About the data

Court Services Victoria provides us with the data in SACStat. Higher courts data comes from their conviction returns database, and Magistrates' Court data comes from the Courtlink administrative system.

The Court of Appeal also provides notifications on appeal decisions from the higher courts, and we review appeal decisions from the higher courts published on AustLII (the Australasian Legal Information Institute). Higher courts data currently incorporates decisions made by the Court of Appeal as at 30 December 2022.

What data is included in SACStat?

Sentence types (higher courts)

Higher courts case data includes imprisonment (without a community correction order), imprisonment with a community correction order (often referred to as a 'combined order'), community correction orders, fines, youth justice centre orders, and other outcomes. Higher courts charge data uses the same sentence types, except imprisonment with and without a community correction order are reported together as 'imprisonment'.

In the higher courts, the 'other' category comprises infrequently used sentence types, including adjourned undertakings, discharges, dismissals, court secure treatment orders, probation, recognizance release orders (for federal offences), residential treatment orders and suspended sentences.

Sentence types (Magistrates' Court)

Magistrates' Court case data includes imprisonment (without a community correction order), imprisonment with a community correction order (often referred to as a 'combined order'), community correction orders, fines, adjourned undertakings, discharges/dismissals, and other outcomes. Magistrates' Court charge data uses the same sentence types, except imprisonment with and without a community correction order are reported together as 'imprisonment'.

In the Magistrates' Court, the 'other' category comprises infrequently used sentence types, including drug and alcohol treatment orders and suspended sentences.

Aggregate sentences

Courts may impose an aggregate sentence on multiple charges in a case (a single value, such as a term of imprisonment or fine amount, covering multiple offences). It is not possible to determine the specific contribution of each offence to an aggregate sentence. As such, charge-level data in both the Magistrates' Court and higher courts does not include aggregate sentence values. Conversely, aggregate sentences do not affect case-level sentencing data, so they are included there.

Age

In the higher courts, the age of the offender at the time of sentencing is grouped into five categories: not stated, company, aged < 25 years, aged 25-54 years, and aged 55+. In the Magistrates' Court, the age of the offender at the time of sentencing is grouped into the following three categories: aged 18-24, aged 25-54 and aged 55+.

The age of the offender is not indicated in the source data for a small percentage of cases.

Gender

In the higher courts, the gender of the offender is grouped into three categories: company, female and male. In the Magistrates' Court, the gender of the offender is grouped into two categories: female and male. Data on non-binary gender categories is not currently available in the source data.

The gender of the offender is not indicated in the source data for a small percentage of cases.

What data is not included in SACStat?

In the higher courts, SACStat does not include data on sentences imposed in the County Court following a sentence appeal from the Magistrates' Court. It also does not include custodial or non-custodial supervision orders for people who have been found not guilty because of mental impairment or found guilty at a special hearing, and unconditional release orders under the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act 1997 (Vic).

In the Magistrates' Court, SACStat does not include data on sentences imposed in the Children's Court, changes to sentences resulting from a sentence appeal to the County Court, local law offences, Commonwealth offences, cases in which the principal offence is a Commonwealth offence, or charges that received a criminal justice diversion program.

Does SACStat include data on repealed, revoked or abolished offences?

Yes. Some offenders may continue to be sentenced for repealed, revoked or abolished offences, depending on the date of their offending. The labels '(repealed)', '(revoked)' or '(abolished)' have been added to offence descriptions for historical offences. 'Repealed' offences refer to historical offences from legislative Acts, 'revoked' offences refer to historical offences from statutory regulations and 'abolished' offences refer to historical offences from the common law.

Key counting rules

The Council uses two counting methods for offences sentenced in the higher courts:

  • For charge data, the all proven offence counting rule counts all proven charges of a particular offence, not just those where the crime is the principal proven offence in the case. This counting rule is useful for understanding how a particular offence is usually sentenced.
  • For case data, the principal proven offence counting rule counts just one charge per case, the offence that received the most severe sentence within a case (or, if multiple offences received an equally severe sentence, the most serious offence according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics' National Offence Index). This counting rule is useful for understanding how people sentenced for their most serious offence are usually sentenced.

The Council also uses two counting rules for offences sentenced in the Magistrates' Court:

  • For charge data, the all proven offence counting rule again counts all proven charges of a particular offence, not just those where the crime is the principal proven offence in the case. This counting rule is useful for understanding how a particular offence is usually sentenced.
  • For case data, the all cases counting rule also counts just one charge per case, but the offence does not need to be the principal proven offence for the case to be included. Consequently, a case with multiple charges of only one offence type is counted once. A case with charges of multiple offence types is counted once for each relevant offence type.

The all cases counting rule means that Magistrates' Court case-level data needs to be treated with caution. The relevant offence may not have contributed substantially, or at all, to the principal sentence imposed in the case. This is because if multiple charges receive different sentence types within a case, the most serious sentence imposed in the case is recorded as the case-level sentence. For example, a case may include charges of causing injury intentionally, unlawful assault and possessing a drug of dependence, but only the charge of causing injury intentionally receives a term of imprisonment. Nonetheless, imprisonment will be counted as a sentence type for cases within the offences of unlawful assault and possessing a drug of dependence, even though neither offence received imprisonment.

Offence classification

Offences are classified by their statutory reference and charge description in the SACStat data.

The Council conducts regular quality assurance exercises for four offence categories: sexual penetration of a child, incest, trafficking in a drug of dependence, and cultivating a drug of dependence. The specific offences within these categories are not always available in the original sentencing data. To verify the offences in these four categories, the Council reviews higher court sentencing remarks. If for whatever reason it is not possible to verify the specific offence using sentencing remarks (in a small number of cases), the Council will either use the offence stated in the data (if there is one) or classify unverified charges into a generic category (e.g. sexual penetration of a child under 16 (not further defined)).

Accuracy

While every effort is made to ensure that the data is accurate and complete, irregularities may sometimes occur. The data is therefore subject to revision.

Charge-level sentences that exceed the maximum penalty

SACStat shows a small number of charge-level sentences that exceed the maximum penalty for an offence. For example, in the Magistrates' Court, the offence of commit an indictable offence while on bail had 29 charges that appeared to exceed the maximum penalty of 3 months' imprisonment. The 29 charges represent 1.8% of the 1,577 charges where a non-aggregate sentence of imprisonment was imposed in the 3 years to June 2023. These charges are most likely part of an aggregate sentence but were not identified as such in the Courtlink administrative system.

Updates to SACStat data

Higher courts data is updated yearly. Higher courts updates were released on 30 November 2023, 5 July 2022, 21 July 2021, 28 October 2020, 10 May 2019, 1 August 2017, 31 March 2016, 21 May 2015 and 23 October 2014.

Magistrates' Court data is updated every two years. Magistrates' Court updates were released on 4 April 2024, 24 May 2022, 31 October 2019, 1 August 2017, 23 October 2014, 12 June 2013 and 2 October 2012.