZSOC Division 15 Offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations, specifically ANZSOC Group 1549 Offences against government operations, n.e.c. Almost all of these were prosecuted under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. According to the 2014-15 Australian and Electoral Commission Annual Report (2015), failure to vote offences associated with the 2013 federal election and 2014 Senate election in Western Australia resulted in one of the highest number of summonses on record. For the Australian Capital Territory, while there was an increase in the number of defendants finalised for failure to vote offences as per the other states and territories, this increase was offset by a decrease in the number of defendants finalised for taxation offences, which are also coded to the same ANZSOC Group.
New South Wales
58 Duration from initiation to finalisation data for New South Wales Magistrates' and Children's Courts are based on the date of first appearance rather than the date of registration. New South Wales is unable to provide the date of registration as it is not captured in the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research's system, the system used to provide NSW Courts data to the ABS. This may impact on duration from initiation to finalisation data and therefore caution should be used when making comparisons across states and territories.
59 New South Wales legislation does not contain discrete offences of stalking, intimidation and harassment. As these offences cannot be disaggregated, defendants charged with stalking, intimidation and harassment have been coded to ANZSOC offence group 0291 (Stalking). From 2008–09, this group may therefore be overstated and 05 (Abduction, harassment and other offences against the person) may be understated. Caution should be used when making comparisons with other states and territories.
60 Victoria has a high proportion of defendants with a principal federal offence of traffic offences compared with most other states and territories. This is due to parking offences occurring at airports charged under Airports (Control of On-Airport Activities) Regulations 1997. These offences are mapped to the Aviation category in the Federal Offence Group (see Appendix 4).
61 In 2014–15, Queensland provided data for defendants who had been finalised as Guilty ex-parte for the first time. Previous to 2014–15, these defendants were reported in the ABS Criminal Courts data as being finalised either as Guilty plea by defendant or Guilty finding by court and therefore these methods of finalisation were overstated. In 2015–16, it was identified that not all defendants finalised as Guilty ex-parte in 2014–15 were flagged in the extract provided to the ABS and therefore the numbers reported in the 2014–15 publication were understated. As such, data for Guilty plea by defendant, Guilty finding by court and Guilty ex-parte as presented in previous issues of this publication are unreliable and should not be used. In this issue of the publication, numbers for defendants finalised as proven guilty are presented at the aggregate level only for all years.
62 In November 2013, Western Australia's Magistrates' and Children's Courts data were migrated to the Integrated Court Management System (ICMS). Data entry and extraction procedures on the ICMS vary from those of the previous recording system. The expansion of outcome categories within the ICMS system enables greater accuracy in identifying defendants who were proven guilty ex-parte, acquitted by the court, transferred or had their case withdrawn by the prosecution. Given these changes to the system, as well as an adjustment period for courts staff during the transition, there has been an impact on several data items, most notably Method of finalisation. Caution should therefore be used when making historical comparisons for these Methods of finalisation.
63 For 2013-14, Western Australia changed the way they provided Date of initiation data for the Magistrates' and Children's Courts. Previously, the date of first appearance was provided rather than the date of registration. In 2013-14, Western Australia provided the date of registration, bringing it in line with national reporting requirements. In 2015–16, changes in recording practices may have further impacted on duration. In ICMS, for some cases where there is an initial sentence handed down and the case is adjourned until sentencing at a later date, the date of finalisation is recorded as the date this initial sentence was handed down. While every effort has been made to extract the actual date of finalisation, there may be some cases where this was not possible. Additionally, Police are now required to lodge cases electronically rather than manually, impacting on the date of registration. These changes may have contributed to the increases in the mean and median duration from initiation to finalisation in Western Australia in 2015–16. Caution should therefore be used when making historical comparisons, or comparing historical data with other states and territories.
64 The 2010–11 Federal Defendants collection included data for Tasmanian Magistrates' and Children's Courts only. From 2011–12, data for all court levels are included for Tasmania.
65 Duration from initiation to finalisation data for the Northern Territory Magistrates' and Children's Courts are based on the date of first appearance rather than the date of registration. The Northern Territory is unable to provide the date of registration as it is not captured in their systems. This may impact on Duration from initiation to finalisation data and therefore caution should be used when making comparisons across states and territories.
66 In 2011-12 and 2012-13, a joint project between the NT Department of the Attorney-General and Justice and Police to close historic outstanding warrants and summons matters resulted in an increase in the number of finalisations. Other impacts include increases in the duration of cases and increases in the number of cases Withdrawn by the prosecution during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 reference periods. Caution should be used when making historical comparisons.
Australian Capital Territory
67 The Australian Capital Territory has a high proportion of defendants with a principal federal offence of traffic offences compared with most other states and territories. This is due to parking offences charged under the Australian National University Parking and Traffic Statute 2007 and the Australian National University Act 1991.
COMPARISONS TO OTHER ABS DATA
Criminal Courts collection
68 Federal defendants are a subset of all defendants finalised in Australia's criminal courts. Information relating to all defendants finalised in the criminal courts are 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
69 Due to differing scope and counting rules the data in this publication may not be comparable to data published in other national or state and territory publications.
CONFIDENTIALITY OF TABULAR DATA
70 The Census and Statistics Act 1905 provides the authority for the ABS to collect statistical information, and requires that statistical output not be published or disseminated in a manner that is likely to enable the identification of a particular person or organisation. The requirement means that the ABS must ensure that any statistical information about individuals cannot be derived from published data. To minimise the risk of identifying individuals in aggregate statistics, a technique is used to randomly adjust cell values and summary variables. This technique is called perturbation and was applied to the Federal Defendants collection from the 2013-14 reference period. Perturbation involves the small random adjustment of the statistics and is considered the most satisfactory technique for avoiding the release of identifiable statistics, while maximising the range of information that can be released. These adjustments have a negligible impact on the underlying pattern of the statistics.
71 After perturbation, a given published cell value will be consistent across all tables. However, the sum of the components of a total will not necessarily give the same result as the published total in a particular table. As such, proportions may add to more or less than 100%. Readers are advised to use the published totals rather than deriving totals based on the component cells. Cells with small values may be proportionally more affected by perturbation than large values. Users are advised against conducting analyses and drawing conclusions based on small values.
72 Perturbation has been applied to all data presented in this publication as well as data in the Federal Defendants collection from 2010-11 onwards. Previous to the 2013-14 reference period, a different technique was used to confidentialise the data and therefore there may be small differences between historical data presented in this and the 2013-14 issue of the publication and those published in previous issues.
73 Prior to 2015-16, offences associated with the Taxation Administration Act 1953 were excluded from the count of defendants finalised in the Federal Defendants collection for the Northern Territory in error. This has resulted in an undercount of the total number of defendants finalised nationally, and in the Northern Territory, by approximately 20 defendants each year. In particular, there has been an undercount in the number of defendants finalised with a principal federal offence ANZSOC Group 1549 Offences against government operations, n.e.c. and principal Federal Offence Group category Tax offences. This error has been rectified for this issue of the publication and data for 2014-15 have been revised. Data prior to 2014-15 have not been revised and therefore caution should be used when making historical comparisons.
74 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. For a listing of ABS publications relating to crime and justice statistics, refer to the Related Information tab.
75 Non-ABS sources of criminal court statistics which may be of interest include:
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