Sentencing trends for 2005–06 to 2018–19

Our interactive graphs for 2005-06 to 2018-19 show trends for:

Key statistics are included with each graph.

Have a look at our notes for more information.

Tap or hover on any chart for more information.

Number of sentencing events by level of court

Over the past 14 years, Queensland's criminal courts have sentenced 2,218,783 cases. The majority of these were sentenced in the Magistrates Courts (96.8%).

The number of cases sentenced in the Magistrates Courts decreased by 18.9 per cent in the last four years—from 167,627 cases in 2015–16 to 135,951 in 2018–19.

Over the same period, the number of sentenced cases in the higher courts increased considerably—from 3,684 to 5,004 cases in the District Court (35.8%), and from 757 to 1,206 cases in the Supreme Court (59.3%).

Types of offences sentenced over time

The chart below shows the types of offences sentenced over the past 14 years.

For adults sentenced in the higher courts, the most common types of offences sentenced were drug offences (such as possessing dangerous drugs)—which have increased considerably over the past few years. In the Magistrates Courts, traffic and vehicle offences were the most common and either involved driving without a licence, or vehicle offences involving alcohol or other drugs.

For children sentenced in the higher courts, there has been a considerable increase in the number of cases sentenced in the past year. Robbery offences in the higher courts almost doubled in one year—from 164 to 313 cases. Offences such as theft, acts intended to cause injury, and unlawful entry all saw increases in the past 12 months.

In the Magistrates Courts where the majority of cases are sentenced, there has been a steady increase in the number of children sentenced for theft over the 14-year data period.

Number of penalties given over time

The chart below shows the most serious penalties that have been imposed by Queensland's criminal courts over the past 14 years. This data refers to the most serious penalty that is imposed on an offender at court on a particular day.

In the higher courts, where the most serious offences (MSO) are sentenced, the most common penalty imposed on adults was imprisonment. The number of imprisonment sentences more than doubled over the past 14-years—from 1,389 cases in 2005–06 to 3,200 in 2018–19 (MSO).

In the Magistrates Courts the most common penalty imposed on adults was a monetary order, such as a fine, compensation, or restitution order. The number of monetary penalties decreased over the past 14-years—from 109,378 cases in 2005–06 to 88,265 in 2018–19 (MSO).

Sentencing laws are different for children, who are sentenced under the Youth Justice Act 1992 (Qld). The most common sentence imposed on children in the higher courts was probation. Probation orders increased considerably over the past four years—from 106 orders in 2015–16 to 283 in 2018–19.

In the Magistrates Courts, the most common penalty was a reprimand—where the court decides to give a formal warning to the child. A wide range of penalties are issued to children in the lower courts, including court ordered conferences, probation orders, good behaviour orders, and community service orders.


Offenders refers to a unique count of individuals sentenced in each financial year.

Cases refers to the number of final court appearances in which a final sentence was imposed for one or more offences. A single offender may appear in multiple cases over the reporting period.

Offences are proven charges that resulted in a penalty being imposed. In each case, one offence per event is flagged as the MSO.

Offences are classified according to the Australian Standard Offence Classification - Queensland Extension (QASOC). For more information on this classification scheme, visit the Queensland Government Statistician's Office website.

The MSO is the most serious offence sentenced in a case. It is the offence which received the most serious penalty, as ranked by the Sentence Type Classification used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) - see Criminal Courts, Australia, 2018-19, Appendix 3.

The data reported on this webpage excludes:

action taken on breach of a suspended sentence

penalties that are orders for disqualification from holding or obtaining a driver licence

cases that did not result in a sentence - for example charges which were withdrawn by the prosecution, dismissed, or where the defendant was found not guilty.

A young person is defined as a person whose MSO resulted in a penalty imposed under the Youth Justice Act 1992 (Qld). In Queensland, from 12 February 2018, a person who offends while under the age of 17 years is considered a child. Prior to this date, those aged under 16 years were sentenced as children. Any child under the age of 10 years at the time of the offence is not considered to be legally responsible for criminal behaviour.

Data source

This webpage uses data that has been collected from administrative information systems used by the Department of Justice and Attorney-General. The Queensland Government Statistician’s Office, Queensland Treasury provides access to the Courts Database.

The information presented on this webpage may vary from data published elsewhere due to differences in the dates data were extracted or in the counting rules applied. The data on this webpage was extracted from the Courts Database in August 2020.