Percentage of Australians with criminal record

Daniel Spiller made this Freedom of Information request to Australian Institute of Criminology

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Australian Institute of Criminology did not have the information requested.

Daniel Spiller

Dear Australian Institute of Criminology,

What percentage of the Australian population has a criminal record?

Yours faithfully,

Daniel Spiller

Colin Campbell, Australian Institute of Criminology

[Subject only] [DLM=For-Official-Use-Only]Automatic reply: Freedom of Information request - Percentage of Australians with criminal record

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Ben Fairless left an annotation ()

In case anyone was wondering, I've had a look at the raw email here and the above was all that was sent.

Daniel O'Connor left an annotation ()

You might be better off asking for documents mentioning the number of australians with criminal record(s); or number of offenses/year; etc - if a document doesn't exist containing the info, the agency doesn't have to create one for you.

Ben Fairless left an annotation ()

That said, while they aren't obliged in most cases there is nothing preventing an agency from releasing information outside of the strict confines of the FOI Act.

Daniel Spiller left an annotation ()

They would know for sure how many people have a criminal record. But I tried for days to find out and could not. There are a whole bunch of statistics, but not the ones I want. Pure and simple. I want to know how many Australians have a criminal record and it is very easy to extrapolate a percentage from this. I suspect they are not forthcoming on the subject because they don't want us to know. It's an important issue. A person with a criminal record is also a person who will find it incredibly hard to get meaningful employment, or any at all. It is known that one quarter of the American adult population has a criminal record. That is incredibly high. Are we anywhere near that number? I think my request to know the percentage/ number of people with criminal records is totally reasonable. So far I have only had an automated response. I will give it some time. I am sure the wheels of bureacracy turn slowly.

Colin Campbell, Australian Institute of Criminology

Dear Daniel,

I have been on leave and returned this week. Sorry I haven't replied earlier.

There is no source of information that would cover this. The only feasible source would be the Australian Census, if it were to include a question about whether the person completing the survey and others in the household have a criminal record - but it doesn't.

Other sources provide data on only specific parts of the population, eg, prisoners.

In any case, information would be reduced by the Spent Convictions Schemes that operate in all jurisdictions, allowing people with criminal records to legally deny the existence of that record in quite broad circumstances.

So the data does not exist in any meaningful way.



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Daniel Spiller left an annotation ()

Well I finally got a polite reply from the Australian Institute of Criminology. They say that there is no data on how many Australians have a criminal record. This really amazes me. In a bureaucratic country like Australia it is hard to believe. Has noone ever thought that such data might be important? I have read that one quarter of adult males in both Canada and the UK have a criminal record, and that in the U.S., it may be as high as one quarter of the adult population. So this information appears to be available in the UK, Canada and the U.S., so why not in Australia? It's incomprehensible to me. Or am I being told a little white lie? Whether I'm being lied to, or it is genuine that nobody has statistics on this matter, it's a bad look for the Australian legal system and the bureaucracies that surround it.

Peter Deane left an annotation ()

I came here as I was googling your exact question. I have found a document that doesn't directly answer the question, but goes very close. A pity it's about 5 years old.

But the offence rate (ie crimes per 100,000 people) given is
1,872 offences per 100,000 or 1.872%

It's not an exact answer either, as only selected crimes are included, but also a person can commit multiple crimes which might just about balance out. See page 64 for specifics on the stats. The table on p 65 is where the money shot is.

Cautious Dater left an annotation ()

I also searched this exact question! Given the response above, I thought maybe the answer could be found in corrective services data (ie state by state). Without spending much time at all, I did find this article that could prove useful, depending on the reason for asking the question. I hope it helps someone. Personally I wanted to calculate the odds of dating someone who has forgotten to mention a serious offence - whether incarcerated for it or not - so I'm going to be looking at journals and ABS for more.

Cautious Dater left an annotation ()

The ABS has this: 4519.0 - Recorded Crime - Offenders, 2015-16 . This was released in April 2017.

It's helpful in that it reports on offenders rather than offences. It doesn't provide a lifetime rate but provides figures for the nation based on offenders for the year 2015-2016 - approximately 2% (approx 1% for females).

Note that these figures are for offenders 10years and up. If interested in adults only - as I am - youd need to look at an age breakdown and account for any difference In the rate of juvenile offenders.