Are there too many prosecutions in Queensland?

There were over 184,000 defendants whose cases were finalised in Queensland courts last financial year, compared with around 169,000 in NSW, as reported in the Australian Bureau of Statistics’s Criminal Courts publication released on Thursday. Given NSW’s population is much larger at 7.2 million compared with Queensland’s 4.5 million, this should raise a few eyebrows. The ABS reports on p. 7:

At the state and territory level, Queensland contributed the most to the defendant population with 28% (184,307), followed by New South Wales with 25% (168,758), then Western Australia with 17% (113,199) (Table 1.3).

Here’s the relevant chart:

This raises a question about the efficiency of our criminal justice system. Are we prosecuting too many people for minor offences that would be better dealt with via a fine? According to Table 1.3 on p. 13 of the ABS report, Queensland is a big outlier on public order offences and offences against justice procedures.  There were around 29,400 public order offences dealt with by courts in Queensland compared with 6,500 in NSW and 12,800 in Victoria. Also, there were around 14,700 “offences against justice procedures, government security and operation” in Queensland compared with 6,500 in NSW and 3,400 in Victoria.

Are our police officers highly sensitive souls compared with those in other states? Is Brendan Fevola a victim of this hyper-sensitivity?

Luckily this all doesn’t result in a massively higher rate of incarceration in Queensland, as the bulk of guilty offenders receive non-custodial sentences, and at a much higher rate in Queensland than in NSW and Victoria. Our much larger number of non-custodial sentences (155,900 vs 128,100 in NSW and 73,400 in Victoria) suggests Queensland is dealing with a large number of trivial offences in the courts system.

By the way, at least our criminal justice system appears reasonably effective in terms of the percentage of defendants who receive a guilty verdict, which is the highest in Australia. The ABS reports:

In Queensland 91% of defendants were proven guilty, while in the Australian Capital Territory 65% of defendants were proven guilty.

Around 1% of defendants in Queensland were acquitted, 2% were transferred to another court and 6% had their case withdrawn by the prosecution.

Anyone considering a life of crime would be wise to reconsider. If you get caught, there’s a good chance you will do time.

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