SACStat Technical Notes

Sentencing Advisory Council Statistics (SACStat) provides data on offences sentenced in the Magistrates' Court and higher courts (the County Court and the 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 or fine amounts
  • age groups of offenders
  • gender of offenders.

Versions

This is the tenth release of SACStat. This release updates higher courts data only. Previous updates to higher courts data were released on 28 October 2020, 10 May 2019, 1 August 2017, 31 March 2016, 21 May 2015 and 23 October 2014.

The current version of Magistrates’ Court data on SACStat was released on 31 October 2019. Previous updates to Magistrates’ Court data were released on 1 August 2017, 23 October 2014, 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 2020.

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 2020.

Data Sources

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 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 2020.

Exclusions

The higher courts data excludes:

  • custodial supervision orders, non-custodial supervision orders and unconditional release orders imposed under the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act 1997 (Vic) pt 3 s 18(4) (the accused committed the offence charged or an offence available as an alternative) or pt 4 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 previous sentence
  • sentences imposed in the County Court following a successful sentence appeal from the Magistrates' Court
  • charges for offences with fewer than 10 charges sentenced during the five-year reference period
  • cases for offences with fewer than 10 cases sentenced during the five-year reference period.

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.

Repealed, Revoked or Abolished Offences

The label ‘(repealed)’, ‘(revoked)’ or ‘(abolished)’ has been added to the offence description for any historical offences that the Sentencing Advisory Council is aware of.

‘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.

Some offenders may continue to be charged with repealed, revoked or abolished offences, depending on the date of their offending.

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. 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 only counts 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 where more than one offence received the most severe sentence, the principal offence is the offence ranked as the 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 details, 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 of a child
  • incest
  • trafficking in a drug of dependence
  • cultivating a drug of dependence.

The specific offences within these categories are not always available 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 relevant 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 of a child under 16 into a generic category: sexual penetration of a child under 16 (not further defined). As a result, data presented in SACStat is likely to underestimate the total charges of sexual penetration of a child aged 12 to 16, sexual penetration of a child aged under 12 and sexual penetration of a child aged 12 to 16 and under care, supervision or authority of the offender.

Sentencing remarks are unavailable for a small number of cases each year for these four offence categories.

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 (includes discharge with recognizance release order for federal offences)
  • other.

The ‘other’ category comprises infrequently used sentence types, including court secure treatment order, probation, recognizance release order (for federal offences) and residential treatment order.

Mixed 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 combined with a fine, only imprisonment is counted.

Aggregate Sentences

Courts may impose an aggregate sentence on charges within a case. An aggregate sentence has a single value (such as a term of imprisonment or a fine amount) that is imposed on multiple charges within a case. It is therefore impossible to determine the specific sentence for a single charge.

Aggregate sentences are:

  • not included in SACStat for the charge-level sentence lengths or monetary values (for fines) for the affected offences
  • 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) and 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 include the minimum, median and maximum of the sentence length, non-parole period or fine amount. The summary statistics for sentence length exclude cases and charges that received a life sentence. The summary statistics for non-parole periods exclude cases where the court has not fixed a non-parole period.

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 < 20 years
  • Aged 20–24 years
  • Aged 25–34 years
  • Aged 35–44 years
  • Aged 45–54 years
  • Aged 55+ 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 2019.

Data Source

Court Services Victoria regularly provides the Sentencing Advisory Council with Magistrates’ Court data from the Courtlink administrative system. The Council prepares the original data into a suitable format 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 previous 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 sometimes occur. The data is therefore subject to revision.

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. The offence and sentence associated with each charge are included in the data for the relevant offence. Data on principal offences is not currently included for offences heard in the Magistrates' Court.

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

Counting a case once for each offence type allows for meaningful analysis of offender characteristics, such as gender and age group, between each of the listed offences.

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
  • the imprisonment part to serve for partially suspended sentences.

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 imposed on the case
  • the total effective sentence length, including the non-parole period, for sentences of imprisonment.

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

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

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 included as a sentence type for cases within the offences of unlawful assault and possessing a drug of dependence, 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.

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

Aggregate Sentences

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. In SACStat, aggregate charges are counted separately from non-aggregate charges for the charge-level sentence lengths or monetary values (for fines) of affected offences. Aggregate sentences are also 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 lengths 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 lengths are described in months for imprisonment, partially suspended sentences, wholly suspended sentences, community correction orders, intensive correction orders and community-based orders, and in dollar amounts 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').

Fine amounts for charges are given in groups such as 'less than $500', '$500 < $1,000', '$1,000 < $2,000', up to '$20,000 or more'.

Age of the Offender

Age relates to the age of offenders at time of sentence.

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

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

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 graphs and tables relating to age. 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 graphs and tables related to gender. Consequently, the sum of the totals for each gender does not necessarily equal the total number of cases for some offences.

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

Last update 21 July 2021 © Sentencing Advisory Council, State of Victoria, 2021

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