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Any reference to ‘defendants’ in this article refers specifically to .

Any reference to 'offence' indicates the .

Key statistics

  • Nine in ten (89%) defendants had their matters . Almost all (98%) were proven guilty.
  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences were the most common (36%).
  • Sexual assault and related offences have increased from 7,368 in 2012/13 to 9,443 in 2016/17.
  • Three in four (75%) defendants were male.

Offences

The most common offences were:

  • Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (36%)
  • Acts intended to cause injury (13%)
  • Illicit drug offences (11%)
  • Theft and related offences (8%)

Display data as...

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Defendants finalised by selected principal offences
Year 2015/16 2016/17
Acts intended to cause injury 71,123 76,006
Dangerous or negligent acts 27,779 26,727
Theft 47,065 49,572
Illicit Drugs 63,192 65,011
Public order 31,326 27,999
Traffic 224,608 217,622
Offences against justice 44,588 47,379

217,622 defendants were finalised for traffic and vehicle regulatory offences. Of these:

  • 93% were proven guilty
  • Most (80%) were sentenced to

More than one in three (35%) were finalised for driver license offences and 32% for exceeding the prescribed amount of alcohol or other substances limit.

76,006 defendants were finalised for . Of these:

  • Three quarters (75%) were proven guilty
  • The majority (68%) were sentenced to

Of defendants finalised for acts intended to cause injury, most (92%) were for an assault offence. The number of assault offences increased 7% since last year, the highest since 2008/09.

65,011 defendants were finalised for illicit drug offences, a 3% increase from 2015/16. Of these:

  • Almost three in five (58%) were finalised for possessing and/or using illicit drugs
  • Around nine in ten (88%) were proven guilty. Most of these defendants (87%) were sentenced to non-custodial orders

Court level

Most defendants (92%) were finalised in magistrates’ courts, 5% in children’s courts and 3% in higher courts.

Three quarters (75%) of defendants were male.

Males made up:

  • 86% in higher courts
  • 75% in magistrates’ courts
  • 76% in children’s courts

Higher courts deal with the most serious criminal matters such as murder, manslaughter, drug trafficking and sexual offences.

Higher courts had:

  • A 10% increase in defendants since 2015/16, from 15,971 to 17,622
  • 14,246 defendants proven guilty. Of these, 70% were sentenced to custody in
  • 1,044 defendants were

Magistrates’ courts deal with most criminal charges.

  • Close to half a million (499,937) defendants had their matters adjudicated.
  • 216,042 defendants were finalised for traffic and vehicle regulatory offences.
  • There has been a 14% increase in breach of violence and non-violence restraining orders since 2015/16.
  • 490,515 defendants were proven guilty. Of these, 64% were sentenced to monetary orders.

Children’s courts hear criminal charges against

  • 27,972 defendants were finalised in children’s courts.
  • 4% more were finalised than in 2015/16, despite a decline since 2008/09.
  • 22% were finalised for theft and related offences, 21% for acts intended to cause injury and 14% for unlawful entry with intent, burglary, break and enter.
  • 22,248 defendants were proven guilty. Of these, 89% were sentenced to non-custodial orders.
  • 1,441 defendants were sentenced to custody in correctional institutions.

States and territories

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Defendants finalised by states and territories
State 2015/16 2016/17
NSW 153,894 156,652
VIC 115,988 118,833
QLD 174,987 168,499
SA 40,173 40,721
WA 87,047 92,749
TAS 13,373 13,045
NT 12,710 11,490
ACT 4,580 5,385

There were 156,652 defendants in New South Wales’ criminal courts. New South Wales made up a quarter (26%) of all defendants nationally, second to Queensland (28%).

Type of offence: Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (38%) were the most common.

Gender: 78% of defendants were male, compared to the national average of 75%.

Court level: The number of defendants in Children’s Court decreased by 5%, contrasting a national increase of 4%.

Method of finalisation: Nine in ten defendants (91%) had their matters adjudicated, and almost all were proven guilty (95%).

Sentence: 20,873 defendants proven guilty were sentenced to custodial orders. Of these, 62% were sentenced to custody in correctional institutions.

There were 118,833 defendants in Victoria’s criminal courts. Victoria made up one-fifth (20%) of all defendants nationally, after Queensland (28%) and New South Wales (26%).

Type of offence: Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (40%) were the most common.

Gender: 74% of defendants were male.

Court level: There was a 12% increase of defendants in the Children’s Court.

Method of finalisation: Almost nine in ten defendants (87%) had their matters adjudicated, and almost all were proven guilty (99%).

Sentence: Most (92%) defendants who were found guilty were sentenced to non-custodial orders.

There were 168,499 defendants in Queensland’s criminal courts. Queensland had the most nationally, with more than a quarter (28%) of all defendants.

Type of offence: Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (31%) were the most common.

Gender: 74% of defendants were male.

Court level: 17% more defendants appeared in higher courts than in 2015/16.

Method of finalisation: Almost all defendants adjudicated were proven guilty (99%).

Sentence: 88% of defendants proven guilty were sentenced to non-custodial orders.

There were 40,721 defendants in South Australia’s criminal courts. South Australia made up 7% of all defendants nationally.

Type of offence: Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (29%) were the most common.

Gender: 78% of defendants were male.

Court level: 90% of defendants had their matters finalised in the magistrates’ courts.

Method of finalisation: 71% of defendants were adjudicated. Almost all were proven guilty (99%).

Sentence: 80% of defendants who were proven guilty were sentenced to non-custodial orders. The median fine was $878, the highest of all states and territories.

There were 92,749 defendants in Western Australia’s criminal courts. Western Australia made up 15% of all defendants nationally.

Type of offence: Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (37%) were the most common.

Gender: 74% of defendants were male.

Court level: 3% of defendants appeared in higher courts.

Method of finalisation: 85,961 defendants were adjudicated. Almost all were proven guilty (99%).

Sentence: 91% of defendants who were proven guilty were sentenced to non-custodial orders.

There were 13,045 defendants in Tasmania’s criminal courts. Tasmania made up 2% of all defendants nationally.

Type of offence: Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (41%) were the most common.

Gender: 76% of defendants were male.

Court level: 92% of defendants had their matters finalised in the magistrates’ courts.

Method of finalisation: 12,281 defendants were adjudicated. The majority (87%) were proven guilty.

Sentence: 79% of defendants who were proven guilty were sentenced to non-custodial orders.

There were 11,490 defendants in the Northern Territory’s criminal courts. Northern Territory made up 2% of all defendants nationally.

Type of offence: Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (27%) were the most common. This decreased by 22% since 2015/16.

Gender: 78% of defendants were male.

Court level: More defendants (7%) appeared in the Children’s Court than the national average (5%).

Method of finalisation: 10,143 defendants were adjudicated. Almost all (97%) were proven guilty.

Sentence: 48% of defendants proven guilty were sentenced to custodial orders, compared to 13% nationally.

There were 5,385 defendants in the Australian Capital Territory’s criminal courts. The Australian Capital Territory made up less than 1% of all defendants nationally.

Type of offence:Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences (53%) were the most common. This increased by 20% from 2015/16.

Gender: 77% of defendants were male.

Court level: Most defendants (92%) appeared in the magistrates’ courts.

Method of finalisation: 65% were proven guilty, the lowest proportion compared to other states and territories.

Sentence: 77% of defendants proven guilty were sentenced to non-custodial orders.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Data not included for Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania and Australian Capital Territory as it isn’t of sufficient quality.

Defendants with traffic offences have been removed from the data as Indigenous status for most of these offences isn’t recorded.

Read more in Methodology

Three quarters (75%) of defendants in the Northern Territory identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. This compares to 22% in Queensland, 19% in South Australia and 16% in New South Wales.

Acts intended to cause injury was the most common offence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in all states except Queensland.

  • New South Wales (41%)
  • Northern Territory (41%)
  • South Australia (31%)

In Queensland, most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were finalised for public order offences (23%).

The children’s courts had the highest proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared to other court levels. Of defendants in children’s courts, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up:

  • 90% in the Northern Territory
  • 47% in Queensland
  • 40% in South Australia
  • 35% in New South Wales

Data downloads

4 data downloads available. Download all [2.78 MB]

Court levels

Number of defendants over time for each court level- by sex, age, method of finalisation, duration of case and principal offence.

Indigenous status

Indigenous status of defendants for each available state and territory over time- by sex, age, method of finalisation, principal offence, sentence and court level.

Offences

Sentences given to guilty defendants- by principal offence, sentence length, fine amount, court level.

States and territories

Number of defendants for each court level in each state and territory over time- by sex, age, method of finalisation, duration of case, principal offence and sentence.

Do you require more detailed data? Other services are available. Learn more.

Methodology

Scope

All defendants who have had charges completed in:

  • Higher courts
  • Magistrates’ courts
  • Children’s courts

Geographic coverage

Data are available at the national and state and territory levels.

Source

Administrative data collected from all defendants finalised in Australia.

Collection method

Criminal courts data is based on administrative records supplied by:

  • The Queensland Office of the Government Statistician
  • The New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research
  • All other state and territory agencies responsible for court administration

Concepts sources and methods

Descriptions of the underlying concepts and methods used in making these data are available in Statistical source: Criminal courts

Changes in the series

Some data for the 2014–15 and 2015–16 periods have been revised as a result of changes in coding for:

  • Offences in South Australia
  • Indigenous status in New South Wales

More about collection history

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