Sentencing trends for 2005–06 to 2019–20
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Number of sentencing events by level of court
In 2019–20, 110,657 cases were sentenced in Queensland's criminal courts, with 94.5% of these sentenced in the Magistrates Courts.
Impact of COVID-19 on data
It is important to consider how COVID-19 affected this data. Pandemic restrictions meant there were fewer court sentencing hearings which led to fewer cases being prosecuted and sentenced. The number of cases sentenced in the Magistrates Courts decreased by 23.1% in 2019–20 (from 135,954 cases in 2018–19 to 104,611 in 2019–20).
Over the same period, the number of sentenced cases decreased by 3% in the District Court (from 5,006 to 4,857 cases), and 1.4% in the Supreme Court (from 1,206 to 1,189 cases).
Types of offences sentenced over time
For adults sentenced in the higher courts, drug offences continued 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) were 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 downward.
For children sentenced in the higher courts, there was a considerable increase in the number of robbery cases sentenced. Robbery offences in the higher courts increased by 26.5% (from 313 cases in 2018–19 to 396 cases in 2019–20).
Like with adult offenders, the number of children sentenced in the Magistrates Courts also trended downwards across all offence categories.
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 remained unchanged from the previous year.
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 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). Probation was the most common sentence imposed on children in the higher courts and increased considerably in 2019–20.
Court ordered conferences (see definition below) had a considerable increase and rose 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 increased slightly.
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 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, 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.