Sentencing trends for 2005–06 to 2018–19
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Number of sentencing events by level of court
Queensland's criminal courts have sentenced 2,218,783 cases over the past 14 years, with 96.8% of these sentenced in the Magistrates Courts.
The number of cases sentenced in the Magistrates Courts decreased by 18.9% in the last four years (from 167,627 cases in 2015–16, to 135,951 cases in 2018–19).
Over the same period, the number of sentenced cases in the higher courts increased considerably. In the District Court, cases increased by 35.8% (from 3,684 to 5,004 cases). Cases in the Supreme Court increased by 59.3% (from 757 to 1,206 cases).
Types of offences sentenced over time
For adults sentenced in the higher courts, drug offences (such as possessing dangerous drugs) were the most common types of offences sentenced and have increased considerably over the past few years.
In the Magistrates Courts, traffic and vehicle offences (such as driving without a licence, or vehicle offences involving alcohol or other drugs) were the most common offences sentenced.
For children sentenced in the higher courts, there was a considerable increase in the number of cases sentenced from 2017–18 to 2018–19. Robbery offences in the higher courts almost doubled (from 164 to 313 cases). Offences such as theft, acts intended to cause injury, and unlawful entry also increased in the same year.
In the Magistrates Courts (where the majority of cases are sentenced), there was a steady increase in the number of children sentenced for theft over the 14-year data period.
Number of penalties given over time
This data refers to the most serious penalty imposed on an offender at court on a particular day.
In the higher courts, where the most serious offences are sentenced, imprisonment was the most common penalty imposed on adults. 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).
In the Magistrates Courts, a monetary order (such as a fine, compensation, or restitution order) was the most common penalty imposed on adults. The number of monetary penalties decreased over the past 14-years (from 109,378 cases in 2005–06 to 88,265 in 2018–19).
Sentencing laws are different for children, who are sentenced under the Youth Justice Act 1992 (Qld). Probation was the most common sentence imposed on children in the higher courts. Probation orders increased considerably over the past four years, from 106 orders in 2015–16 to 283 in 2018–19.
In the Magistrates Courts, a reprimand (where the court decides to give a formal warning to the child) was the most common penalty. A wide range of penalties are issued to children in the lower courts, including court ordered conferences (definition below), 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 most serious offence (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.
A child 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 18 years is considered a child. Prior to this date, only those aged under 17 years were sentenced as children, meaning that 17-year-olds were sentenced as adults. Any child under the age of 10 years at the time of the offence is not considered to be legally responsible for criminal behaviour.
Court ordered conference includes restorative justice orders and court diversion referrals.
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, if charges were withdrawn by the prosecution, dismissed, or if the defendant was found not guilty.
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.