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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2006  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/01/2006   
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COURTS

Many courts and court-related tribunals operate throughout Australia. The majority of courts handle matters that are criminal or civil in nature, while tribunals provide a less costly alternative for progressing some civil and administrative matters outside the formality of a court. A criminal matter generally arises where a charge has been laid either by police or some other prosecuting authority on the basis of a breach of criminal law. A civil matter occurs where there is a dispute between two or more individuals or organisations, where one party seeks legal remedy for an injury or loss from the other party who is alleged to be liable.

There are many other types of courts and tribunals in operation, commonly referred to as specialist courts and tribunals. Examples of these include the Coroners' Courts, Family Court, Federal Magistrates' Court, Drug Courts, Domestic Violence Courts, Workers' Compensation Commissions/Tribunals, Industrial Relations Commission, Small Claims Tribunals, Administrative Appeals Tribunal and Residential Tenancy Tribunal.

Courts and tribunals tend to be arranged in a hierarchy (diagram 11.22), with the majority of less serious matters being heard before magistrates and more serious matters being heard before judges. For criminal matters the seriousness is often determined by the nature of the alleged offence. In a civil context, seriousness is generally determined according to the amount being sought in compensation. A court's or tribunal's ability to deal with a civil, criminal or other matter will depend on the state or territory's legislation or jurisdiction applicable to that particular level of court.

The hierarchy of courts also applies to appeal matters. Where grounds for appeal exist, the appeal process is available in both criminal and civil matters. Appeals resulting from civil tribunal decisions may be referred to the Magistrates', District/County, Supreme or Commonwealth Courts, depending on the jurisdiction and the right of appeals. Criminal appeals resulting from the Magistrates' Court can be appealed at the District/County, Supreme or Commonwealth Court level in the first instance. The High Court of Australia is the highest court of appeal for both criminal and civil cases.

11.22 HIERARCHY OF COURTS
Diagram 11.22: HIERARCHY OF COURTS

(a) In some jurisdictions, appeals from lower courts may go directly to the court of appeal in the Supreme Court. In the ACT, the court of appeal of the Supreme Court commenced exercising limited jurisdiction on 31 October 2001; full jurisdiction did not commence until 14 October 2002.
(b) Appeals from federal, state and territory tribunals may go to any higher court in their jurisdiction.

Source: Steering Committee for the Review of Commonwealth/State Service Provision, Report on Government Services 2005.


CRIMINAL COURTS

A system of courts for the hearing of criminal matters exists in all Australian states and territories. Once charges are laid by police, the court will hear evidence by both prosecution and defence, and will make a decision as to whether or not the defendant is guilty. In cases where the defendant is found guilty, the court may also record a conviction and impose a penalty.

The lowest level of criminal court is the Magistrates' Court or Court of Summary Jurisdiction. The majority of all criminal cases are heard in these courts. Cases heard in Magistrates' Courts do not involve a jury and a magistrate determines the guilt or innocence of the defendant. This is known as a summary proceeding. Relatively minor offences such as property damage or minor road traffic offences can be dealt with in this way. More serious offences are dealt with by the higher court levels.

All states and territories have a Supreme Court that can deal with all criminal matters. The larger jurisdictions also have an intermediate level of court, known as the District or County Court, that deals with the majority of serious offences. The Supreme Courts and Intermediate Courts are collectively referred to as the Higher Courts.

All offences that are dealt with by the Higher Courts have an automatic entitlement to a trial before a judge and jury. In some jurisdictions, the defendant may elect to have the matter heard before a judge alone. Offences that must be heard before a judge and jury are known as indictable offences. These include offences such as murder, manslaughter and drug importation as well as serious sexual offences, robberies and assaults.

A defendant proven guilty in a criminal matter is entitled to appeal against the conviction or against the severity of penalty imposed. Under some circumstances, the prosecution is also entitled to appeal against the leniency of the penalty. The states and territories differ in the ways in which they deal with appeals. Some appeals from Magistrates' Courts may be heard before the Intermediate Courts. In other jurisdictions the Supreme Court may hear these appeals. In most jurisdictions an appeal court or Court of Criminal Appeal may be constituted to hear appeals from the Supreme or Intermediate Courts, with the highest court of appeal for all jurisdictions being the High Court of Australia.

National criminal courts statistics

The aim of the Criminal Courts collection is to provide comparable statistics for the states and territories and for Australia on the characteristics of defendants dealt with by the Criminal Courts. This includes information on the offences and sentences associated with those defendants. In order to ensure consistency between the states and territories, the statistics have been compiled according to national standards and classifications. However, some legislative and processing differences may limit the degree to which the statistics are comparable across the states and territories. Differences may also arise as a result of other factors, including refinements in data quality procedures and modifications in the systems used to obtain and compile the figures.

Criminal courts defendant summary characteristics

Diagram 11.23 presents summary characteristics of defendants dealt with by the Higher and Magistrates' Courts of Australia. 'Finalised defendant' refers to all charges against a person or organisation having been formally completed so that the defendant ceases to be an item of work to be dealt with by a particular court. Adjudication is a method of finalisation based on a judgement or decision by the court as to whether or not a defendant is guilty of the charge(s) laid against them.

In 2003-04, 544,689 defendants were finalised in the Higher and Magistrates' Courts. Of these, 17,315 (3%) were in the Higher Courts and 527,374 (97%) were in the Magistrates' Courts.

The majority (87% or 15,003) of defendants finalised in the Higher Courts during 2003-04 were adjudicated. Those proven guilty comprised 93% (13,950) of all adjudications, while acquittals comprised 7% (1,053) of the total. Of those proven guilty, 90% pleaded guilty and 10% were declared guilty at trial. The remaining defendants (13%) were finalised by a non-adjudicated method such as all charges withdrawn by the prosecution.

The Magistrates' Courts finalised 527,374 defendants during 2003-04. Adjudications comprised 88% (466,661) of all finalisations. Defendants proven guilty (i.e. pleaded guilty or were declared guilty) and defendants acquitted comprised 96% and 4% respectively of all adjudications. Non-adjudicated methods (such as all charges withdrawn by the prosecution or transferred to another court level) comprised 12% of finalised defendants.

11.23 CRIMINAL COURT FINALISATIONS - 2003-04
Diagram 11.23: CRIMINAL COURT FINALISATIONS - 2003-04

(a) Defendants will be counted twice where they are transferred from the Magistrates' Court to a Higher Court and then finalised in the Higher Court in the same reference period. (b) Includes defendants with an unknown method of finalisation. (c) Excludes defendants finalised by committal or transfer to a Higher Court and refers to finalised appearances rather than finalised defendants in Magistrates' Court in New South Wales. (d) Includes defendants adjudicated n.f.d. (e) Includes defendants for whom a principal sentence is unknown.

Source: Criminal Courts, Australia, 2003-04 (4513.0).


Criminal courts finalisations


For combined court levels, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria accounted for 70% of finalisations nationally (28%, 24% and 17% respectively). Queensland accounted for the highest proportions of finalisations for the Higher Courts (40%) and New South Wales for the highest proportion of finalisations in the Magistrates' Courts (28%) (table 11.24).

11.24 CRIMINAL COURT FINALISATIONS, By court level - 2003-04

NSW(a)
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
ACT
Aust.

NUMBER

Higher Courts
3,456
2,548
6,863
869
2,667
537
256
119
17,315
Magistrates' Courts(b)
146,950
90,572
129,029
43,326
58,589
46,723
7,048
5,137
527,374
Total(b)(c)
150,406
93,120
135,892
44,195
61,256
47,260
7,304
5,256
544,689

PROPORTION (%)

Higher Courts
20.0
14.7
39.6
5.0
15.4
3.1
1.5
0.7
100.0
Magistrates' Courts(b)
27.9
17.2
24.4
8.2
11.1
8.9
1.3
1.0
100.0
Total(b)(c)
27.6
17.1
24.4
8.1
11.2
8.7
1.3
1.0
100.0

(a) Refers to finalised appearances rather than finalised defendants in the Magistrates' Court, resulting in a possible increase in the population counts.
(b) Excludes defendants finalised by committal or transfer to a Higher court in NSW.
(c) Defendants will be counted twice where they are transferred from the Magistrates' Court to a Higher Court and then finalised in the Higher Court within the same reference period.

Source: Criminal Courts, Australia, 2003-04 (4513.0).


The number of defendants finalised in the Higher Courts increased by 4% from 16,643 defendants in 2002-03 to 17,315 defendants in 2003-04. Finalisations of defendants decreased in Western Australia (8%), Tasmania (11%) and the Australian Capital Territory (27%) (table 11.25).

11.25 TOTAL HIGHER CRIMINAL COURT FINALISATIONS

1996-97
1997-98
1998-99
1999-2000
2000-01
2001-02
2002-03(a)
2003-04(a)

NSW
3,584
3,961
4,186
4,300
3,917
3,654
3,204
3,456
Vic.
1,631
1,737
1,977
2,277
2,147
1,993
2,078
2,548
QLD
6,264
6,477
7,595
7,379
6,932
7,230
6,630
6,863
SA
1,299
1,004
943
936
928
1,131
821
869
WA
2,228
2,718
2,893
3,113
3,055
3,070
2,885
2,667
Tas.
322
337
611
749
441
486
605
537
NT
206
311
288
268
404
262
256
256
ACT
150
138
161
190
205
171
164
119
Australia
15,684
16,683
18,654
19,212
18,029
17,997
16,643
17,315

(a) Excludes defendants finalised by a bench warrant being issued.

Source: Criminal Courts, Australia, 2003-04 (4513.0).


Males represented the majority of finalised defendants (78% or 425,880) in the Higher and Magistrates' courts during 2003-04. Half (269,924) the total number of these finalised defendants were males aged less than 35 years of age. Males in the 20-24 year age group had the highest number of finalised male defendants (94,797) while the 35-44 year age group was the highest for females (22,612) (table 11.26).

11.26 FINALISED DEFENDANTS, By age group

Under 20
years
20-24
years
25-29
years
30-34
years
35-44
years
45 years
and over
Total(a)

HIGHER COURTS

Males
1,522
3,443
2,557
2,271
2,955
2,203
15,005
Females
171
536
388
371
539
276
2,292
Persons(b)
1,693
3,979
2,945
2,642
3,494
2,479
17,315

MAGISTRATES' COURTS(c)

Males
45,873
91,354
65,833
57,071
75,562
56,593
410,875
Females
8,644
19,568
16,316
15,576
22,073
13,599
104,246
Persons(b)
54,638
111,328
82,489
72,873
97,969
70,509
527,374

HIGHER AND MAGISTRATES' COURTS(c)(d)

Males
47,395
94,797
68,390
59,342
78,517
58,796
425,880
Females
8,815
20,104
16,704
15,947
22,612
13,875
106,538
Persons(b)
56,331
115,307
85,434
75,515
101,463
72,988
544,689

(a) Includes defendants with unknown age.
(b) Includes organisations and persons with unknown sex.
(c) Excludes defendants finalised by committal or transfer to a Higher Court in NSW.
(d) Defendants will be counted twice where they are transferred from the Magistrates' Court to a Higher Court and then finalised in the Higher Court within the same reference period.

Source: Criminal Courts, Australia, 2003-04 (4513.0).


ADJUDICATED DEFENDANTS - PRINCIPAL OFFENCE

Defendants were more likely to be adjudicated in the Higher Courts during 2003-04 for the following categories of principal offences, using Divisions of the Australian Criminal Standard Offence Classification (ASOC): Acts intended to cause injury (21%); Unlawful entry with intent/burglary, break and enter (15%); Illicit drug offences (14%); and Robbery, extortion and related offences, and Sexual assault and related offences (both 11%) (table 11.27). There were 10,732 (72%) defendants adjudicated by the Higher Courts with a principal offence in one of these five categories.

11.27 HIGHER CRIMINAL COURTS ADJUDICATED DEFENDANTS, Principal offence - 2003-04
Age group (years)

ASOC Division(a)
Under 20
20-24
25-29
30-34
35-44
45 and over
Total(b)

NUMBER

Homicide and related offences
34
79
65
65
98
77
421
Acts intended to cause injury
326
761
599
538
614
270
3,114
Sexual assault and related offences
81
185
169
182
414
543
1,577
Dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons
55
154
94
64
61
46
474
Abduction and related offences
8
25
27
18
21
13
112
Robbery, extortion and related offences
361
613
302
182
172
48
1,685
Unlawful entry with intent/burglary, break and enter
401
724
431
342
279
66
2,246
Theft and related offences
77
216
140
124
137
91
792
Deception and related offences
24
156
171
169
309
263
1,101
Illicit drug offences
48
343
362
375
564
414
2,110
Weapons and explosives offences
3
12
15
12
11
15
68
Property damage and environmental pollution
75
91
60
53
61
37
383
Public order offences
14
45
43
40
47
25
217
Road traffic and motor vehicle regulatory offences
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
Offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations
15
74
48
50
54
33
274
Miscellaneous offences
9
41
54
48
68
58
297
All offence categories(c)
1,539
3,541
2,597
2,283
2,939
2,026
14,998

PROPORTION (%)

Homicide and related offences
2.2
2.2
2.5
2.8
3.3
3.8
2.8
Acts intended to cause injury
21.2
21.5
23.1
23.6
20.9
13.3
20.8
Sexual assault and related offences
5.3
5.2
6.5
8.0
14.1
26.8
10.5
Dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons
3.6
4.3
3.6
2.8
2.1
2.3
3.2
Abduction and related offences
0.5
0.7
1.0
0.8
0.7
0.6
0.7
Robbery, extortion and related offences
23.5
17.3
11.6
8.0
5.9
2.4
11.2
Unlawful entry with intent/burglary, break and enter
26.1
20.4
16.6
15.0
9.5
3.3
15.0
Theft and related offences
5.0
6.1
5.4
5.4
4.7
4.5
5.3
Deception and related offences
1.6
4.4
6.6
7.4
10.5
13.0
7.3
Illicit drug offences
3.1
9.7
13.9
16.4
19.2
20.4
14.1
Weapons and explosives offences
0.2
0.3
0.6
0.5
0.4
0.7
0.5
Property damage and environmental pollution
4.9
2.6
2.3
2.3
2.1
1.8
2.6
Public order offences
0.9
1.3
1.7
1.8
1.6
1.2
1.4
Road traffic and motor vehicle regulatory offences
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
Offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations
1.0
2.1
1.8
2.2
1.8
1.6
1.8
Miscellaneous offences
0.6
1.2
2.1
2.1
2.3
2.9
2.0
All offence categories(c)
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

(a) Australian Standard Offence Classification.
(b) Includes defendants with unknown age.
(c) Includes defendants for whom offence data were missing or a principal offence could not be determined.

Source: Criminal Courts, Australia, 2003-04 (4513.0).


In contrast, the five categories of principal offences that accounted for the majority of adjudicated defendants in the Magistrates' Courts in 2003-04 were: Road traffic and motor vehicle regulatory offences (44%); Public order offences (9%); Theft and related offences (8%); and Acts intended to cause injury and Dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons (both 7%). Overall, approximately three out of every four defendants adjudicated in the Magistrates' Courts had one of these five categories of principal offences (table 11.28).

11.28 MAGISTRATES' CRIMINAL COURTS ADJUDICATED DEFENDANTS, Principal offence - 2003-04
Age group (years)

ASOC Division(a)
Under 20
20-24
25-29
30-34
35-44
45 and over
Total(b)

NUMBER

Homicide and related offences
5
26
17
13
24
24
109
Acts intended to cause injury
3,000
6,962
5,810
5,620
7,632
3,897
32,994
Sexual assault and related offences
33
103
79
116
231
302
871
Dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons
4,839
8,261
5,116
4,064
5,753
5,086
33,348
Abduction and related offences
-
8
7
5
9
6
35
Robbery, extortion and related offences
112
91
45
52
36
9
345
Unlawful entry with intent/burglary, break and enter
1,630
2,231
1,462
1,023
948
227
7,538
Theft and related offences
6,748
9,143
6,312
5,338
6,525
4,160
38,364
Deception and related offences
1,648
3,679
3,020
2,527
3,212
2,275
16,857
Illicit drug offences
3,015
6,750
5,299
4,738
5,955
2,556
28,355
Weapons and explosives offences
750
1,292
899
842
1,357
1,169
6,331
Property damage and environmental pollution
2,393
3,422
2,088
1,703
1,932
866
12,800
Public order offences
7,193
10,894
6,803
5,786
7,721
4,147
43,322
Road traffic and motor vehicle regulatory offences
15,694
42,470
31,913
27,572
37,933
31,967
205,672
Offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations
2,417
4,376
3,776
3,792
5,379
3,530
25,504
Miscellaneous offences
570
1,325
1,261
1,440
2,107
1,919
13,792
All offence categories(c)
50,067
101,108
73,978
64,699
86,832
62,198
466,658

PROPORTION (%)

Homicide and related offences
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
Acts intended to cause injury
6.0
6.9
7.9
8.7
8.8
6.3
7.1
Sexual assault and related offences
0.1
0.1
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.5
0.2
Dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons
9.7
8.2
6.9
6.3
6.6
8.2
7.1
Abduction and related offences
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
Robbery, extortion and related offences
0.2
0.1
0.1
0.1
-
-
0.1
Unlawful entry with intent/burglary, break and enter
3.3
2.2
2.0
1.6
1.1
0.4
1.6
Theft and related offences
13.5
9.0
8.5
8.3
7.5
6.7
8.2
Deception and related offences
3.3
3.6
4.1
3.9
3.7
3.7
3.6
Illicit drug offences
6.0
6.7
7.2
7.3
6.9
4.1
6.1
Weapons and explosives offences
1.5
1.3
1.2
1.3
1.6
1.9
1.4
Property damage and environmental pollution
4.8
3.4
2.8
2.6
2.2
1.4
2.7
Public order offences
14.4
10.8
9.2
8.9
8.9
6.7
9.3
Road traffic and motor vehicle regulatory offences
31.3
42.0
43.1
42.6
43.7
51.4
44.1
Offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations
4.8
4.3
5.1
5.9
6.2
5.7
5.5
Miscellaneous offences
1.1
1.3
1.7
2.2
2.4
3.1
3.0
All offence categories(c)
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

(a) Australian Standard Offence Classification.
(b) Includes defendants with unknown age.
(c) Includes defendants for whom offence data were missing or a principal offence could not be determined.

Source: Criminal Courts, Australia, 2003-04 (4513.0).


When defendants with a principal offence related to traffic are excluded from the adjudicated population in the Magistrates' Courts, the five categories of principal offences that accounted for the majority of defendants nationally were: Public order offences (19%); Theft and related offences (17%); Acts intended to cause injury (14%); Illicit drug offences (12%); and Offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations (11%) (graph 11.29).

Graph 11.29: DEFENDANTS ADJUDICATED, Selected principal offences by court level - 2003-04


In the Higher Courts, the most prevalent principal offence category for which both male and female defendants were adjudicated was Acts intended to cause injury (21% and 22% respectively) (graph 11.30). Proportionally, more females were adjudicated for the principal offence of Deception and related offences (18%) than males (6%). In contrast, there were proportionally more males than females with a principal offence category of Sexual assault and related offences (12% and 1% respectively).

Graph 11.30: HIGHER COURTS DEFENDANTS ADJUDICATED, Selected principal offences by sex - 2003-04


Nationally, the proportions of principal offences for defendants adjudicated were different across age groups in the Higher Courts. Defendants aged less than 20 years were more likely to be adjudicated for a principal offence in the categories of: Unlawful entry with intent/burglary, break and enter (26%); Robbery, extortion and related offences (23%); and Acts intended to cause injury (21%) (graph 11.31). Those within the age group of 45 years and over were more likely to be adjudicated for: Sexual assault and related offences (27%); Illicit drug offences (20%); and Acts intended to cause injury, and Deception and related offences (both 13%).

Graph 11.31: HIGHER COURTS DEFENDANTS ADJUDICATED, Selected principal offences by selected age groups - 2003-04


As age increased the proportions of defendants with a principal offence of Road traffic and motor vehicle regulatory offences increased in the Magistrates' Courts. This was the principal offence category for 31% of adjudicated defendants aged less than 20 years, increasing to 51% for defendants aged 45 years and over. Excluding traffic offences, defendants aged less than 20 years were more likely to be adjudicated for a principal offence in the categories of Public order offences (24%) and Theft and related offences (23%). Those 45 years and over were more likely to be adjudicated for Theft and related offences, and Public order offences (both 16%) and Acts intended to cause injury (15%) (graph 11.32).

Graph 11.32: MAGISTRATES COURTS DEFENDANTS ADJUDICATED(a), Selected principal offences by selected age groups - 2003-04


ADJUDICATED DEFENDANTS BY TYPE OF ADJUDICATION

Nationally, 84% of adjudicated defendants in the Higher Courts were finalised by pleading guilty (table 11.33). Those with the principal offence categories of Weapons and explosives offences (96%) and Unlawful entry with intent/burglary, break and enter (94%) had the highest proportion of defendants finalised with a plea of guilty. In contrast, adjudicated defendants with a principal offence of Homicide and related offences and Sexual assault and related offences were least likely to plead guilty (53% and 62% respectively) and, therefore, most likely to have a trial outcome (acquittal or guilty verdict).

Three categories of principal offences accounted for the majority of trial outcomes in the Higher Courts. These were: Sexual assault and related offences (24%); Acts intended to cause injury (23%); and Illicit drug offences (11%). There were 1,413 (58%) adjudicated defendants with a trial outcome in the Higher Courts with one of these three categories of principal offences.

Across all categories of principal offences, the acquittal rate for Higher Court defendants as a proportion of trial outcomes was 43%. The principal offence with the highest acquittal rate (as a proportion of trial outcomes for this offence type) was Sexual assault and related offences (61%) followed by Acts intended to cause injury (47%). The category of principal offence with the lowest acquittal rate was Illicit drug offences (18%).

Nationally, 93% of adjudicated defendants were proven guilty or pleaded guilty in the Higher Courts, while 96% of adjudicated defendants were proven guilty in the Magistrates' Courts. For combined court levels, defendants with a principal offence of illicit drug offences had the highest proportion of defendants either pleading guilty or proven guilty in both courts (98% for Higher Courts and 99% for Magistrates' Courts). Defendants adjudicated in the Higher and Magistrates' Courts were most likely to be acquitted for the categories of principal offences of Homicide and related offences (17% and 30% respectively), and Sexual assault and related offences (both 23%).

11.33 TOTAL CRIMINAL COURTS ADJUDICATED DEFENDANTS, Principal offence by court level and adjudication type - 2003-04

Higher Courts
Magistrates' Courts


ASOC Division
Acquitted
Guilty
verdict
Guilty
plea
Total
Acquitted
Proven
guilty
Total(a)

Homicide and related offences
70
128
221
419
33
78
111
Acts intended to cause injury
255
291
2,566
3,112
2,764
30,230
32,995
Sexual assault and related offences
363
230
984
1,577
196
673
869
Dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons
13
24
438
475
510
32,838
33,348
Abduction and related offences
12
20
84
116
5
31
36
Robbery, extortion and related offences
95
125
1,464
1,684
31
313
344
Unlawful entry with intent/burglary, break and enter
50
93
2,103
2,246
220
7,315
7,537
Theft and related offences
22
65
703
790
883
37,483
38,366
Deception and related offences
31
72
999
1,102
408
16,449
16,857
Illicit drug offences
49
225
1,836
2,110
260
28,095
28,355
Weapons and explosives offences
-
3
64
67
120
6,213
6,333
Property damage and environmental pollution
17
26
339
382
349
12,450
12,799
Public order offences
9
13
194
216
2,081
41,241
43,322
Road traffic and motor vehicle regulatory offences
-
3
5
8
9,169
196,503
205,672
Offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations
7
20
247
274
977
24,527
25,504
Miscellaneous offences
12
25
258
295
734
13,054
13,792
All offence categories(b)
1,051
1,375
12,578
15,004
18,787
447,863
466,661

(a) Includes defendants adjudicated n.f.d.
(b) Includes defendants for whom offence data are missing or a principal offence could not be determined.

Source: Criminal Courts, Australia, 2003-04 (4513.0).


Defendants proven guilty - principal sentence

Defendants proven guilty in the Higher Courts were more likely to receive custodial orders (i.e. custody in a correctional institution or the community or fully suspended sentences) compared with those in the Magistrates' Court (78% and 9% respectively) (graph 11.34). Acts of a more serious nature are usually dealt with in a Higher Court and are, therefore, far more likely to incur a custodial sentence.

Graph 11.34: DEFENDANTS PROVEN GUILTY, Principal offence by principal sentence and court level - 2003-04


Defendants proven guilty in the Higher Courts incurred a higher proportion of custodial orders (including custody in corrections, custody in the community and fully suspended sentences) than non-custodial orders for most offences. Defendants proven guilty in the Higher Courts for Homicide and related offences; Robbery, extortion and related offences; and Sexual assault and related offences incurred the highest proportion of custodial orders to be served in corrections or the community (87%, 79% and 72% respectively). Defendants proven guilty for Public order offences and Property damage and environmental pollution offences in the Higher Courts incurred the highest proportion of non-custodial sentences (46% and 39% respectively).


Defendants proven guilty in the Magistrates' Courts predominantly received non-custodial sentences for all offences except those in the categories of Robbery, extortion and related offences (51%) and Unlawful entry with intent/burglary, break and enter (51%) (table 11.35).

11.35 DEFENDANTS PROVEN GUILTY, Principal offence by court level and principal sentence - 2003-04

Higher Courts
Magistrates' Courts


ASOC Division(a)
Custody in corrections/ community
Fully suspended sentences
Non-
custodial orders
Total(b)(c)
Custodial orders
Monetary orders
Non-
custodial -other(d)
Total(c)

NUMBER

Homicide and related offences
304
39
6
349
23
18
36
78
Acts intended to cause injury
1,591
519
740
2,857
7,321
11,877
10,901
30,230
Sexual assault and related offences
869
187
155
1,214
318
131
205
673
Dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons
278
78
106
462
1,622
27,864
3,333
32,838
Abduction and related offences
70
13
21
104
7
7
16
31
Robbery, extortion and related offences
1,256
196
135
1,590
161
30
110
313
Unlawful entry with intent/burglary, break and enter
1,384
314
498
2,196
3,750
1,270
2,256
7,315
Theft and related offences
350
168
249
770
6,734
19,581
10,909
37,483
Deception and related offences
539
224
283
1,071
2,877
8,870
4,651
16,449
Illicit drug offences
1,175
496
388
2,059
2,506
20,313
5,218
28,095
Weapons and explosives offences
45
12
9
66
640
4,339
1,194
6,213
Property damage and environmental pollution
146
76
141
363
971
8,215
3,206
12,450
Public order offences
74
34
95
206
1,167
28,126
11,661
41,241
Road traffic and motor vehicle regulatory offences
-
-
4
4
8,512
165,786
21,630
196,503
Offences against justice procedures, government security and operations
125
72
69
266
2,284
17,213
4,884
24,527
Miscellaneous offences
148
34
87
283
691
9,738
2,519
13,054
All offence categories(e)
8,354
2,462
2,986
13,945
39,638
323,543
82,784
447,863

PROPORTION (%)

Homicide and related offences
87.1
11.2
1.7
100.0
29.5
23.1
46.2
100.0
Acts intended to cause injury
55.7
18.2
25.9
100.0
24.2
39.3
36.1
100.0
Sexual assault and related offences
71.6
15.4
12.8
100.0
47.3
19.5
30.5
100.0
Dangerous or negligent acts endangering persons
60.2
16.9
22.9
100.0
4.9
84.9
10.1
100.0
Abduction and related offences
67.3
12.5
20.2
100.0
22.6
22.6
51.6
100.0
Robbery, extortion and related offences
79.0
12.3
8.5
100.0
51.4
9.6
35.1
100.0
Unlawful entry with intent/burglary, break and enter
63.0
14.3
22.7
100.0
51.3
17.4
30.8
100.0
Theft and related offences
45.5
21.8
32.3
100.0
18.0
52.2
29.1
100.0
Deception and related offences
50.3
20.9
26.4
100.0
17.5
53.9
28.3
100.0
Illicit drug offences
57.1
24.1
18.8
100.0
8.9
72.3
18.6
100.0
Weapons and explosives offences
68.2
18.2
13.6
100.0
10.3
69.8
19.2
100.0
Property damage and environmental pollution
40.2
20.9
38.8
100.0
7.8
66.0
25.8
100.0
Public order offences
35.9
16.5
46.1
100.0
2.8
68.2
28.3
100.0
Road traffic and motor vehicle regulatory offences
__
__
100.0
100.0
4.3
84.4
11.0
100.0
Offences against justice procedures, government security and operations
47.0
27.1
25.9
100.0
9.3
70.2
19.9
100.0
Miscellaneous offences
52.3
12.0
30.7
100.0
5.3
74.6
19.3
100.0
All offence categories(d)
59.9
17.7
21.4
100.0
8.9
72.2
18.5
100.0

(a) Australian Standard Offence Classification. (b) Includes custodial orders not further defined. (c) Includes defendants for whom a principal sentence is unknown. (d) Includes other non-custodial orders excluding monetary orders. (e) Includes defendants for whom offence data are missing or a principal offence could not be determined.

Source: Criminal Courts, Australia, 2003-04 (4513.0).

Graph 11.36: HIGHER COURTS DEFENDANTS PROVEN GUILTY, Selected principal offences by selected principal sentences - 2003-04

Graph 11.37: MAGISTRATES COURTS DEFENDANTS PROVEN GUILTY, Selected principal offences by selected principal sentences - 2003-04

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