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CRC funded reports

2003/04

The Council received twelve 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. Hearing loss and communication disability within the criminal justice system
  2. Identification of characteristics and patterns of male domestic partner abusers
  3. Safeguarding fairness for children in interactions with adults in authority
  4. Public CCTV in Australia: a comparative study of establishment and operation
  5. Threats and intimidation in the lives of professionals employed in the child protection field
  6. Youth justice: criminal trajectories
  7. Risk assessment by mental health professionals and the prevention of future violent behaviour
  8. Civil litigation by citizens against Australian police between 1994 and 2002
  9. Investigating the incidence of criminal and antisocial behaviour by young people on the Strand in Townsville
  10. A longitudinal investigation of psychosocial risk factors for speeding offences among young motor car drivers
  11. A conditional probability approach to risk assessment for child sexual offenders with different classes of victim
  12. Facilitators and inhibitors of mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse

Hearing loss and communication disability within the criminal justice system

Report title: Hearing loss and communication loss within the criminal justice system

Grantees: Al Yonovitz and Grant Preston, Menzies School of Health Research, Royal Darwin Hospital
Criminology Research Council grant ; (15/97-8)

This research project examined the role of hearing loss and communication disability within the Northern Territory criminal justice system. In particular, the research project focused on the identification of areas of disadvantage to Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons involved within the criminal justice system. Methods of identification included assessment of audiological function of inmates, identification of current and appropriate follow-up services, consequences of deleterious acoustic factors in courtrooms and rooms through all stages of the criminal justice system as well as identifying current professional opinion of aspects of hearing loss in the criminal justice system. A focus group consisting of medical staff, audiologists, lawyers, hearing service providers, police and prison staff outlined issues pertinent to the study as well as provided recommendations to assist in the development of appropriate models of service delivery.

Identification of characteristics and patterns of male domestic partner abusers

Report title: Identification of characteristics and patterns of male domestic partner abusers
Grantees: Professor Jeffrey Richards and Dr Angus McLachlan, University of Ballarat
Criminology Research Council grant ; (4/00-01)

One hundred men identified as domestic partner abusers were recruited from four community agencies in regional Victoria. Before participating in a men's behaviour change program, they were assessed on a range of physiological, psychopathological, personality and cognitive measures. Based on the direction of heart rate responses when participating in an analogue domestic conflict situation, two types of abusers were identified:

Thirty of the 100 men were re-assessed after participation in a men's behaviour change program. Participation was associated with overall reductions in levels of anger, and apparent reductions in assaultiveness, and indirect and verbal aggression. However, after involvement in the program, the type 1 men evidenced more cynical hostility and the PG2 men reported stronger sexist attitudes. Fourteen women provided interviews after their partners had participated in the program. Their responses confirmed questionnaire results that participation was useful for many men but that results were variable. The research concluded that the men's behaviour change program was useful for many male domestic partner abusers, but other options need to be considered/developed for men with the characteristics identified above.

Safeguarding fairness for children in interactions with adults in authority

Report title: Safeguarding fairness for children in interactions with adults in authority : computer-based investigations of the judgments of secondary school students
Grantees: Associate Professor Jeanette Lawrence, University of Melbourne
Criminology Research Council grant ; (35/00-01)

The aims of this research were to examine systematically young people's understanding of procedural fairness and specifically their preferences for procedural safeguards for young offenders in encounters with authoritative adults. The research is grounded in (1) calls for fair procedures when dealing with young offenders, made by the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child (1989) and the Australian Law Reform and Human Rights Commissioners (1997); and (2) in the independent significance of fair procedures (as distinct from outcome decisions) in judicial and organisational aspects of adult institutional life. Surprisingly, the young participants would rely on an authoritative adult to act fairly, more than on an offender being able to actively participate in the proceedings or to have a voice or someone else to speak up for them. Either young people are simply content to invest procedural protection in the adults in authority, or they do not know it could be done differently. Clearly adults are not always so even-handed and procedurally fair. In moves for procedural reform in institutions, young people seem to have been left behind. Understanding of young people's lack of concern about their active participation and voice and to build educative programs to help inform their expectations is needed.

Public CCTV in Australia: a comparative study of establishment and operation

Report title: Open-street CCTV in Australia : a comparative study of establishment and operation
Grantees: Dr Adam Sutton and Dr Dean Wilson, University of Melbourne
Criminology Research Council grant ; (26/01-02)

This study provided an overview of the current operation of closed circuit television (CCTV) in Australian public spaces. This study was not intended to be an evaluation. Rather it aimed to provide a more informed context within which future discussion and research into Australian open-street CCTV, both theoretical and empirical, can proceed. The use of CCTV in open-street settings in Australia appears poised to expand. Increasingly, these systems will be integrated, with coverage ranging across public and private space. The precise impact CCTV has upon crime and perceptions of safety in particular locations requires more thorough research. Despite ambiguous findings, many local councils remain enthusiastic about CCTV, although few see it as a panacea. However it remains to be established in what locations and under what conditions CCTV will prove most effective. Rigorous independent assessments of both the intended and unintended consequences of systems will assist in clarifying this picture. Future research should also include detailed ethnographic studies of control room operations and more sophisticated study of the impact of CCTV upon policing practice.

Threats and intimidation in the lives of professionals employed in the child protection field

Report title: Violence, threats and intimidation in the lives of professionals whose work involves child protection
Grantees: Professor Freda Briggs, University of South Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (15/01-02)

This study surveyed a wide range of Australian professionals (n=721) about their experiences of violence, threats and intimidation as they engaged in their professional role as protectors of children. It was found that more than 90 per cent of the sample had experienced these unwanted and unwarranted behaviours in the last five years and over 40 per cent reported ongoing harassment. Professionals were subjected to these behaviours from a wide range of sources: peers, line managers, other professionals and related agencies, parents of the child being protected and their supporters, the perpetrator of child abuse, and even child victims. While most respondents (69 per cent) did not think that violence had increased over time, almost 75 per cent of respondents reported that nothing in their professional training had prepared them for the experience of threats, intimidation and violence they experienced. The study, therefore, has considerable significance for professional trainers and university educators in all professions dealing with children where maltreatment has occurred or is suspected. The effects of the unwanted behaviours were reported by respondents as predominantly psychological, with fear being the most prevalent effect. Over two-thirds of the respondents reported feeling burnt out by their work, with teachers reporting burnout more frequently than other professionals. This level of burnout is well above levels previously reported and points to an urgent need to investigate the working conditions of professionals whose role includes the protection of children.

Youth justice: criminal trajectories

Report title: Youth justice : criminal trajectories
Grantees: Dr Mark Lynch, Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission
Criminology Research Council grant ; (22/01-02)

The youth justice criminal trajectories research project used data from the Queensland Department of Families, the Queensland Police Service and the Queensland Department of Corrective Services to determine the extent to which juveniles on supervised orders in 1994-95 progressed to the adult corrections system. The results showed that a significant proportion of the research cohort progressed to the adult corrections system and that multiple factors increased the risk of progression. Risk factors included gender, Indigenous status and the presence of a care and protection order.

The key findings of the project were:

The very high rate of progression from juvenile supervised orders to the adult corrections system means it is reasonable to question the adequacy and appropriateness of our current responses to juvenile offending. The results showed a clear need for multidisciplinary interagency interventions that address the precursors to juvenile offending and help established offenders desist from further offending. These responses will need to involve a wide range of government departments - some of which may not immediately see their core business as incorporating a crime prevention dimension - such as housing, education, health, police, families, treasury, public amenities and transport.

Risk assessment by mental health professionals and the prevention of future violent behaviour

Report title: Risk assessment by mental health professionals and the prevention of future violent behaviour
Grantees: Associate Professor Bernadette McSherry, Monash University
Criminology Research Council grant ; (18/00-01)

This report examined the current legal and ethical background to risk assessment for the purpose of preventing future serious injury to others.

It outlined the development of the concepts of risk assessment and risk management and the different ways in which risk can be measured. It now appears that there is some degree of consensus that well-trained mental health professionals should be able to predict a patient's short-term potential for violence.

The report also set out the forensic context for risk assessment and outlines some of the areas of law where mental health professionals may be required to write reports or give evidence concerning risk of harm to others. In the criminal law field, this includes writing reports in relation to the risk of an accused reoffending for the purposes of bail applications, sentencing and preventive detention, the disposition of offenders with mental disorders and parole. The report then turned to legal and ethical arguments relating to breaching confidentiality when a health professional believes a patient is at risk of harming others. While there were strong ethical justifications for preserving confidentiality, it appears that the majority of health professionals and ethicists view confidentiality as being relative rather than absolute.

Civil litigation by citizens against Australian police between 1994 and 2002

Report title: Civil litigation by citizens against Australian police between 1994 and 2002
Grantees: Dr Jude McCulloch and Darren Palmer, Deakin University
Criminology Research Council grant ; (19/01-02)

This research was the first detailed attempt to describe, understand and analyse the nature and extent of civil litigation against police in Australia. It used interviews with police, lawyers and ombudsmen and an analysis of civil cases to identify the key issues involved in civil litigation against police. The report identified a partial shift in police responses to civil litigation from an adversarial approach towards a risk management approach. However, concerns about being seen as 'too soft', and the need to maintain police officer morale through rigorous defence of civil suits are limiting a fuller shift to a risk management approach.

The research concluded that courts are increasingly willing to award aggravated and punitive damages against police. A risk management approach that utilises meaningful apologies may lessen the risk of aggravated damages and satisfy many complainants. Further, the case analysis and interviews indicated that matters being litigated are serious breaches of police standards, are not generally heat-of-the-moment split-second decisions, and that civil litigation provides an additional means of making police accountable.

Investigating the incidence of criminal and antisocial behaviour by young people on the Strand in Townsville

Report title: Investigating the incidents of criminal and anti-social behaviour by young people on The Strand
Grantees: Dr Glen Dawes and Bruce Drummond, James Cook University
Criminology Research Council grant ; (16/01-02)

The Townsville Strand was redeveloped in 1999 and while attracting praise for its aesthetic appeal, it is also a public space that attracts young people who engage in antisocial and criminal forms of behaviour such as driving modified cars, skateboarding along the promenade and participating in acts of vandalism such as the production of illegal graffiti.

The outcomes of this research identify a number of key issues which challenge popular and often inaccurate public perceptions linking youth to antisocial or criminal behaviour. First, the majority of youth who utilise the Strand perceive that they are unfairly labelled as engaging in deviant behaviour because of their age, that they are easily identifiable by virtue of their alliance to specific subcultures. Secondly, there is a shared perception that a minority of youth engage in antisocial behaviour on the Strand. Thirdly, young people have responded by resolving to resist attempts to marginalise their presence on the Strand which highlights the contested nature of public spaces by various stakeholders and questions the effectiveness of increased forms of policing and security aimed at regulating young people. The study highlights the need for alternative strategies to the perceived problem of youth and forms of antisocial or criminal behaviour on the Strand.

A longitudinal investigation of psychosocial risk factors for speeding offences among young motor car drivers

Report title: A longitudinal investigation of psychosocial risk factors for speeding offences among young motor car drivers
Grantees: Peter Palamara and Associate Professor Mark Stevenson, University of Western Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (13/01-02)

A longitudinal cohort study of a sample of 17-year-old Western Australian drivers has shown that the incidence of novice driver speeding offences increases significantly after the first year of driving with a peak at 24-months and a decline thereafter. The data suggests that the vast majority of offences are for speeding between 10 and 19km/hour above the speed limit, with 'excessive' speeding offences being highest in frequency in the first year and then declining in frequency thereafter. The unadjusted rates of the incidence of speeding drivers showed that males are more likely than females to incur one or more speeding infringements.

The combination of a longitudinal design and the application of multivariate analytical techniques to objective speeding offence data has addressed many of the shortcomings of previous investigations of the psychosocial risk factors for speeding by young drivers. In particular, the reported findings have clarified the causal role of previously identified risk factors while adjusting for their co-variation with other known driver factors. This point is exemplified by the non-significant association of normative beliefs for speeding and attitudes toward speeding, which have been previously identified as significant independent contributors to speeding behaviour.

A conditional probability approach to risk assessment for child sexual offenders with different classes of victim

Grantees: Dr Michael Proeve, Dr Andrew Day, Dr Phil Mohr and Katherine Hawkins, University of South Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (1/02-03)

Specific scales were developed for discriminating child sexual offenders with different classes of victim. The project demonstrates a method of individualising scores on actuarial risk assessment measured in a way that makes them more meaningful for those involved in decision-making about individual child sexual offenders. At present, the only quantifiable approach to specific decision-making relies on a general prediction of future behaviour, based on group data. The Bayesian approach is one method that can be used to assist decision-makers to use this information in ways that lead to the more appropriate management of risk. Ultimately, the better management of known child sexual offenders will lead to fewer offences and a reduction in the number of children who lives are profoundly affected by sexual victimisation.

Facilitators and inhibitors of mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse

Report title: Facilitators and inhibitors of mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse : a research study
Grantees: Dr Beverley Blaskett and Dr S. Caroline Taylor, University of Ballarat
Criminology Research Council grant ; (9/01-02)

This study examined the questions of whether professionals charged with caring for children and young people favour mandatory reporting of child physical and sexual abuse and whether professionals perceive conflicts between their obligations to report abuse and their professional concern to support families. This survey of 452 Victorian professionals, including mandated doctors, nurses, teachers and psychiatrists and non-mandated psychologists, social workers and childcare workers, established general support for mandatory reporting. Many professionals consult with one another over the decision of whether to report suspected child abuse to authorities, and most counsel one another to report. However, one-fifth reported that on occasion they have chosen not to report child abuse. Reasons for under-reporting relate to perceived necessity to establish conclusive proof of abuse, a lack of confidence in the child protection system and fear of damage to their supportive relationship with the child's family. This study also discovered that more experienced professionals may only report those cases which they believe will trigger action by child protection services.

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