Sentencing trends for 2005–06 to 2019–20

Our interactive graphs for 2005-06 to 2019-20 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

In 2019–20, there were 110,657 cases sentenced in Queensland's criminal courts. The majority of these were sentenced in the Magistrates Courts (94.5%).

The number of cases sentenced in the Magistrates Courts decreased by 23.1 per cent in 2019–20—from 135,954 cases in 2018–19 to 104,611 in 2019–20. Much of this can be attributed to reduced court sittings as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.

Over the same period, the number of sentenced cases in the higher courts decreased slightly—from 5,006 to 4,857 cases in the District Court (-3.0%), and from 1,206 to 1,189 cases in the Supreme Court (-1.4%).

Types of offences sentenced over time

The chart below shows the types of offences sentenced over the past 15 years.

For adults sentenced in the higher courts, drug offences continue to be the most common type of offence sentenced.

Justice and government offences (such as contravening the direction of a police officer, breach of bail, or contravention of a domestic violence order) are the second most common type of offence, overtaking acts intended to cause injury offences (such as common assault, or assaults occasioning bodily harm) in 2019–20.

In the Magistrates Courts, all offences trended downwards presumably a reflection of a  combination of factors relating to the COVID-19 pandemic (for example, the work patterns and responsibilities of police changed over the period due to new responsibilities such as policing border restrictions. This may have led to fewer charges being laid by police. In addition, restrictions on court sittings were implemented in response to COVID-19, meaning there was a smaller number of cases being prosecuted and sentenced over the period).

For young people sentenced in the higher courts, there has been a considerable increase in the number of robbery cases sentenced in the past year. Robbery offences in the higher courts increased from 313 cases in 2018–19 to 396 cases in 2019–20 (26.5%). As with adult offenders, the number of young people sentenced in the Magistrates Courts trended downwards across all offence categories.

Number of penalties given over time

The chart below shows the penalties that have been issued in Queensland's criminal courts over the past 15 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 remained unchanged from the previous year.

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 considerably in 2019–20, possibly suggesting that less serious cases were not being charged or heard due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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 in 2019–20.

Court ordered conferences saw a dramatic increase in the higher courts, rising to be the third most common type of penalty issued in those courts.

In the Magistrates Courts, most penalties decreased in 2019–20, except for court ordered conferences which saw a slight increase.

Notes

Offenders refers to a unique count of individuals sentenced in each financial year. A unique count for the 2019–20 financial year is not yet available.

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.