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CRC funded reports

1986-1987

The Council received reports from 13 completed research projects during the year 1986-87. Summaries of these reports are given below. These reports are held by the Australian Institute of Criminology's JV Barry Library and are available on inter-library loan. For full bibliographic information on any report, search the Library's Catalogue.

  1. Homicide in NSW 1969-1979
  2. Factors underlying robbery offences in New South Wales
  3. Investigation of the relationship of Aboriginal customary law to Australian common and statute law
  4. A descriptive analysis of patterns of recidivism in the WA prison population
  5. Effect of NSW prison officers' five week strike in 1984
  6. Policing the bathurst motor cycle races
  7. Job retention of youth released from youth training centres in Victoria
  8. Crime perception and victimisation of inner city residents
  9. The social and economic consequences of arson
  10. The policy process in Australian policing: the case of community policing
  11. A socio-psychological profile of a child killer
  12. Public perception of sentencing in Perth
  13. An evaluation of the theory and practice of outreach youth works

Homicide in NSW 1969-1979

Report title: Homicide: The Social Reality (PDF 13.9MB)
Grantee: Alison Wallace, Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, New South Wales
Criminology Research Council grant ; (1/81)

This was essentially a study of all homicides known to the police in New South Wales over the fourteen-year period 196881. There were 1393 cases. The study followed and made use of two earlier studies covering 1933-57 and 1958-67. Thus, for some analyses, data covering forty-nine years were available. The report developed a typology of homicide, the most important aspects of which related to: spouse killing, child killing, other domestic homicides, homicides beyond the family and murder-suicide. The enormous differences between these types in motivation, method, circumstances and culpability make a mockery of homicide as a unitary concept. The typology also demonstrated the inappropriateness of dealing with all homicide cases in the same way.

Factors underlying robbery offences in New South Wales

Report title: Children and Authority in the North West, Report of the South Australian Aboriginal Customary Law Committee, 1984 (PDF 24MB)
Grantee: Judge J.W. Lewis, South Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (23/82)

This report contains an analysis of 276 cases which were heard in the District Court of New South Wales over the period 1980-82. A small number of cases were found to be inconsistent or statistically anomalous as far as sentencing was concerned. Also, the researchers claimed that there appeared to be inconsistencies in the application of 'no bills' to certain drug cases. The report concluded with recommendations for the development of a Court Information System, the establishment of a Sentencing Council and a Probity Council, and the provision of statutory support for necessary data collection. These research findings and recommendations were subsequently the subject of extensive public discussion in New South Wales, particularly in relation to a government decision to establish a Judicial Commission.

Investigation of the relationship of Aboriginal customary law to Australian common and statute law

Report title: Accountability and the Legal System: Drug Cases Terminating in the District Court 1980-82 (PDF 1.75MB)
Grantee: Professor Tony Vinson, University of New South Wales
Criminology Research Council grant ; (12/83)

The report focussed on petrol sniffing among Pitjantjatjara children, and placed the problem in a cultural context. It argued that due to complex external factors bearing on the traditional way of life, the mobility so essential to the maintenance of traditional culture was under threat, and this was resulting in a cleavage of identity for young people. A major consequence was the inhalation of petrol fumes. This phenomenon had grown over the past ten years to a point where hospitalisation, and even death, had become regular occurrences. While the report was critical of solutions which were determined in isolation from the communities affected, it was clear that government had a role to play in prescribing limits. It was vital, however, that this be done with the full co-operation of the Pitjantjatjara people.

A descriptive analysis of patterns of recidivism in the WA prison population

Report title: Recidivism in the Western Australian Prison Population: Stage One - Final Version (Failure Rate Analysis of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Recidivism in Western Australia 1975-1984)
Grantees: Rod Broadhurst, Principal Educator Officer, WA Prisons Department, Mr G. Maller, Senior Research Officer, WA Department of Computing and Information Technology and Dr R. A. Maller, Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO, Perth.
Criminology Research Council grant ; (11/84)

Failure rate analysis was used to study the recidivism of all prisoners released for the first time between July 1975 and June 1984 from Western Australian prisons. The total was 11 262. Recidivism was defined as re-incarceration and excluded convictions involving other penal sanctions. Prisoners serving sentences in police lock-ups, remanded in custody or sentenced to imprisonment prior to July 1975 were also excluded.

Overall, the probability of recidivism for Aboriginal male prisoners was 80 per cent and for non-Aboriginal males was 48 per cent and the median times to fail (re-incarceration) for these groups were 11 months and 18 months respectively. Female Aboriginal recidivism was 75 per cent and female non-Aboriginal recidivism was 29 per cent and the median times to fail were 16 months and 19 months respectively. Higher recidivism was observed for male, Aboriginal and young prisoners.

Other variables considered (at first receival) included major offence, actual time served, sentence type, prison (at exit), and marital, educational and employment status. For example, lower recidivism was observed for non-Aboriginal prisoners incarcerated longer and for more serious offences.

The time to fail was consistently much shorter for Aboriginals across all factors than for non-Aboriginal prisoners. A general downward trend in recidivism was found between 1975-76 and 1978-79 although it was less marked for Aboriginal prisoners and did not continue beyond 1980-81.

The contribution of Aboriginal recidivism to high rates of imprisonment in Western Australia was discussed in relation to the utility of imprisonment. The limitations and merits of failure rate analysis in recidivism studies were considered.

Effect of NSW prison officers' five week strike in 1984

Report title: Effect of the Five Week Prison Officers' Strike in New South Wales in 1984 (PDF 2.4MB)
Grantees: Jennifer David, Lecturer, and Paul Ward, Senior Lecturer, Institute of Criminology, University of Sydney.
Criminology Research Council grant ; (12/84)

This report represents the results of a very detailed statistical study which aimed to assess the impact of the strike by prison officers in New South Wales which lasted from 7 February to 15 March 1984. For most statistical analyses in the report a comparison was made between the strike period and an equivalent control period in 1983. Data were collected for both periods from the police, the local courts, the higher courts and the prisons themselves.

The principal conclusion of this study is:

Even though there were thus hundreds of offenders at large during the strike who would 'normally' have been in custody, and there were many sentenced prisoners released earlier than they normally would have been due to the effects of the special strike remission, the statistics on the crimes reported and accepted as genuine for the whole of New South Wales made available by the Police Department did not disclose any marked change in the overall crime rate during the period of the strike compared to the control period.

The authors then related this finding to other research findings, including some produced by the Australian Institute of Criminology, and to recommendations of law reform bodies with a view to advocating the lower use of imprisonment, especially for fine defaulters and remandees.

Policing the bathurst motor cycle races

Report titles: Dynamics of Collective Conflict: 'Riots at the Bathurst Bike Races'; Policing the Bathurst Motorcycle Races (PDF 56kB) (Report on the findings of Dynamics of Collective Conflict: 'Riots at the Bathurst Bike Races')
Grantees: Dr A.E. Veno, Mitchell College of Advanced Education, Mr C. Cunneen, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research and other members of a Riot Study Group.
Criminology Research Council grant ; (14/84)

The first report, Dynamics of Collective Conflict, comprises seven working papers dealing with various aspects of the Bathurst riots - history, dynamics of conflict, media representation, functions of the criminal law and policing. The report concluded that the riots of 1980, 1981, 1983 and 1985 were part of the institutionalisation of conflict and that they took the form of ritualised games. Court records over a twenty-five year period showed little change in the characteristics of persons arrested at the races, even though the police had assumed a larger role in crowd control over this period. Public disorder at Bathurst had become increasingly focussed against the police presence, with the contest over public space and the exercise of force being seen as a struggle for authority. the authors suggested that the police themselves had become the group that was threatened by such disorder. The authors also concluded that both the newspaper and television coverage of the Bathurst races involved considerable distortion and contributed to public alarm about the riots.

The second report, Policing the Bathurst Motorcycle Races, included the results of a survey of the attitudes of motor cycle riders in both New South Wales and Victoria. This showed that a high proportion were well educated, held responsible jobs and had a high level of disposable income. They saw the law, government and the police as the major obstacle to their enjoyment of the motor cycle lifestyle. Some significant differences were found between riders from New South Wales and Victoria in their attitudes to the police, with the former having less favourable or positive attitudes than those from Victoria.

This report also included the results of an observational study that was conducted at five motor cycle events in New South Wales and Victoria. This study concluded that high visibility policing resulted in higher anti-police sentiment, reduced crowd enjoyment, lower attendance figures and lower financial returns to the organisers. A lack of restriction on the availability of alcohol was seen as being closely associated with high crowd rowdiness. The report concluded with a number of specific recommendations that aimed to reduce public disorder at the Bathurst Races and elsewhere.

The first report was further developed and later published as a book entitled Dynamics of Collective Conflict: Riots at the Bathurst Bike Races by Chris Cunneen, Mark Findlay, Rob Lynch and Vernon Tupper, The Law Book Company, 1989.

Job retention of youth released from youth training centres in Victoria

Report title: Job Retention of Youth Released from Youth Training Centres in Victoria (PDF 4.9MB)
Grantee: Dr Christine Alder, Lecturer, University of Melbourne.
Criminology Research Council grant ; (12/85)

The report of this project was prepared by Hilary Read, a Research Fellow, under the supervision of Dr Christine Alder. The recurring life pattern for many adolescents in Youth Training Centres (YTCS) is one of wardship, unemployment, offending and institutionalisation. One aspect of current deinstitutionalisation policies is to alter this pattern by developing meaningful, long term employment for these young people. This objective is supported by criminological theory and research which indicates the importance of employment to the development of attachments and commitment to conventional society. The objective of the present exploratory study was to provide qualitative data which might indicate why some YTC releasees develop stable employment patterns and others do not. Such information is essential for the development of employment policies and programs for these youth, and hence potentially their future life patterns.

Data were collected from three sources: youth releases from YTCs into employment (11 males and 10 females); professional staff working with such youth; and employers of YTC releasees. Youths were interviewed and administered structured questionnaires, where possible, before leaving the YTC. Further in-depth interviews were conducted three months after their release. Interviews were also conducted with employers and professional staff.

The results indicate that few young people (5 of 21) remained in the same job in which they were placed when they were released from YTC. Some young people (7 of 21) remained in employment even though they changed jobs. However, just under half of the subjects (9 of 21) held jobs for a very short period of time and did not find further employment. That is, three employment patterns became clear in the data: Job Retained, Employment Retained, and Unemployed. The youths in these categories were not distinguishable from each other in terms of background characteristics such as level of education and prior employment history.

In explaining job loss the different groups who were interviewed emphasised different factors. The youths focussed on problems with the job itself: the youth workers spoke in terms of personal characteristics which they often related to difficult life circumstances; the employers gave work related matters (such as absenteeism, avoidance of work and arriving late) as reasons for final dismissal but often explained these in terms of peer influences or difficult life circumstances; and professionals in related areas spoke of the importance of the quality of the job, and the lack of supportive services.

While different factors were emphasised by different groups, seven factors emerged from across the interviews as most important for understanding the problems of job retention for these youths: the type of job, the level of training, support, emotional and personality problems, institutionalisation, stigma and peers.

Crime perception and victimisation of inner city residents

Report title: Crime Perception and Victimisation of Inner City Residents (PDF 1.6MB)
Grantee: Dr Robert J. Minnery, Lecturer in Urban Planning, Queensland Institute of Technology.
Criminology Research Council grant ; (20/85)

The study used structured interviews with households in two inner city Brisbane suburbs: 475 interviews in Paddington and 118 in Spring Hill, a sample of approximately 17 per cent of total dwellings. Private hotels and boarding houses were excluded.

The study sought perceptions of crime amongst residents, in order to compare the two suburbs with each other and Spring Hill with the 1980 survey. Both suburbs are undergoing 'gentrification', but only Spring Hill has been subject to major local authority town planning initiatives. Actual victimisation of household members over the previous twelve months was also identified, and reasons for incidents not being reported to the police were pursued. Respondents were asked about the Queensland Police Department's security advice service.

Respondents did not think their suburbs had high crime rates. People in Spring Hill felt the crime rate there had dropped in the last five years. This supports theories of the relationship between environmental 'cues' and crime perception; but respondents felt the changing social status of the suburbs had had a direct effect on crime. Direct action by police and local agencies was not felt to have greatly influenced the level of crime. Respondents felt there was now more crime against property than previously. It was not possible to compare actual with perceived rates there; but in Paddington the actual crime rates were somewhat ambivalent - rates had fluctuated more from year to year than from the start to the end of the five year period. Few people had seriously considered moving because of crime.

Police actions with high visibility (car and foot patrols particularly) and neighbourhood watch schemes were supported. There was general concern about the involvement of children in crime; and commonly a relationship between (particularly youth) unemployment and crime was identified.

Just over one third of the households had been victims of crime in the twelve months preceding the survey. The most common crimes were nuisance calls, theft, and breaking and entering. The average reporting rate was 25 per cent, but the rate fluctuated considerably according to the type of incident; motor vehicle theft, and breaking and entering were most often reported, nuisance calls the least. The main reasons given for non-reporting were that the value of the goods or the hope of recovery was too small, that punishment of the offenders was not appropriate given the 'trivial' nature of the offence or the youth of the (suspected) offenders, or that the police were already busy enough. Some respondents had had discouraging previous experience with the police.

About 35 per cent were aware of the Queensland Police Department's security inspection service, and about 30 per cent were interested in having an inspection of their dwelling carried out. Those who did not want one felt the current level of security of their dwelling was adequate, but there was also a fatalistic acceptance that break-ins would occur no matter what was done.

Overall, the study revealed two inner city suburbs without overwhelming crime problems but nonetheless still affected and still concerned. There were a number of useful pointers to actions by police, other public authorities and the community in reducing crime.

The social and economic consequences of arson

Report title: Study of the Pattern of Costs of Arson in New South Wales (PDF 3.2MB)
Grantee: New South Wales Standing Committee on Arson.
Criminology Research Council grant ; (20/85)

This project was undertaken under contract to the grantee by Nicholas Clark and Associates.

The main findings of the study were:

The policy process in Australian policing: the case of community policing

Report title: The Policy Process in Australian Policing: The Case of Community Policing
Grantees: Professor J.L. Munro, Faculty of Political Science, University of West Florida, and Visiting Fellow, National Police Research Unit, Adelaide.
Criminology Research Council grant ; (8/86)

It is reasonable to say that the health of a democracy may, in large part, be seen in the practices of its police. Australia is fortunate in having police forces with a genuine concern for community service and humane police practices. Victoria and South Australia are two States which are particularly noteworthy for their efforts to develop creative community-based policing. This study was concerned with the decision-making process dealing with community policing.

In South Australia community policing took the form of a major metropolitan reorganisation. Systemic decisional processes were followed; the planning process was comprehensive and the lead time very long. Means-ends links were explicitly considered and a premium was placed on managerial rationality. Decision-making was dominated by the research and development unit and conflict was managed through a marriage of rational and political ends and means. Hard data arguments were utilised to accomplish ends that were both managerially rational and politically advantageous. The end result was the implementation of a strategic reorganisation which was both systemic in nature and global in concept.

Victoria present a much different picture. Community policing there was represented by a number of very diverse and creative programs; the Frankston Police/Community Involvement Program, the Broadmeadows Storefront Program, the Blue Light Discotheques and Community Policing Squads. Each program was separately developed and administered. Each was an ad hoc development and was implemented with a minimum lead time. Internal conflict was minimal and the primacy of the Chief Commissioner was the hallmark of Victorian police decision-making. The end result might well be called a series of programs looking for a strategy.

As measured by political and interest group activity, the police in Victoria exist in a more hostile environment than do the police in South Australia. The case study evidence suggests that a benign political environment allows the development of rational management decision processes and systemic innovations. Environments which are more politically hostile seem to place a premium on instant response, incremental change and individual, rather than system accountability.

A socio-psychological profile of a child killer

Report title: A Socio-Psychological Profile of a Child Killer
Grantee: Dr Paul R. Wilson, Assistant Director (Research and Statistics), Australian Institute of Criminology.
Criminology Research Council grant ; (2/84)

This study was based on extensive interviews with two offenders, persons associated, directly or indirectly, with the offenders and arresting police officers involved in a major case of murder. The crime typically can be classified as 'lust' homicide and involved the killing and torture of a 14-year-old boy.

In theoretical terms the study assisted in developing perspectives on lust killers. Though the 'social disadvantage' hypothesis usually advanced as an explanation of such crimes is congruent with the past history of one offender, no such pattern emerged with the other. Indeed, the very 'normality' of the offenders adds weight to an observation increasingly emphasised in the professional literature; that is, that scientific and psychiatric evidence does not lead inevitably to the conclusion that the majority of sexual murderers are mentally ill, either in a medical sense, or as the term is legally defined.

The research publications that have resulted from the project include relevant sections of Murder of the lnnocents: Child Killers and Their Victims (P.R. Wilson, Rigby, Adelaide, 1985) and a major article entitled 'Stranger Child Murder: Issues Relating to Causes and Controls', (International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, forthcoming, 1987). Considerable media and professional attention has been paid to two propositions emerging from the study and publications. The first is the researcher's view, albeit a minority view in Australia, that the defence of insanity should be abolished and that no offender ought to be excused for his criminal behaviour simply because he is judged mentally disturbed. The second proposition asserts, on the basis of analysing the contents of pornography found with the offenders and the nature of the fatal injuries inflicted on the victim, that pornographic material intertwining sex with violence reinforces predisposing patterns of destructive behaviour in individuals who commit lust killings.

The study has significantly contributed towards the generation of two related research projects with important policy implications. The first project analyses, using quantitative techniques, the use, distribution and specific content of video material classified as 'X' or 'R'. The second study assesses procedures used by Australian police forces in tracing missing persons, especially children and adolescents, who disappear.

Public perception of sentencing in Perth

Report title: Public Perception of Sentencing in Perth, Western Australia
Grantee: David W. Indermaur, Clinical Psychologist, Western Australian Prisons Department.
Criminology Research Council grant ; (7/86)

The general view of public attitude toward the punishment of offenders is that is is punitive and opposed to alternatives to imprisonment. Earlier authors have argued that public policy makers have largely accepted the view of a punitive public and are hesitant to introduce reform for fear of political consequences. Some earlier studies have questioned the conclusion that the public is generally punitive and opposed to alternatives to imprisonment.

The present study critically reviews the issue of public attitude towards the punishment of offenders. Specifically, the utility of general survey questions was examined. It is suggested that 'general' questions about 'general' crime may simply tap respondents' anxiety about violence. The results of the present study support earlier work which indicates that the public is concerned about violent crime and this concern dominates its responses. When more specific questions were asked, and more detail was given, respondents gave more specific, and less punitive, responses.

A total of 554 Perth residents were interviewed from a sample frame of 800. Firstly, perception of crime was probed. Most respondents overestimated the amount of crime which involves violence and tended to see the murder rate as increasing when it is not. Most (76 per cent) said that sentences 'are not severe enough'. However, 80 per cent of these were thinking of a violent criminal when answering that question.

The second part of the interview involved a split sample design to test differences in responses to two types of item presentation. Approximately half the sample (288) were simply asked to nominate a penalty considered appropriate for three offences. The other half were given brief descriptions of the offence and the offender and then asked to nominate the appropriate penalty. To overcome the confounding effect of possible mitigating factors, respondents were asked to specify average, maximum and minimum penalties, and then onlv the nominated minimum penalties were compared. The minimum sentences were significantly lower for the group given the case descriptions. The results suggest that public responses to questions of punishment are largely influenced by stereotypes.

A good deal of acceptance was found for proposed alternatives to imprisonment. The most popular (75 per cent said yes, in all or most cases) was the use of attendance centres for those sentenced to less than three months in prison (this group makes up 60 per cent of all prisoners received in Western Australia). Most respondents also favoured programs for fine defaulters, on the spot fines for petty offences and a day fine Respondents who expressed greater fear of crime were more likely to overestimate the amount of crime which is violent and to favour harsher sentences. Respondents' estimation of their risk of victimisation largely exceeded the risks suggested by victimisation survey data. Women tended to be more afraid and to be more likely to overestimate the amount of violent crime.

The implications of the results are discussed in terms of survey methodology and sentencing reform. It is argued that surveys need to be more specific and precise in posing questions. More importantly, caution needs to be exercised in interpreting poll results, especially when they are used to guide policy formulation and judicial practice. Public concern is largely in the area of violent crime. However, in Western Australia crimes of violence account for only about 4 per cent of all reported crime and 13 per cent of all prisoners received. Extrapolations of public reactions on general questions about crime to specific proposals in the criminal justice system are likely to be invalid.

An evaluation of the theory and practice of outreach youth works

Report title: An evaluation of the Theory and Practice of Outreach Youth Works
Grantee: Harry van Moorst, Footscray College of Advanced Education, Victoria.
Criminology Research Council grant ; (5/79)

This report is the result of two and a half years of work with Outreach workers in Victoria, primarily those emploved under the YMCA's Outreach Program over the period 1978 to 1981. The report is primarily an investigation of the philosophy, theory and practice of Outreach work as it has developed in Australia and up to the time the research finished in 1981. Although a brief attempt was made to update the Victorian developments since that time, the bulk of the empirical data was collected during 1979-80.

The terms 'Street work', 'Outreach work', and 'Detached youth work' refer to a form of youth work that recognises that the needs of many young people are not met by traditional agencies, youth clubs and similar services. Youth workers, instead of expecting such youth to come to them and their agencies, must reach out to them and bring their services to where the young people are.

The report stresses at the outset that Outreach work, like any other form of community work, is not a homogenous field with all workers in basic agreement. The report attempts to clarify some of the fundamental differences that separate the field and shows some of the varied work styles that make up the range of goals and methods called 'Outreach work'.

In the first part of the report the historical development of Outreach theory in the United States, with its strong emphasis on functionalism and social control, is contrasted with the United Kingdom's greater emphasis on individual development. The impact of these theoretical approaches on the development of Australian Outreach work is dicussed and several models of Outreach work develped. The workers' own conceptions of the goals of Outreach work are discussed, followed by the various styles of work practised by different Outreach projects in Australia.

The actual practice of Outreach work is outlined, based on the 1979-80 survey and numerous interviews and case studies collected over the period. An evaluation is attempted within the limitations of the data available.

The report concludes that:

The report finishes with an outline of some of the changes that have occurred in Victoria in the intervening years and concludes with a brief discussion of the 'politics of Outreach work'.

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