Sentencing trends for 2005–06 to 2021–22
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Number of sentencing events by level of court
In 2021–22, Queensland's criminal courts sentenced 114,589 cases, with 94.9% of these sentenced in the Magistrates Courts.
The number of cases sentenced in the Magistrates Courts decreased by 15.8% in 2021–22 (from 129,132 cases in 2020–21 to 108,764 in 2021–22).
Over the same period, the number of cases sentenced in the higher courts increased by 5.7% (from 5,511 to 5,825 cases). In the District Court, cases increased by 7.8% (from 4,341 to 4,680 cases), while in the Supreme Court cases decreased by 2.1% (from 1,170 to 1,145 cases).
Impact of COVID-19 on data
It is important to consider how COVID-19 affected the last 3 years’ worth of data.
In the 2019–20 financial year, pandemic restrictions meant there were fewer court sentencing hearings which led to fewer cases being prosecuted and sentenced.
In 2020–21, sentencing rates increased as courts held more sittings to clear the backlog of cases. This figure declined in 2021–22, possibly signalling a return to pre-pandemic levels.
Types of offences sentenced over time
For adults sentenced in the higher courts, drug offences continue to be the most common type of offence sentenced.
This is followed by acts intended to cause injury (offences like common assault, or assaults occasioning bodily harm), which overtook justice and government offences (such as contravening the direction of a police officer, breach of bail, or contravention of a domestic violence order) in 2020–21.
In the Magistrates Courts, case numbers for almost all types of offences trended downwards.
For children, robbery remains the most common offence sentenced in the higher courts, although this has been decreasing over the past 2 years. Robbery cases decreased by 20.5% (from 396 to 315 cases) between 2019–20 and 2021–22.
Like adult offenders, the number of children sentenced in the Magistrates Courts decreased for most offences, except for theft and unlawful entry offences (which were the most common offences).
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, imprisonment was the most common penalty imposed on adults, although the number of imprisonment sentences decreased by 3% 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. These penalties declined by 18.7% from the previous year, which reflects the lower number of cases sentenced in Magistrates Courts overall for 2021–22.
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 from 258 to 268 cases from 2020–21 to 2021–22.
Court ordered conferences (see definition below) had a considerable increase in the higher courts, rising to be the second most common type of penalty issued in these courts.
In the Magistrates Courts, most penalties decreased slightly in 2021–22, which reflects the lower number of cases sentenced during this time.
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 data from the Courts Database to the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council.
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 September 2022.