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Adult criminal court statistics

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The Daily

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Adult criminal court cases have become more complex during the last 10 years, as cases involving multiple charges are accounting for a growing share of the total caseload.

Cases involving multiple charges represented 60% of the adult caseload in 2005/2006, compared with 51% a decade earlier.

In turn, this increased case complexity has likely contributed to the longer average time taken to complete a case in adult court. In 2005/2006, cases took 7 months on average to complete, significantly longer than 5 months 10 years earlier.

Not surprisingly, fewer cases are being disposed of in adult criminal court each year, in light of the increased case complexity and duration, as well as a long-term downward trend in police-reported crime statistics.

In 2005/2006, cases disposed of in adult criminal courts were down 11% from a decade earlier.

Of the 373,100 cases completed in 2005/2006, 25% involved crimes against the person, and an additional 24% involved crimes against property, the two largest shares. Administration of justice offences involved 17%, and Criminal Code traffic offences, 14%. The remaining 20% involved other Criminal Code and federal statute offences.

These proportions have remained relatively stable over time, except for administration of justice offences, which include breach of probation and failure to comply with a court order. The share for this offence group has doubled during the past decade.

This increase was offset by declines in the share of property crimes such as breaking and entering, theft and fraud offences, as well as a more significant decline for impaired driving offences.

Two-thirds (66%) of adult cases received a guilty disposition in 2005/2006. About 87% of the accused in these cases had pleaded guilty. The highest share of cases with a finding of guilt (78%) occurred in the Criminal Code traffic offences category. The lowest (53%) occurred in crimes against the person.

Among cases where there was a finding of guilt, probation was the most frequently imposed sanction (44%) in 2005/2006. Imprisonment was imposed in 34% of cases, and a fine in 31%.

The proportions for both probation and prison were slightly higher than they were five years earlier, while the percentage for fines was somewhat lower.

Data for the 2005/2006 fiscal year represent approximately 98% of the national adult criminal court caseload in all provinces and territories. Trend analysis for this release was performed on either a 10-year time series (1996/1997 to 2005/2006) composed of the Yukon and seven provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta, or on a five-year period (2001/2002 to 2005/2006) that also included New Brunswick and British Columbia.

Note: Statistics in this release should not be compared with statistics from previous releases.

With this release, data are available for both 2004/2005 and 2005/2006 case characteristics from the Integrated Criminal Court Survey and the Adult Criminal Court Survey.

The concept of a case has changed from previous releases to more closely reflect court processing. The new definition combines all charges against the same person having overlapping court dates into a single case. The previous definition combined all charges against the same person disposed of in court on the same day into a case. This tended to undercount the number of charges in a case, overcount the number of cases and underestimate the length of time required to process a case through court because not all charges are necessarily disposed of on the same day.

To account for the new case definition, adult court data dating back to 1994/1995 have been revised.

Available on CANSIM: tables 252-0043 to 252-0046.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3312.

For standard tables or more information on the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Information and Client Services (toll-free 1-800-387-2231; 613-951-9023), Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.

Tables. Table(s).