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CRC funded reports

2002-2003

The Council received four reports of completed research projects during the year. 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 investigation into the experiences of child complainants of sexual abuse within the criminal justice system
  2. Developing a unique risk of violence tool for Australian Indigenous offenders
  3. How Australian schools are responding to the problem of peer victimisation among students
  4. Language processing and production skills of young offenders: implications for enhancing prevention and intervention strategies
  5. Anti-libidinal medication and men with disabilities: a long term follow-up of outcomes following third party consent
  6. Community-based parenting program for the prevention of adolescent antisocial behaviour

An investigation into the experiences of child complainants of sexual abuse within the criminal justice system

Report title: An Investigation into the Experiences of Child Complainants of Sexual Abuse within the Criminal Justice System
Grantees: Dr Christine Eastwood, Queensland University of Technology
Criminology Research Council grant ; (23/98-9)

This study focused on the experiences of child complainants of sexual abuse across three jurisdictions: Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia. Specifically, the research examined the experiences of child complainants in the criminal justice system as well as the consequences of their involvement in the process. In-depth interviews were conducted with children and combined with data gathered from parents, crown prosecutors, defence lawyers, court support personnel and members of the judiciary.

The findings identified a number of issues for child complainants including problems in reporting, the court environment, pre-recording of evidence, the use of closed-circuit television, judges and magistrates, legal language and the children's own suggestions for reform. Overwhelmingly the key problems were the lengthy wait for trial, seeing the accused, and the cross-examination process. The study suggests principles for reform and calls for substantial reform to address the manner in which the criminal justice system remains the legally sanctioned context for the prosecution of the abuse of children.

Developing a unique risk of violence tool for Australian Indigenous offenders

Report title: Developing a Unique Risk of Violence Tool for Australian Indigenous Offenders
Grantees: Associate Professor Alfred Allan and Ms Deborah Dawson, Edith Cowan University
Criminology Research Council grant ; (6/00-01)

This study assessed the productive utility of static (unchangeable factors) and dynamic (both criminogenic and non-criminogenic needs) risk factors to predict violent and sexual offending behaviour using retrospective data of 1,259 Indigenous males from Western Australia. The utility was examined using three independent samples and this culminated in a highly accurate model for sexual offenders (3-Predictor model). A model that was accurate in predicting non-sexual violent behaviour could not be developed using the available data.

The risk items in the 3-Predictor Model for sexual offenders were unrealistic long-term goals, unfeasible release plans and poor coping skills. The predictive accuracy of recidivism (sensitivity) was 92.3 per cent, while the predictive accuracy of desisting (specificity) was 94.3 per cent. This model outperformed several other risk instruments and achieved comparable results when applied to a sample of 96 non-Indigenous sexual offenders. The finding that the 3-Predictor Model was also accurate in predicting sexual reoffending for non-Indigenous offenders was unexpected, as was the finding that all three predictors in the 3-Predictor Model were dynamic. The prominence of dynamic predictors demonstrates that intervention is likely to make a difference and has implications for both correctional and community services concerned with decreasing the likelihood of reoffending behaviour. Moreover, it appears important to proceed with the development and refinement of a risk of sexual offending tool for male Indigenous offenders given the relative accuracy of the 3-Predictor Model viz a viz the other instruments it was compared with.

How Australian schools are responding to the problem of peer victimisation among students

Report title: How Australian Schools are Responding to the Problem of Peer Victimisation Among Students
Grantees: Associate Professor Ken Rigby, Dr Barrington Thomas and Ms Dale Bagshaw, University of South Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (10/00-01)

This study examined the work that has been undertaken by a sample of Australian schools and state educational agencies in addressing the problem of peer victimisation in schools. Interviews were conducted with school representatives from a total of 40 schools in New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. The schools, both primary and secondary, were selected from those that were known to have carried out social surveys among students (and, in some cases, among teachers and parents) to determine the nature and prevalence of peer victimisation and to solicit views on how it could be countered.

In addition, representatives from education departments of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia were also interviewed on the matter. The report provides a description and analysis of what is being done by the schools, especially in relevant areas of policy, preven-tion and methods of intervention, and also an examination of the views expressed by school and education department representatives on how the problem can best be addressed.

Language processing and production skills of young offenders: implications for enhancing prevention and intervention strategies

Report title: The Language Processing and Production Skills of Young Offenders: Implications for Enhancing Prevention and Intervention Strategies
Grantees: Dr Pamela Snow and Dr Martine Powell, Deakin University
Criminology Research Council grant ; (23/00-01)

This project examined the hypothesis that young offenders represent a population in whom oral language deficiencies are prevalent but unrecognised. Although young offenders are known to leave school early, and have a high risk for learning (reading and writing) difficulties, the oral language (speaking and listening) competence of this group has been under-researched. The oral language processing and production skills of a group of 30 young offenders completing community-based juvenile justice orders were compared with those of a group of 50 male students attending local government high schools (in the same regions as the juvenile justice units attended by the young offenders). Participants were compared on a range of measures dealing with the speed of language processing, understanding figurative (non-literal) language, and using narrative discourse to tell a story. In spite of the fact that the young offender group was, on average, two years older than the comparison group, they performed significantly more poorly on all but one measure employed. The findings indicate that oral language processing and production deficits are prevalent in this population, but may be masked on a day-to- day basis by young offenders' mastery of basic conversational scripts. Implications of the findings in the three domains are discussed: early intervention for young children displaying both learning and behaviour disturbances; forensic interviewing; and delivery of juvenile justice interventions.

Anti-libidinal medication and men with disabilities: a long term follow-up of outcomes following third party consent

Report title: Anti-Libidinal Medication and Men with Disabilities: A Long Term Follow-up of Outcomes Following Third Party Consent
Grantees: Associate Professor Susan Hayes University of Sydney
Criminology Research Council grant ; (38/00-01)

The general aim of the research was to gather information about individuals with an intellectual or other cognitive disability who exhibited problematic sexual behaviour and who had been prescribed anti-libidinal medication, either hormonal or anti-psychotic medication, specifically to address their sexual behaviours. A total of 38 participants (35 males and 3 females) were included in the study. Those who had been prescribed anti-libidinal medication to address problematic sexual behaviour were compared with participants who showed problematic sexual behaviour but had not been prescribed anti-libidinal medication, and also with a sub-group who had committed non-sexual offences against other people. A major finding in the research was that individuals with cognitive disabilities who were receiving anti-libidinal medication were similar on most variables to those who were not receiving anti-libidinal medication or any medication at all, and also to those who had committed non-sexual offences against other people.

Significant differences were found between the anti-libidinal medication group and other participants for presence of delusions/hallucinations, and personality disorder. Apart from these psychiatric symptoms, there are no findings from the data that suggest that those who were prescribed anti-libidinal medication were more violent, aggressive or dangerous than the comparison groups.

Appropriate interventions must address the person's environment (including their own safety from abuse) and incorporate a broad-based assessment of psychiatric symptoms and socio-sexual behaviour by a multi-disciplinary team, assessment of the impact of other medications and implementation of other interventions to address empathy, communication skills and adaptive behaviours.

Community-based parenting program for the prevention of adolescent antisocial behaviour

Report title: Community-Based Parenting Program for the Prevention of Adolescent Antisocial Behaviour
Grantees: Associate Professors Alan Ralph and Matthew Sanders University of Queensland
Criminology Research Council grant ; (22/99-00)

As a result of parents' participation in a Group Teen Triple P program there were important significant reductions in the mean rates of risk factors known to be associated with juvenile crime and antisocial behaviour. These comprised parent-teenager conflict, lax and over-reactive discipline styles, inappropriate parental beliefs, disagreement between parents concerning child management, and parental depression, anxiety and stress. Furthermore, the resulting database provides a basis for several ongoing analyses that will:

  1. specify baseline levels of parental concerns for children aged 12 to 13
  2. identify characteristics that predict parent engagement and participation in such programs
  3. provide normative data for children aged 12 to 13 across four high-schools in different parts of Queensland that can be compared with a larger data set obtained across several school districts in Victoria
  4. enhance knowledge of the presence of risk and protective factors in these children.

These outcomes are expected to inform the further development and delivery of programs to assist parents to better manage behavioural and emotional problems in these children.

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