SACStat Technical Notes

Sentencing Advisory Council Statistics Online (SACStat) provides data on offences sentenced in the Magistrates' Court and higher courts (the County Court and Supreme Court) of Victoria. SACStat data is organised by legislation and offence name and includes information on:

  • sentence types imposed for the offence
  • sentence lengths
  • age groups of offenders
  • gender of offenders.

Versions

This is the seventh version of SACStat. Previous versions that incorporated both Magistrates’ Court data and higher court data were released on 1 August 2017, 31 March 2016, 21 May 2015 and 23 October 2014. Previous versions that incorporated Magistrates’ Court data only were released on 12 June 2013 and 2 October 2012.

Go to Magistrates' Court Data

Higher Courts Data

Scope

SACStat includes higher courts data on criminal offences sentenced in the County Court of Victoria and the Supreme Court of Victoria, incorporating decisions of the Court of Appeal as at the end of June 2018.

Reference Period

Higher courts data incorporates criminal cases with proven charges finalised in the County Court and the Supreme Court in the five years to June 2018.

Data Source

The Sentencing Advisory Council obtains higher courts data from Court Services Victoria's conviction returns database. The Court of Appeal provides notifications on appeal decisions, which the Council then codes into a usable data format. The Sentencing Advisory Council also collects appeal decisions from the Australasian Legal Information Institute, which the Council also codes into a usable data format.

Sentence Appeals

SACStat higher courts data incorporates changes to convictions or sentences made on appeal to 30 June 2018.

Exclusions

The higher courts data excludes:

  • custodial supervision orders, non-custodial supervision orders and unconditional release imposed under the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act 1997 (Vic) pt 5 s 23 (the accused is not guilty because of mental impairment)
  • criminal offences sentenced in the Magistrates' Court of Victoria and the Children's Court of Victoria
  • sentences imposed in the higher courts for breach of a sentence
  • sentences imposed in the County Court following a successful sentence appeal from the Magistrates' Court
  • offences with fewer than 10 charges or cases sentenced across the five-year reference period.

Accuracy

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

Data Updates

2019 Data Update

The 2019 data update incorporates an automated offence summary for offences that have more than 10 charges and cases receiving imprisonment.

The 2019 data update adds a ‘(repealed)’ label to the offence description for any repealed offences that the Sentencing Advisory Council is aware of. Some offenders may continue to be charged with repealed offences, depending on the date they committed their offence.

2017 Data Update

The Sentencing Advisory Council collected appeals data from July 2011 to December 2016. Data on sentencing outcomes therefore accounted for appeals determined as at 31 December 2016.

The 2017 data update excluded percentiles (10th, 25th, 75th and 90th) relating to sentence lengths and fine amounts in summary statistics beneath each graph. This was due to the distorting effect of non-numeric values (such as life sentences and no non-parole periods) on percentiles where the data had fewer than 10 numeric values. Other summary statistics, including the median, minimum and maximum, were unaffected and were retained in the 2017 data update.

2016 Data Update

The 2016 update took into account appeals determined and published during the reference period (July 2010 to June 2015).

Counting Methodology

charge is a single count of an offence. A case is a collection of one or more charges sentenced at the same hearing.

The Sentencing Advisory Council uses two counting methods for offences sentenced in the higher courts: all proven offences and principal proven offences.

The all proven offences counting rule gives one count for each proven charge in a case, regardless of the number of charges within a case. The offence and sentence associated with each proven charge is included in the overall counts of offences and sentences.

The principal proven offence counting rule counts only one charge within a case: the charge that is the principal proven offence. The principal proven offence is the offence that received the most severe sentence within a case (sometimes referred to as the ‘base sentence’ in sentencing remarks). In cases in which more than one offence received the most severe sentence, the principal offence is the offence ranked most serious on the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Offence Index.

Counting a case only once by its principal proven offence allows meaningful analysis of case-level data, such as the total effective sentence imposed on a case, and of offender data, such as gender and age.

Offence Classification

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

The Sentencing Advisory Council conducts regular quality assurance exercises for four offence categories:

  • sexual penetration with a child
  • incest
  • trafficking in a drug of dependence
  • cultivating a drug of dependence.

The specific offences within these categories are not always recorded in the original sentencing data.

To verify offences in these four categories, the Sentencing Advisory Council compares the offence description for each charge in the sentencing database against the offence description in the sentencing remarks. If a discrepancy between the two sources is found, the Sentencing Advisory Council uses the information provided in the remarks.

If the precise offence cannot be verified in the remarks, the Sentencing Advisory Council uses the offence stated in the sentencing database to describe offences of incest, trafficking in a drug of dependence and cultivating a drug of dependence. However, the Sentencing Advisory Council categorises unverified charges of sexual penetration with a child under 16 into a generic category: sexual penetration with a child under 16 (not further defined). As a result, data presented in SACStat is likely to underestimate the total charges of sexual penetration with a child aged 10/12 to 16, sexual penetration with a child aged under 10/12 and sexual penetration with a child aged 10/12 to 16 and under the care, supervision or authority of the offender.

Sentencing remarks are unavailable for a small number of cases each year.

Sentence Type

Higher courts data has the following sentence types:

  • imprisonment
  • partially suspended sentence (includes partially suspended sentence with recognizance release order for federal offences)
  • wholly suspended sentence (includes wholly suspended sentence with recognizance release order for federal offences)
  • youth justice centre order
  • community correction order
  • intensive correction order
  • community-based order
  • fine
  • adjourned undertaking/discharge/dismissal
  • other

The ‘other’ category comprises a number of infrequently used sentence types, including good behaviour bond, hospital security order, court secure treatment order, probation, recognizance release order (for federal offences), residential treatment order, restricted involuntary treatment order (hospital order) and youth supervision order.

Mixed and Aggregate Sentences

Courts may impose multiple sentence types on a charge. Only the most severe sentence type for the charge is counted in SACStat. For example, if a charge receives imprisonment combined with a fine, only imprisonment is counted.

Courts may impose an aggregate sentence on charges within a case. Aggregate sentences impose a single value (such as a term of imprisonment or a fine amount) on multiple charges within a case. It is therefore impossible to determine the specific sentence for a single charge. These charges are not counted in SACStat for the charge-level sentence lengths or monetary values (for fines) for the affected offences. Aggregate sentences are included in the count of sentence types for each offence, and as part of the total effective sentence for case-level outcomes.

Sentence Length and Fine Amount

Sentence lengths are described according to the following measures:

  • imprisonment: sentence length in years
  • non-parole period: non-parole period in years (only for cases)
  • community correction order, community-based order, intensive correction order, wholly suspended sentence and youth justice centre order: sentence length in years
  • partially suspended sentence: part to serve in years (for cases), sentence length in years (for charges)
  • fine: amount in dollars.

Sentence lengths for cases and charges are given in groups of one year (e.g. '0 < 1 yrs', '1 < 2 yrs', '2 < 3 yrs', '3 < 4 yrs', '4 < 5 yrs' etc.)

Fine amounts imposed on cases and charges are presented in increments of thousands and tens of thousands of dollars.

Summary statistics use the common statistical measures of the minimum, median and maximum. Life sentences and sentences where the court has not fixed a non-parole period are excluded from the summary statistics of sentence length and non-parole periods, respectively.

Age of the Offender

The age of the offender at the time of sentencing is grouped into eight categories:

  • Not stated
  • Company (a business or undertaking that has a legal personality separate from its members)
  • Aged 55+ years
  • Aged 45–54 years
  • Aged 35–44 years
  • Aged 25–34 years
  • Aged 20–24 years
  • Aged < 20 years

Gender of the Offender

The gender of the offender is grouped into three categories:

  • Company (a business or undertaking that has a legal personality separate from its members)
  • Female
  • Male

Data on non-binary gender categories is not currently available.

Magistrates' Court Data

Scope

SACStat includes data on criminal offences sentenced in the Magistrates' Court of Victoria.

Reference Period

Magistrates' Court data incorporates criminal cases with proven charges sentenced in the Magistrates' Court in the three years to 30 June 2016.

Data Source

The Magistrates Court of Victoria regularly provides the Sentencing Advisory Council with data from their administrative system. The Sentencing Advisory Council cleans the raw data for publication on SACStat.

Exclusions

The Magistrates' Court data excludes:

  • criminal offences sentenced in the Children's Court, the County Court and the Supreme Court of Victoria
  • sentences imposed in the Magistrates' Court for breach of a sentence
  • changes to sentences resulting from a successful appeal to the County Court
  • local law offences
  • Commonwealth offences
  • cases in which the principal offence is a Commonwealth offence
  • cases in which the person successfully completes a criminal justice diversion program
  • offences with fewer than 40 proven charges across the three-year period.

Accuracy

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

Data Updates

2019 Data Update

The 2019 data update includes an automated offence summary for all Magistrates’ Court offences on SACStat.

2016 Data Update

In the original data, a small number of cases appeared to have had a longer non-parole period than total effective imprisonment term. These non-parole periods related to new cases for offenders already serving a sentence of imprisonment. To address this anomaly, the Sentencing Advisory Council defined such new non-parole periods as no non-parole period for presentation in SACStat.

2014 Data Update

Commonwealth offences heard in the Magistrates’ Court were excluded from SACStat.

Counting Methodology

charge is a single count of an offence. A case is a collection of one or more charges sentenced at the same hearing.

The Sentencing Advisory Council uses two counting rules for offences sentenced in the Magistrates’ Court: all offences and all cases.

The all offences counting rule gives one count for each charge in a case, regardless of the number of charges within a case. The offence and sentence associated with each charge are included in the data for the relevant offence. Data on principal offences is not included for offences heard in the Magistrates' Court.

The all cases counting rule gives one count for each offence within a case, regardless of the number of charges of the offence or the number of offences. 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 they have.

Counting a case once avoids double-counting of cases within an offence type. Further, it allows for meaningful analysis of offender characteristics, such as gender and age comparisons, within an offence.

Charge-Level Data

Magistrates' Court data for charges of an offence incorporates:

  • the number of charges
  • the sentence types imposed on charges
  • the sentence lengths or fine amounts imposed on charges.

Case-Level Data

The Magistrates' Court data for cases incorporates:

  • the number of cases that have at least one charge of the offence
  • the age and gender of offenders
  • the sentence type
  • the total effective sentence length, including the non-parole period, for sentences of imprisonment
  • the total effective sentence length and part to serve for partially suspended sentences.

Case-level data on sentence lengths for non-imprisonment sentences is not available.

If multiple charges are sentenced with different sentence types within a case, the sentence type for the case as a whole (the total effective sentence) is the most serious sentence of those imposed on all charges in the case.

For example, a case includes charges of causing injury intentionally, unlawful assault and possess a drug of addiction, but only the charge of causing injury intentionally receives a term of imprisonment. Nonetheless, imprisonment is still counted as a sentence type for cases of unlawful assault and possess a drug of addiction, even though neither charge received imprisonment.

Reliability of Case-Level Sentencing Outcomes

Case-level data for the Magistrates' Court needs to be treated with caution for some offences. The offence may not have contributed substantially, or at all, to the total effective sentence. For example, a case with one charge of aggravated burglary receives two years' imprisonment and one charge of public nuisance receives a fine, resulting in a total effective sentence of two years' imprisonment. The case (and its total effective sentence) is counted under public nuisance as well as aggravated burglary, even though the public nuisance offence does not contribute to the total effective sentence.

Charge-level sentence data is more reliable than case-level sentence data in providing an accurate picture of sentencing outcomes for an offence.

Sentence Type

The sentence type that an offender receives for an offence provides a framework for classifying sentences for statistical purposes.

Magistrates' Court data incorporates the following sentence types:

  • imprisonment
  • partially suspended sentence
  • wholly suspended sentence
  • youth justice centre order
  • community correction order
  • community-based order
  • fine
  • adjourned undertaking/discharge/dismissal
  • other.

SACStat replicates the sentence types in the underlying data, with two exceptions:

  1. adjourned undertaking, dismissal and discharge are grouped under adjourned undertaking/discharge/dismissal
  2. drug treatment order is recorded as other.

Mixed and Aggregate Sentences

Courts may impose multiple sentence types on a single charge. Only the most severe sentence type for the charge is counted in SACStat. For example, if a charge receives imprisonment and a fine, only imprisonment is counted.

Courts may impose an aggregate sentence on charges within a case. Aggregate sentences impose a single value (such as a term of imprisonment or a fine amount) on multiple charges within a case. It is therefore impossible to determine the specific sentence for a single charge. These charges are counted separately in SACStat for the charge-level sentence lengths or monetary values (for fines) for the affected offences. Aggregate sentences are included in the count of sentence types for each offence, and as part of the total effective sentence for case-level outcomes.

Sentence Length and Fine Amount

For cases in the Magistrates' Court, sentence types are described according to the following measures:

  • imprisonment, partially suspended sentence and wholly suspended sentence: total effective sentence length in months
  • non-parole period: non-parole period in months.

For charges in the Magistrates' Court, sentence types are described as length in months and amount in dollars for fines.

Sentence lengths for cases and charges are given in groups of 3, 6 and 12 months (e.g. '< 3 mths', '3 < 6 mths', '6 < 12 mths', '12 < 18 mths', '18 < 24 mths', '24 < 36 mths', '36+ mths').

Age of the Offender

Age relates to the age of offenders at sentence.

The age of the offender in years is grouped into six categories:

  • Age 18–19
  • Age 20–24
  • Age 25–34
  • Age 35–44
  • Age 45–54
  • Age 55+.

The age of the offender is not indicated for a very small percentage of cases in the original data extract. These people are not included in the age group graphs and tables. Consequently, the sum of the totals for each age group does not necessarily equal the total number of cases for some offences.

Gender of the Offender

The gender of the offender is grouped into two categories:

  • Males
  • Females.

The gender of the offender is not indicated for a very small percentage of cases in the original data extract. These people are not included in the gender graphs and tables. Consequently, the sum of the totals for each gender group does not necessarily equal the total number of cases for some offences.

Data on non-binary gender categories is not currently available.

Last update 10 May 2019 © Sentencing Advisory Council, State of Victoria, 2019

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