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CRC funded reports

1996-1997

The Council received reports from 6 completed research projects during the year 1996-97. 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. An evaluation of the impact of the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) and the Corrections (Remissions) Act 1991 (Vic) upon sentencing practices and custodial populations
  2. An action-research of a pilot domestic violence community intervention project, stage one - a case study
  3. Police firearms policy in Australia: an overview
  4. Criminal victimisation: the influence of interpersonal competence on personal vulnerability
  5. The role of masculinity and male honour in gay killings and murder trial outcomes
  6. Estimating the numbers of arrests as a function of an offender's age

An evaluation of the impact of the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) and the Corrections (Remissions) Act 1991 (Vic) upon sentencing practices and custodial populations

Report title: Change and Stability in Sentencing: A Victorian Study (PDF 17.2MB)
Grantees: Prof Arie Freiberg, Stuart Ross and Dr David Tait, Department of Criminology, The University of Melbourne, Victoria
Criminology Research Council grant ; (15/92)

The report of this project examined the impact of the changes brought about by the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) and the Sentencing (Amendment) Act 1993 (Vic) upon:

The study examined trends in sentencing patterns in both higher and lower courts over a 120-year period, but focused upon the decade prior to the new legislation and the four years after the 1991 Act.

It found that Victoria's prison population remained relatively stable for approximately 15 months after the introduction of "truth in sentencing" laws, increased by approximately 250 persons in a very short period thereafter, and then stabilised over the following 18 months. However, this apparent stability in prison population masked a complex series of changes, some of which had been in train prior to the legislation, some of which were due to legislative change and some of which can be attributed to changes in the socio-legal culture.

The study predicts that the Victorian prison population will rise slowly as the number of long-term prisoners accumulates and the 1991 and 1993 reforms take effect. The size of the prison population will depend not only upon the amount of crime and the number of convictions, but upon judicial responses to what appears to be a hardening of community attitudes to sentencing practices.

An action-research of a pilot domestic violence community intervention project, stage one - a case study

Report title: From Private to Public: Creating a Domestic Violence Community Intervention Project (PDF 11.7MB)
Grantees: Assoc Prof Denis Ladbrook and Jennifer Gardiner, School of Social Work, Curtin University, Western Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (33/92-3)

The action research described in the report involved three objectives:

The interagency project that was the focus of the action research was the Armadale Domestic Violence Intervention Project (ADVIP), in Western Australia.

The research found that a major dilemma concerned the degree to which the Duluth model can be transferred into other communities as a total package. Local conditions and traditions vary so that the model needs to be contextually adapted. To gain broad community support and collective ownership, the sensitivities of the cooperating agencies need to be worked with, without diluting the strong framework of principles and priorities. However, it was argued that the Duluth model is an "idea whose time has come".

To be sustainable over the long term, an intervention project of this type cannot remain solely the province of a committed band of local enthusiasts. Attention was therefore given to ways of building a broader coalition of support for the intervention process within government, within the multiple levels of the cooperating agencies and in the wider community, including the Aboriginal community. Government policy was found to be of crucial significance.

ADVIP has had considerable influence on Western Australian policy in responding to domestic violence. For example, the WA Government has nominated interagency cooperation as its policy for combating domestic violence in that State. A Domestic Violence Prevention Unit has now been established to assist regions of Western Australia to develop effective inter-agency responses.

Police firearms policy in Australia: an overview

Report title: Firearms Carriage by Police in Australia
Grantees: Assoc Prof Rick Sarre, School of Law, University of South Australia, South Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (10/94-5)

In the last two decades there have been major shifts in the firearms policies of Australia's eight police jurisdictions. This report endeavours to provide better and further particulars of Australian police firearm carriage policies. This report has surveyed all jurisdictions and provides a current, public, descriptive statement of all Australian policies on police firearm carriage for the first time since 1985. Moreover, it provides a commentary and analysis of the events in the past two years in Victoria including Project Beacon and the effect that it has had on at least two other jurisdictions. This report provides a brief history of police firearms carriage policies in each State and Territory, including the Australian Federal Police, with a more critical gaze being cast over the South Australian parliamentary experience. Finally, this report places the various police firearms policies in the context of the pertinent recommendations of the report of the Australian National Committee on Violence in 1990.

Criminal victimisation: the influence of interpersonal competence on personal vulnerability

Report title: Criminal Victimisation: The Influence of Interpersonal Competence on Personal Vulnerability (PDF 3.8MB)
Grantees: Dr Ted Nettelbeck and Dr Carlene Wilson, Department of Psychology, The University of Adelaide, South Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (16/94-5)

The general objective of this project was to validate a relationship between personal vulnerability to criminal victimisation and specific interpersonal competencies. This aim was derived from earlier research which found that people with an intellectual disability were not only disproportionately at risk of victimisation but also that the rate of victimisation among this group was dependent on characteristics of the victims that reflected their interpersonal competence.

This research found that people with an intellectual disability display levels of interpersonal competence that are significantly lower than those found for normal children at the same mental age. In one sense this is an optimistic finding, in so far as it attests to the sound development of sensible social competence in children by this age. However, the poorer performance of persons with an intellectual disability is therefore not the consequence of developmental delay but constitutes an integral aspect of the intellectual disability. In other words, their interpersonal skills lag significantly behind what would be predicted by their IQ scores. Among people with an intellectual disability, however, IQ does not predict victimisation and the critical aspect of lower interpersonal competence which can precipitate victimisation is defined in terms of uncontrolled antisocial, maladaptive behaviours. Victims show high levels of hostility and aggression when confronted with potentially threatening situations, that non victims do not show.

A clear policy implication from this work is that future planning about how best to deal with the vulnerability for victimisation of people with an intellectual disability requires consideration of the contribution of victim variables as well as characteristics of offenders.

The role of masculinity and male honour in gay killings and murder trial outcomes

Report title: Gay Killings in New South Wales: Victimisation and the Legal Response (PDF 1.8MB)
Grantees: Dr Stephen Tomsen, Department of Sociology, The University of Newcastle, New South Wales
Criminology Research Council grant ; (19/94-5)

There has been a recent activist, official and media focus on killings of gay men in NSW and the outcome of related criminal trials. However, this form of killing is more widespread than is generally thought and it is not a new type of crime. A survey of murder and manslaughter records for New South Wales since 1980 conducted as part of this research, reveals that at least 74 homicides which could reasonably be termed as gay killings have occurred in that period.

Analysis of court records for the 31 gay-hate killings recorded by the NSW Police Service since 1986 suggest that the evident motives for this violence reflect both elements of homophobia and violent conceptions of heterosexual masculinity. Homophobic hate is directed towards gay and bisexual men who are selected out for assault by assailants on the simple basis of their group sexual identity. At the same time conventional notions of male identity often rest behind the felt necessity for a violent response to a real or imagined homosexual pass.

NSW Police have moved beyond the complacency of earlier times, and in cooperation with gay and lesbian groups they have begun a serious effort to record and monitor these offences. Consequently, NSW appears to have a much higher rate of gay killings than other Australian States in which the community liaison is in its infancy or still resisted by traditional patterns of policing.

A high proportion of NSW killings have resulted in the apprehension of offenders and in subsequent criminal trials. Some of these have led to the imposition of substantial sentences and clear judicial warnings issued against perpetrators of homophobic violence. But valid concerns remain about the outcome of trials in which pleas of provocation and self-defence have been raised by offenders who allege their violence was a necessary or excusable response to a homosexual advance.

Estimating the numbers of arrests as a function of an offender's age

Report title: An Improved Methodology for Analysing Age-Arrest Profiles: Application to a Western Australian Offender Population (PDF 1.4MB)
Grantees: Prof Richard Harding and Assoc Prof Ross Maller, Crime Research Centre and Department of Mathematics, University of Western Australia, Western Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (22/94-5)

This research developed new methodologies for displaying and analysing arrest profiles and criminal career projections. Applied in relation to comprehensive longitudinal data bases, the research concluded that these methodologies permit fundamental criminological questions such as the impact of age-at-onset upon subsequent criminal careers to be re-visited. Though the methodology as described in the report is applicable to all-aged criminal careers, its application in this study focused on criminal careers commencing as juveniles. It studies the arrest profiles of all persons who commenced a criminal career, either as juveniles or later in life, in Western Australia between 1 January 1984 and 31 December 1994.

The research concluded that age-at-onset is indeed associated with both the frequency and intensity of subsequent criminal careers. The analysis also revealed the dominance of Aboriginality, particularly male Aboriginality. For example, the data shows that male Aboriginal people entering the arrest population on average commence their criminal career at a younger age, accelerate them more rapidly, and accumulate them to a markedly greater extent than any other race/sex subdivisions. However, the research conclusions emphasises that the methodology is equally applicable to any categories that constitute comparable focal groups in any jurisdiction. Moreover, this methodological approach would enable far more reliable projections to be made as to the cross-over rates from juvenile to adult criminal career.

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