Visualise Records

How to ‘Visualise Records’

Each query has three mandatory filters: Court, Offence Type, and a Year Range (minimum 2 years). All other filters are optional.

The query will return the results of each filter into a new tab with two graphs. The graphs contain the year range on the X axis and the selected filters on the Y axis shown as a count and a proportion of the filter.

Click across the various tabs to see the different ways the data is represented.

For example, if you run a query on ‘WASC’, ‘Homicide Offences’ and ‘Personal Offences’, between ‘1870-1930’, this query will produce all hits that match all fields. That is, all Western Australian records that are aggregated as homicide and personal offences between 1870-1930 only.

If you add an additional filter to the query (for example ‘Death’ in the sentence field) the results will return all Western Australian records that are aggregated as homicide and personal offences between 1870-1930 that received a death sentence.

The more filters you enter, the more narrow the results will be.

What Lies Beneath

Visualisations are based on the data aggregated from the live Prosecution Project database. Data is subject to change and may be incomplete for some jurisdictions. The last major aggregation of the database took place 17 February 2017. Minor updates will occur between major aggregations (which take place at 6 monthly intervals).

At February 2017, we estimate that our data is complete (that is more than 95% of cases likely to have been tried at the Supreme Court) for Western Australia (1830 to 1954), South Australia (1869 to 1947), Tasmania (1853 to 1960), New South Wales (1862 to 1919), and Northern Territory 1875 to 1937). Data for Victoria and Queensland are less than 60% complete (1860 to 1960).

To allow for visualisation of our data, we aggregated the original data into categories for ‘offence’, ‘gender’, ‘plea’, ‘verdict’ and ‘sentence’.

Our aggregated data is organised per defendant, not per charge. Thus 1 defendant has 1 offence type, plea, verdict, and sentence for the purposes of aggregation regardless of how many charges they actually faced on a particular trial.

What the aggregations mean

Offence Type

Offence is the most complex category to aggregate. Our transcribed records from each court detail hundreds of different criminal offences as found in the criminal law of each state, some entries even including elements of the indictment (for example what kind of property was stolen or upon whom the offence was committed upon) and, of course, offences change over time. In order to visually represent this varied data, we needed to impose broad offence type categories. We have done so by creating separate aggregate variables in the database—thus, we have preserved the integrity of the original data in the transcription but added new ‘aggregated’ variables for offence, plea, verdict and sentence type.

We aggregated hundreds of offences into 8 major categories. The list below itemises how the main offences were aggregated.

  • Homicide Offences: murder, manslaughter and attempted murder.
  • Justice Offences: bribery, perjury, escaping custody and other statutory offences.
  • Personal Offences: assault, wounding, concealing birth, abduction, abortion and suicide.
  • Property – Serious Offences: burglary; breaking and entering, robbery and stock offences.
  • Property – Larceny and Receiving Offences: stealing, stealing from the person, stealing in special circumstances, receiving stolen goods and unlawful possession.
  • Property – Deception Offences: false pretences, fraud, embezzlement, forgery and stealing in a position of trust.
  • Property – Damage Offences: arson and malicious damage.
  • Sex Offences: rape, carnal knowledge, incest, sodomy, indecent assault, bestiality, and public exposure.

Plea and Verdict

Plea and Verdict Data have been aggregated into the following categories: ‘Guilty’, ‘Not Guilty’, and ‘Other Plea/Verdict’.

For the purposes of aggregation, a plea to any offence has been categorised as a ‘Guilty’ plea. Similarly, a verdict of guilty of any offence has been categorised as a ‘Guilty’ verdict.

The ‘Other’ categories capture the less common outcomes: for example, ‘unfit to plead’ and ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’.

As with offence categories, the detail of the original entry has been preserved in our database.


We have aggregated sentences into 3 categories: ‘death’, ‘custodial’ and ‘non-custodial’.

Death sentences are all those sentenced to death, not all those executed. After the court handed down a sentence of death, the Executive Council in each state determined whether the sentence would be carried out. Those who were executed were a much smaller number than those sentenced to death.

Custodial sentences comprise any type of custody, including transportation and imprisonment.

The ‘Non-custodial’ categorisation includes suspended sentences, good behaviour bonds, fines and probationary outcomes.

Missing Data

Data that is missing and is not categorised will not appear on visualisations.