4515.0 - Federal Defendants, Australia, 2016-17 Quality Declaration 
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KEY FINDINGS

INTRODUCTION

Federal Defendants, Australia, 2016–17 (cat. no. 4515.0) presents statistics relating to defendants with one or more federal offences finalised in the criminal jurisdiction of the Higher (Supreme and Intermediate), Magistrates' and Children's Courts across Australia for the period 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017.

Offence information within this publication are presented by both the Australian and New Zealand Standard Offence Classification (ANZSOC), 2011 (cat. no. 1234.0) and an alternative Federal Offence Group which assigns a federal offence category based on related Commonwealth legislation (refer to Appendix 4 and Explanatory Notes paragraphs 27–29 for more information).

For ease of reading some offence terms have been abbreviated throughout this publication, in both the tables and commentary as follows: ‘Abduction, harassment and other offences against the person’ is referred to as ‘Abduction and harassment’; ‘Offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations’ is referred to as ‘Offences against justice’; and ‘Fraud, deception and related offences’ is referred to as ‘Fraud and deception’.


FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED

Australian state and territory criminal courts finalised 13,500 federal defendants in 2016–17, an increase of 10% (1,218 defendants) on the previous year. The majority of these defendants (92% or 12,400) were finalised in the Magistrates’ Courts. (Table 1)

Federal defendants represented just over 2% (13,500) of all defendants finalised (607,375) in Australian state and territory criminal courts during 2016–17, as reported in Criminal Courts, Australia, 2016–17 (cat. no. 4513.0).

Graph Image for FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED AND PROVEN GUILTY, 2010-11 to 2016-17

Source(s): Federal Defendants, Australia


METHOD OF FINALISATION

Of the 13,500 federal defendants finalised during 2016–17:
  • Around three-quarters (74% or 10,003) had their matter(s) adjudicated, of which 97% (9,706) were proven guilty;
  • 20% (2,653) had their charges withdrawn by the prosecution;
  • 6% (821) were transferred to another court level; and
  • 2% (297) were acquitted by the court. (Table 1)


PRINCIPAL FEDERAL OFFENCE (ANZSOC)

In 2016–17, the most common principal federal offences were:
  • Harassment and threatening behaviour (29%, or 3,951 defendants);
  • Offences against government operations n.e.c. (25%, or 3,420 defendants); and
  • Obtain benefit by deception (11%, or 1,429 defendants). (Table 1)

Between 2015–16 and 2016–17, the largest percentage increases in the number of federal defendants finalised occurred for:
  • Offences against government operations, n.e.c., up 38% (948);
  • Non-assaultive sexual offences, up 33% (162); and
  • Import or export illicit drugs, up 29% (118). (Table 1)
    Graph Image for FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED, Selected principal federal offences, 2015-16 to 2016-17

    Source(s): Federal Defendants, Australia


    Abduction and harassment

    There were 3,957 defendants finalised for Abduction and harassment offences in 2016–17, an increase of 12% (412) on the previous year. The increase was driven by an 11% rise (406 defendants) in Harassment and threatening behaviour. This particular offence made up nearly 100% of Abduction and harassment offences and has been steadily increasing over time, more than doubling since 2010–11. (Table 1)

    In 2016–17, the majority of federal defendants finalised for Harassment and threatening behaviour were classified to the ‘Communications’ Federal Offence Group, which indicates that these are largely related to offences committed via a computer, postal service or telecommunications device.

    Of the 3,951 defendants with a principal federal offence of Harassment and threatening behaviour in 2016–17:
    • 82% (3,256) were male;
    • Approximately two-thirds (68% or 2,670) were proven guilty; and
    • Of those finalised as guilty, 84% (2,242) were given non-custodial sentences. (Tables 2 and 4)

    Image showing characteristics of Harassment and threatening behaviour


    Offences against justice

    There were 3,796 defendants finalised for Offences against justice in 2016–17, an increase of 36% (1,010) on the previous year. The majority of the increase was due to a 38% rise (948 defendants) in Offences against government operations, n.e.c. This offence category, which includes failure to vote offences, made up 90% (3,420) of all Offences against justice. The Australian federal election held in July 2016 may account for the increase in failure to vote offences during 2016–17. (Table 1)

    Of the 3,420 defendants finalised for Offences against government operations n.e.c. in 2016–17:
    • Just under two-thirds (64% or 2,175) were male;
    • Almost nine in ten (88% or 3,024) were proven guilty; and
    • Of those proven guilty, 90% (2,726) were sentenced to monetary orders (including fines for failure to vote notices). (Tables 2 and 4)

    Image showing characteristics of Offences against government operations n.e.c.


    Fraud and deception

    There were 1,968 defendants finalised for Fraud and deception offences in 2016–17, a decrease of less than one per cent on the previous year. This ANZSOC category comprised 15% (1,968) of all federal defendants finalised. (Table 1)

    Just under three-quarters of these defendants (73%, or 1,429) had a principal federal offence of Obtain benefit by deception, of which:
    • 54% (766) were female;
    • Approximately four in five (83% or 1,193) were proven guilty; and
    • Of those proven guilty, 37% (442) were sentenced to a monetary order. (Tables 2 and 4)

    Obtain benefit by deception was the only offence where the proportion of female defendants was greater than for males. (Table 2)

    Image showing characteristics of Obtain benefit by deception


    Sexual assault and related offences

    There were 650 defendants finalised for Sexual assault and related offences in 2016–17, an increase of 30% (151 defendants) on the previous year. The increase was driven by a 33% rise in Non-assaultive sexual offences (162 defendants), which includes Child pornography offences (up 29% or 97 defendants). (Table 1)

    Of the 648 defendants with a principal federal offence of Non-assaultive sexual offences in 2016–17:
    • Almost all (98% or 634) were male;
    • Less than half (44% or 285) were proven guilty (due to a higher proportion of transfers to other court levels for this offence (see Explanatory Notes paragraph 37)); and
    • Of those proven guilty, almost half (45% or 129) were sentenced to custody in a correctional institution. (Tables 2 and 4)

    Illicit drug offences

    In 2016–17, there were 628 defendants finalised for Illicit drug offences, an increase of 20% (105) on the previous year. The increase was driven by a 29% rise (118 defendants) in Import or export illicit drug offences. (Table 1)

    There were 521 defendants finalised for Import or export illicit drugs offences in 2016–17, of which:
    • 88% (456) were male;
    • 39% (205) were proven guilty (due to a higher proportion of transfers to other court levels for this offence (see Explanatory Notes paragraph 37); and
    • Three-quarters of those proven guilty were sentenced to custody in a correctional institution (76% or 156). (Tables 2 and 4)


    SEX AND AGE

    Almost three-quarters of federal defendants finalised during 2016–17 were male (73%, or 9,816), 22% (3,025) were female and 4% (559) were organisations. (Table 1)

    Graph Image for PROPORTION OF FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED, Sex, 2015-16 to 2016-17

    Source(s): Federal Defendants, Australia


    In 2016–17, the most common principal offence for males was Harassment and threatening behaviour (33% or 3,256 defendants), and for females, Fraud and deception (30% or 920 defendants). (Table 2)

    The median age of federal defendants remained stable at 38 years. (Table 1)


    SENTENCE TYPE

    Of the 9,706 federal defendants proven guilty in 2016–17:
    • 83% (8,094) received a non-custodial sentence – an increase of 8% (578) since 2015–16; and
    • 17% (1,614) received custodial sentences – an increase of 12% (179). (Table 1)

    The majority of non-custodial orders (66%, or 5,316) were monetary orders, which are inclusive of fines issued for failure to vote offences. (Table 1)

    Of the 1,614 defendants sentenced to a custodial order during 2016–17, almost two-thirds (64% or 1,029) were sentenced to custody in a correctional institution, whilst 28% (445) were given fully suspended sentences. (Table 1)

    Non-custodial orders were the most common sentence type for most offences, with the exception of Illicit drugs and Sexual assault and related offences, for which custodial orders were more common (82% or 223; and 59% or 172 respectively). (Table 4)


    STATES AND TERRITORIES

    Between 2015–16 and 2016–17, all states and territories recorded increases in federal defendants finalised, with the exception of Victoria, which decreased by 8% (313 defendants). (Table 3)

    The largest percentage increases in federal defendants finalised were:
    • The Australian Capital Territory – up by 46% (248 defendants);
    • Western Australia – up by 41% (389 defendants); and
    • New South Wales – up by 19% (726 defendants). (Table 3)

    Graph Image for FEDERAL DEFENDANTS FINALISED, States and territories, 2015-16 to 2016-17

    Source(s): Federal Defendants, Australia


    The decrease in Victoria was mainly driven by a 67% reduction (596 defendants) in Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences which largely relate to parking offences at the airport (refer to Explanatory Notes paragraph 57). (Table 3)

    In contrast, an increase of 56% (196 defendants) for Traffic and vehicle regulatory offences in the Australian Capital Territory drove the increase in the number of defendants finalised. These offences largely related to parking offences at the Australian National University. (Table 3)

    The increases in New South Wales and Western Australia during 2016–17 can largely be attributed to a rise in the number of federal defendants finalised for Offences against justice (57% or 357 and 74% or 376 respectively), which include failure to vote offences (legislated under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918). Both federal and state elections were held during the reference period. (Table 3)

    Across the states and territories:
    • Western Australia had the highest proportion of federal defendants (85% or 1,123) who were proven guilty, while the Australian Capital Territory had the lowest (51% or 400 defendants);
    • The Northern Territory had the highest proportion of federal defendants proven guilty who were sentenced to custodial orders (72% or 149); and
    • Western Australia had the highest proportion of federal defendants proven guilty who were sentenced to non-custodial orders (94% or 1,059). (Table 3)