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CRC funded reports

1991-1992

The Council received reports from 6 completed research projects during the year 1991-92. 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. Individualisation of human body fluid stains related to the investigation of sexual and other assaults
  2. Community Crime Prevention Project
  3. Aboriginal and Islander perceptions of the delivery of correctional services to Indigenous people in north Queensland
  4. Alcohol-related offences and the drinking environment: II
  5. Reform of the summary jurisdiction: Victorian magistrates' reactions to change
  6. The problems of Aboriginal youth who criminally offend

Individualisation of human body fluid stains related to the investigation of sexual and other assaults

Report title: Individualisation of Human Body Fluid Stains Related to the Investigation of Sexual and Other Assaults (PDF 2.5MB)
Grantees: Prof A W Murray, Dr L A Burgoyne and Dr J C S Fowler, Flinders University, South Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (3/87)

The aim of this research was to establish and evaluate methods suited to the analysis of forensic type samples so as to provide reliable scientific evidence in legal proceedings.

The research findings resulting from this project are a short report and a collection of articles which have been published in various journals.

This project established a new method of genetic 'fingerprinting' of human (and higher primate) DNA. The results show there to be a complex restriction fragment length polymorphism associated with Satellite III DNA sequences in the human genome. This gives a multibanded profile of the DNA in question. The primary probe sequence that was developed to demonstrate this polymorphism is coded 228S.

This Satellite III 'macrosatellite' polymorphism represents an alternative method to those based upon 'minisatellite' hypervariation for either the discrimination of individual genomes in criminal forensic studies or in establishing parentage. Conservatively estimated, the average chance of two individuals having the same DNA fingerprint with probe 228S is one in 100,000 people.

The probe 228S (patented and marketed by Bresatec limited as Polysat 3TM) has its principal practical advantage in the use of the same probe for either sexing human genomes (HaeIII digests) or for discriminating between individuals (TaqI digests). The probe is known to hybridise only to higher primate DNA and thus may be used for quantifying human DNA in mixtures of human and non-human, for example, microbial DNA. Results may be achieved using non-isotopic probe methods, using photobiotinylated probes.

The principal practical disadvantages are the complexity of the polymorphic pattern, its interpretation and comparison. The size range of the Satellite III/TaqI fragments require the source DNA to have a high initial integrity, whereas both the quantity and quality of DNA recoverable from typical forensic specimens may often be limiting. There is also no potential for in-vitro amplification of the Satellite III polymorphism as is now possible with some single locus 'micro' satellite sequences (by the polymerase chain reaction).

Community crime prevention project

Report title: Community Crime Prevention Project
Grantees: Waverley Municipal Council and Fairfield City Council, New South Wales
Criminology Research Council grant ; (43/89)

Jointly funded by the Federal Office of Local Government, the Law Foundation of NSW and the Criminology Research Council, both Fairfield City Council and Waverley Municipality embarked in 1990 on community crime prevention research projects in their local areas. Growing concern has been expressed at the increasing amounts of money spent on policing and changes in the legal system in an endeavour to control and minimalise crime levels.

The Fairfield Safer Neighbourhood Project aimed to achieve the following objectives and activities:

The project achieved some marked changes in the Fairfield local government area. Initiatives resulting from Fairfield's involvement in the project are: a five-year crime profile of the local government area (July 1985-June 1990) which contains an analysis of sixteen categories of crime; a domestic violence services brochure; a crime prevention and local government seminar; a community study on the fear of crime, perceptions of the local crime problem and victimisation; local community development work around the issue of crime in a public housing estate; and the establishment of a council-based program for regular use of community service order workers.

The research has highlighted several issues that should be considered by councils, organisations or individuals who may be thinking about commencing a crime prevention project.

The Fairfield Council component of the research produced three reports and the proceedings of the seminar.

Waverley Municipal Council's Community Crime Prevention Project approached local community crime issues from a local government perspective. This approach was felt to be appropriate because of the local nature of certain types of crime, e.g. burglary, car theft, and because of local government's contact with diverse groups in any community. Local government's existing responsibilities can have a significant impact on crime, through statutory development control, design and control of open space areas and public parks, social planning and involvement in community service areas. The Council has a history of active involvement in the local Police Community Consultative Committee, and with local precinct committees.

The project researched overall levels of crime and the effects of crime on elderly residents. Information was drawn formally from analysis of police crime statistics, and informally from discussions with local police and the community. Conclusions were drawn about the role of local government in community crime prevention and various strategies were subsequently adopted to impact on levels of crime or perceptions of crime in Waverley.

Local police perceptions of crime were sought and a contributing factor to crime in the area was thought to be because of the high influx of tourists. Half of the offenders in break and enters, and assaults, came from outside the area. Alcohol abuse and drug abuse were also seen as contributing to offences by young people. Police perceived that the level of aggression and anti-social behaviour had increased and this was associated with extra drinking hours in local licensed premises.

Community perceptions of the level of crime were gauged informally. It was reported that many members of the community felt unsafe in their local area. These perceptions may have originated from direct experience of crime, or commonly, from information gleaned from friends, the media, etc. about incidents of crime in the Municipality or the Eastern Suburbs as a whole. Older people as a group express the greatest fear of crime, normally because they consider themselves likely to be victimised but also because of the major consequences from assaults to their health and lifestyle.

The project examined police statistics covering a four-year period 1985-86 to 1988-89. The report highlights the difficulties of compiling crime figures to get an accurate profile of crime in a local area. Information held by the Police Department was insufficient in detail about each offence to assist in compiling a thorough picture of crime in the Municipality. Also the majority of crime is not reported. Relatively unambiguous crimes such as burglary and motor vehicle theft have a greater level of reporting than assaults and domestic violence. Certain important areas of crime such as environmental and business crime are not measured by police statistics as they are dealt with by specialist agencies. Furthermore, the discretion which police exercise in recording reported crimes must be recognised.

A comparison over the four-year period with the Sydney Metropolitan area was undertaken which gave a similar pattern of crime for most offences with Waverley higher although not significantly so.

Waverley has a disproportionate percentage of population over 60 years and this community suffers disproportionately the effects of crime. A small sample of this population was surveyed to explore: (a) the perception of crime as a local problem alongside other local problems; (b) the extent to which older residents are victims of crime and the consequences of such victimisation; (c) the indirect effects of crime on older residents; and (d) the influence of other factors on the attitudes and experiences of older people in relation to their sense of personal security. The respondents were chosen indirectly through community organisations in an attempt to instigate less impersonal contact than would otherwise be the case, and to include housebound older people. The forty-five respondents were predominantly female (36) aged 70 and over, born outside Australia, settled at their current address and living alone. The survey attempted to explore the issues which influence perceptions of crime and the conclusion was significant in finding that crime is not as important in circumscribing the majority of the elderly as had been expected. It was concluded that a significant factor in this finding was the level of social isolation, which in the sample group was fairly low. This may be because the sample was chosen through community organisations.

The report made sixteen recommendations, all of which were adopted by Waverley Council. The recommendations address: the accessibility of relevant crime statistics, the role of community services in reducing social isolation, the link between violent and anti-social behaviour and the serving of alcohol in licensed premises, the use of local government's statutory responsibilities to undertake crime prevention through environmental design, the role of Council precinct committees and police community consultative committees in encouraging local crime prevention measures and the support by local government of community services which have a crime prevention aspect.

Aboriginal and Islander perceptions of the delivery of correctional services to Indigenous people in north Queensland

Report title: Aboriginal and Islander Perceptions of the Delivery of Correctional Services to Indigenous People in North Queensland / Shayne Blackman and Bernard Clarke. 1991 (PDF 2.3MB)
Grantees: Yalga-Binbi Institute for Community Development, Thuringowa Central, Queensland
Criminology Research Council grant ; (15/90)

The aim of this research was to gain an overview of the attitudes and perspective of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in North Queensland towards the Queensland Correctional Services Commission.

The research reveals how little people know of the correctional process. There was little understanding, even by close relatives, of the needs of returning prisoners. It shows that the services of the Department have to be delivered within a context of immense social pressures on isolated communities. These pressures prevent the major social institutions, such as the family, from making their normal contribution to social control. The anomic conditions also deny the Department support in the rehabilitation of prisoners so that recidivism is endemic. Many factors are blamed for the present situation including erosion of the authority of the extended family by the old dormitory systems, and the problems caused by alcohol especially among parents. There is a sense of powerlessness which needs to be overcome.

The canteens in the communities play a central role and intrude into every discussion. Alcohol is the catalyst for most offences and the cause of many problems within a community.

The research shows that in each community there are resources, which, with the assurance of help, could be organised to work with the Department to achieve much better standards of social control. The traditional structures represent an important resource within each community. No plans for social changes to offset present problems of social control can succeed if they ignore the basic kin groups or seek to operate without the active and willing support of ceremonial leaders and clan leaders. Yet there is no model operating in the communities which genuinely seeks to operate in partnership with them.

The research has shown the deep desire for change - this can and should be harnessed.

Alcohol-related offences and the drinking environment: II

Report title: Drinking Settings, Alcohol Related Harm, and Support for Prevention Policies: Results of a Survey of Persons Residing in the Perth metropolitan Area / 1992 (PDF 6.2MB)
Grantees: Prof David Hawks, National Centre for Research into the Prevention of Drug Abuse, Curtin University of Technology, Perth
Criminology Research Council grant ; (38/89)

This report presents the univariate results of a survey of 1,160 persons (651 females and 509 males) aged 16 and over, resident in the Perth Metropolitan area. The study had four main aims: to examine how types of drinking setting are related to different patterns of alcohol use and alcohol related problems; to discover the level of knowledge of laws relating to the sale and consumption of alcohol; to determine people's attitudes to the concept of server responsibility and server liability; and to establish the level of community support for prevention initiatives targeted toward licensed drinking settings.

Of the sample, 74 per cent were classified as drinkers (466 females and 406 males), that is any person who had consumed alcohol in the past three months. When average daily consumption was calculated the overwhelming majority of drinkers (87 per cent of men and 94 per cent of women) had consumed alcohol at low risk levels based on National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines. However, an entirely different picture emerged for the day of highest consumption (34 per cent of males and 21.5 per cent of females drank at high risk levels, while 19.6 per cent of males and 29 per cent of females drank at medium risk levels).

A principal aim of the study was to identify characteristics of drinking settings which are associated with an elevated risk of alcohol related problems. All drinkers in the survey were questioned on the drinking setting for the highest consumption occasion in the previous month, and also the setting on the occasion when harm (i.e. injury, involved in violence, time off work) was experienced. It is noteworthy that similar characteristics were identified as being associated both with 'high risk' consumption of alcohol and/or the actual experience of harm.

By these criteria, 'high risk' drinking was found to be associated with drinking in large, mainly male groups (six or more) in full to overcrowded venues where obviously drunk persons were still able to buy alcohol. Other factors found to be associated with high risk drinking were: buying in rounds, listening to music, dancing, playing bar games, the presence of strippers, and drinking situations where little or no food was eaten. By contrast 'low risk' drinking was found to be associated with drinking in private residences, or in venues where a sit-down meal was eaten (restaurants), and which were only one-quarter to half full. Low risk consumption was also associated with drinking in small groups of family and relatives, or with friends of both sexes, and with venues where there was either no specific entertainment or where watching television or just talking took place.

As many as 24 per cent of the total sample reported that they had experienced problems with pubs or clubs near to their homes. The most frequently reported problems related to litter, noise and offensive behaviour. When asked if they knew where to go to complain or to find out about how to complain, the majority nominated the police or said that they did not know. Less than 2 per cent of respondents knew the Liquor Licensing Authority to be the appropriate authority in this area.

The survey sought to find out the extent of people's knowledge of who commits an offence when juveniles and intoxicated persons are served alcohol on licensed premises. There were some notable differences in levels of knowledge between different categories of respondents with a higher percentage of non-drinkers answering the questions correctly than was the case for drinkers and persons with experience in the sale of alcohol. The most notable finding, however, was that, with one or two exceptions, persons with experience in the sale of alcohol answered fewer questions correctly than did other respondents.

Opinions were sought on the question of server responsibility and liability. While there was overwhelming acceptance that to continue to serve an obviously drunk person increased the risk of an accident, there was little support for the notion that licensees or their employees should be held partly responsible for persons who become intoxicated on licensed premises, or liable when an intoxicated person leaves and causes harm to a third person.

Very high levels of support (>90 per cent) were found for initiatives such as training licensees and barstaff in responsible practices, and stricter enforcement of the licensing law. High levels of support (>70 per cent <90 per cent) were found for initiatives such as alternative transport for intoxicated customers, ID cards as proof of age, increased police presence at licensed premises, allowing police to breath test people in car parks at licensed premises, and for pubs and clubs to offer things such as no smoking areas and a range of healthy food. Moderate levels of support (>50 per cent <70 per cent) were found for raising the drinking age to 21, and for reducing the legal blood alcohol level to 0.05. Little support was found for reduced hours, limiting the size of licensed premises, limiting car parking at licensed premises, alcohol-free entertainment areas, and banning the sale of beer in jugs.

On the question of labelling alcohol containers to make it easier for people to monitor how much they drink, it was found that women were much more likely than men to indicate a preference for labels which show the number of standard drinks. Men were almost equally divided between labels showing percentage alcohol by volume, and labels showing the number of standard drinks.

Reform of the summary jurisdiction: Victorian magistrates' reactions to change

Report title: Reforming the People's Court: Victorian Magistrates' Reaction to Change / 1992 (PDF 3.7MB)
Grantees: Dr Roger Douglas, La Trobe University, Melbourne and Ms Kathy Laster, Criminology Department, The University of Melbourne (now at La Trobe)
Criminology Research Council grant ; (13/90)

The Summary Jurisdiction in Victoria has seen some dramatic changes to its legislation (e.g. professionalisation of the Bench and the appointment of women) and administration (e.g. computerisation, introduction of the Mention list) over the last decade. This study documents reform of the jurisdiction from the perspective of those with a critical role to play in its transformation - magistrates themselves.

Interviews with approximately one-third of the Bench suggest that it is currently comprised of a group of thoughtful individuals who share a common organisational philosophy. There was a strong sense of their responsibility and accountability to the 'public' and all were conscious of their own role in projecting a positive image of the jurisdiction. Despite limited resources and quite specific concerns about aspects of recent reform to the substantive law (e.g. the effect of the criteria applied in exercising discretion in family violence cases) and organisation of the courts (e.g. the effect of regionalisation of the courts on local communities, the sanitised account of the impact of crime on victims through the abbreviated listing procedure in the Mention Court), there is high morale among the Bench and a commitment to further reform of the jurisdiction to enhance its public image and performance.

To some extent the jurisdiction's receptivity to change is attributable to selective retention and recruitment; those who disliked the changes left; those attracted by them stayed or sought appointment. More important, however, is the existence of an organisational culture which has wedded the traditional values of service to the community with some strands of managerialism. There was, for example, a consciousness of the need to balance 'fairness' with 'efficiency'.

Finally, there are some organisational factors which promote a positive attitude to reform. There is a high degree of collegial autonomy amongst the bench supported by a vigorous commitment to judicial independence and a flat promotional hierarchy which encourages mutual support and assistance.

Reform of the Victorian Magistrates' Courts provides a case study of the impact of change on an organisation which hitherto had been marked by its institutional stability. Understanding the organisational culture which permits such wholesale change has important implications for court management and law reform generally since the best of legislative intentions can be thwarted by unsympathetic implementing agencies.

The problems of Aboriginal youth who criminally offend

Report titles: They Take Them Away: The Problems of Aboriginal Youth who Criminally Offend / 1992; and Special Treatment: Locking Up Aboriginal Children [television documentary and videorecording] / Copies may be obtained from Film Australia Pty Ltd, PO Box 46, Linfield NSW 2070 (PDF 756kB)
Grantees: Margaret Smith, Smith Street Films, Sydney
Criminology Research Council grant ; (24/90)

As a result of researching the television documentary it became apparent that many of the Koori juveniles in NSW detention centres could provide valuable information about their histories and why they were incarcerated which could not be fully encompassed in the documentary.

During October and November 1991, fifty young Kooris, one of whom was female, were interviewed. The juveniles ranged in age from 14 to 18 years, and were incarcerated at Kariong Secure Unit, Minda, Mt Penang, Reiby, and Yasmar juvenile detention centres. Many had been brought from the far north-west of the state, but others were from towns such as Taree and Kempsey, whose criminal justice system sent a high proportion of its Koori juvenile offenders away to detention. Others were from Redfern and the far western suburbs of Sydney. Some were incarcerated for their first offence, but most had been locked up before, and had become used to a lifestyle of coming into contact with the police.

The survey revealed that many had experienced racism at school, which was compounded by their first experiences with police, who were often rough and intimidating. Seventy per cent said they were bashed by police.

Their experience of courts and juvenile detention centres were also mostly negative, and many felt they were 'not treated the same as white people'. Getting out and starting again was also viewed with great pessimism.

Looking at the data collected in this survey, the question must seriously be asked what chance do these children have of being treated fairly and with justice in modern Australia.

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