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CRC funded reports


The Council received reports from 4 completed research projects during the year 1979-80. 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. The use and form of psychiatric reports in sentencing
  2. Spatial analysis of juvenile offending in the Brisbane metropolitan area
  3. A study of the principles of sentencing as enunciated by South Australian appellate courts
  4. School programs to reduce delinquent behaviour

Interim Reports Received

Summaries of three interim reports received during the year are also given below.

  1. Crime and architectural design in Brisbane
  2. Recidivism rates of violent offenders
  3. A cross-cultural analysis of the police occupational role

The use and form of psychiatric reports in sentencing

Report title: A Study of Pre-Sentence Psychiatric Reports in Tasmania
Grantee: Mrs C. A. Warner, former Tutor, Faculty of Law, University of Tasmania
Criminology Research Council grant ; (14/75)

The report of this research was submitted to the University of Tasmania as a Master of Laws thesis under the title 'A Study of Pre-Sentence Psychiatric Reports in Tasmania'. This degree was awarded to Mrs Warner.

The research reviewed all cases in Tasmania in which the offenders were remanded for psychiatric reports in two periods, 1969-70 and 1974-75. A total of more than 450 cases were considered. Judges and magistrates were also interviewed by the researcher.

The study found no increase in the number or proportion of offenders remanded for psychiatric reports by Courts of Petty Sessions in 1974-75 compared with 1969-70, and for female offenders the number remanded declined significantly. Both higher and lower courts remanded significantly more sexual offenders than any other category of male offender and the data suggested that the courts were more likely to remand offenders with prior convictions than first offenders. Both the objective data from the remand samples and the interview responses of judges and magistrates indicated that previous psychiatric history and the requests of probation officers and counsel for psychiatric reports also influenced the decision to remand. The results suggested that psychiatric reports have considerable impact upon the courts' decisions, particularly in relation to treatment. The courts appeared to follow treatment recommendations in about 75 percent of cases and sentencing recommendations in about 64 percent of cases. Evidence from the questionnaire responses and the recommendations made and acted upon showed that the role of the psychiatrist was not merely to detect and treat mentally ill offenders, but extended to the assessment and explanation of selected offenders' behaviour and to advising the court of the best way to deal with them. The research also showed that of those offenders who were required to submit to treatment in 1969-70, a large proportion subsequently required further treatment, and the majority re-offended. Prognoses in relation to recidivism were often inaccurate. For petty offenders, hospital orders or transfer directions probably resulted in periods of involuntary incarceration for much longer than they would have been obliged to suffer if imprisoned. Probationers with a condition as to psychiatric treatment received treatment in only a minority of cases.

The empirical evidence collected and analysed and the observation and study of the legal and administrative provisions which regulate the use of psychiatric reports revealed certain deficiencies, and a number of recommendations were made to overcome these. These recommendations were:

  1. There should be a specific statutory power in Tasmania to remand an offender for psychiatric examination for the purposes of a pre-sentence report.
  2. The power to order in-patient and out-patient psychiatric treatment as a condition of probation should be embodied in a specific statutory provision. Such power should be contingent upon the following matters:
    1. A request to a psychiatrist for a report based upon an examination of the offender, with reasons for the request and copies or a summary of relevant material relating to the offender and the offence.
    2. A report recommending treatment, and
    3. The offenders consent to treatment.
  3. Whenever a psychiatric report is ordered, the psychiatrist should be made aware of the reasons for requesting it and the issues he is required to discuss.
  4. Agreed guidelines as to the scope of psychiatric examinations should be prepared and circulated among psychiatrists covering observational and historical aspects of written evaluations for psychiatric reports.
  5. The courts should keep records of psychiatric reports requested.
  6. There should be a legislative power, subject to adequate safeguards, enabling judges and magistrates to remand certain offenders to a psychiatric hospital for observation.
  7. Magistrates and judges should be informed of treatment details.
  8. Close cooperation between probation officers and the psychiatric services should improve the management of psychiatric probation order patients.
  9. The hospital or psychiatrist in charge of the treatment of hospital order patients should be Iable to refer patients back to court if they are found to be uncooperative or unsuitable for treatment.

Spatial analysis of juvenile offending in the Brisbane metropolitan area

Report title: Spatial Aspects of Delinquency in Urban Brisbane
Grantee: Mr V. L. Bartlett, Lecturer, Department of Education, University of Queensland
Criminology Research Council grant ; (12/74)

A report of 172 pages entitled 'Spatial Aspects of Delinquency in Urban Brisbane' provided a descriptive account of the geography of delinquency in urban Brisbane. Five categories of offence (petty theft, grand theft, under age offence, offences against the person and property offences) were derived from police files. The distributions of residences of delinquents were investigated within three sections; the characteristics of offenders and their residence; the areal analysis of shoplifting and the movement patterns of offenders from home location (delinquency residence) to offence location (delinquency occurrence); and an ecological analysis of delinquency data.

The findings relating to offenders may be summarised:

  1. There was some evidence of a delinquency occurrence gradient in the study area.
  2. High delinquency residence areas were observed in the inner city as well as the northern and eastern boundaries of the study area.
  3. Patterns of delinquency occurrence were explainable only by further investigation of specific offence categories particularly shoplifting.
  4. A moderate relationship existed between socio-economic status (S.E.S.) and offence category; High S.E.S. offenders tended to engage in petty theft, lower S.E.S. in grand theft. Lower S.E.S. offenders (unskilled occupation of principal income earner) were more closely associated with person and under age offences.
  5. Offenders from lower S.E.S. groups tended to be charged in Children's Court more frequently than offenders from other S.E.S. groups for the total sample population but not within individual categories of offence.
  6. Under age offences and offences against the person were associated with unstable family environments.
  7. Levels of offence rate fluctuated during the year particularly during school recess periods.
  8. The thirteen year old age group was significantly over-represented in the sample group of offenders;

This areal analysis of shoplifting investigated the distance, directional and sectoral bias in delinquents' movements from residence to the location of the offence in any of the six specified retail establishments included in the study. Findings included:

  1. The number of delinquents' residences decreased with increasing distance from regional retail stores.
  2. Accessibility interpreted as choice of nearest centre for theft appeared more important to delinquents who centred theft activity on suburban retail centres.
  3. Delinquents who were nearest or most accessible to a theft centre were 'influenced' by its proximity and tended to steal at that centre or one nearby.
  4. Older offenders tended to travel greater distances to offence locations.

Data on delinquency rates for areas were juxtaposed with census information for the same areas. Some of the results of this ecological analysis included:

  1. Residential density was not clearly related to delinquency in urban areas.
  2. The influence of socio-economic status on delinquency residence rates (with the exception of the under age offence category) was minimal.
  3. Ethnicity had little effect on delinquency residence rates.
  4. High delinquency residence in urban Brisbane was characterised by population stability rather than population transience.
  5. Work status of mothers of delinquents appeared relatively important for petty theft and under age offence.
  6. Employment status measured by percent unemployment in areas was the singular and most influential theme on levels of delinquency residence.
  7. Education measured by percent population over 15 years with less than six levels of schooling showed some association with under age offence.

A study of the principles of sentencing as enunciated by South Australian appellate courts

Report title: Sentencing in South Australia (book)
Grantee: Mrs M. W. Treacher (formerly Miss M. W. Daunton-Fear) former Head of the Legal Affairs Section, Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra
Criminology Research Council grant ; (23/75)

The culmination of this research project was the publication in 1980 of a book Sentencing in South Australia by The Law Book Company in association with the Australian Institute of Criminology. The study is based on a collection of South Australian sentencing decisions carefully analysed in a way that enables those concerned with the practice of sentencing to identify and apply those principles, enunciated mainly by the appellate courts of South Australia, that cannot but assist in the attainment of greater consistency and order in the sentencing process.

The book is divided into three chapters. The first chapter entitled 'General Matters' deals with a broad range of issues. It includes a section dealing with the jurisdiction of the courts in South Australia to entertain appeals, and the 'error principle' of appellate court intervention is discussed. Other specific issues examined include the purpose of sentencing, factors aggravating or mitigating of sentence and many other matters which are relevant or impinge upon the determination of sentence. The second chapter examines specific sanctions, such as imprisonment, probation, fines and reparation. There is also discussion on pre-sentence reports. Chapter three looks specifically at sentencing road traffic offenders and alcohol and drug offenders.

In the Foreword to the book, the former Chief Justice of South Australia, Dr J. J. Bray, comments that 'the exposition is clear and thorough and the research is exhaustive'. His Honour also expresses the view that the work 'will possess a permanent value for the historian and the sociologist, apart from its more practical use as a legal textbook'. The work complements an earlier book by Miss Daunton-Fear Sentencing in Western Australia published by the University of Queensland Press in 1977.

School programs to reduce delinquent behaviour

Report title: Affective Education Project; A Preventative Program to Reduce Delinquency Through School Based Teacher Education
Grantee: Ms L. Marnier (formerly Ms L. Emery), Research Officer, Research and Planning Branch, Department of Education, South Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (25/76)

This project was funded jointly by the Council and the Education Department of South Australia. A report of 116 pages was published by the Research Section of the Education Department of South Australia in January 1980 under the title Affective Education Project; A Preventative Program to Reduce Delinquency Through School Based Teacher Education.

The research was conducted in six South Australian secondary schools in 1977 and 1978 and has demonstrated success in reducing delinquency behaviours and its antecedents in the school setting. Three consultants conducted school-based sessions with small groups of volunteer teachers from three schools. A fourth person collected and collated data from teachers and students in these three schools and three comparison schools.

The project team subscribed to the belief that the interaction of educational and social factors influences learning. In teacher education sessions held each week with teachers in the three schools they attempted to convey to teachers ways of acknowledging students and ways of organising both the educational and social environments so that appropriate behaviours could be taught, modelled and used. In this situation it was thought likely that students would develop positive self-concepts, positive academic self-assessments and positive attitudes to school. It was assumed that attitudes in these three areas were related to behaviour.

The project team expected that bullying, nuisance behaviour, taking correction badly, truancy, vandalism and dishonesty in the school would be reduced, and they hoped for a reduction of delinquent behaviour outside the school setting. Student self-report questionnaires and teacher interviews were used to monitor changes.

As a result of school-based teacher education, teachers from the three experimental schools reported increased discussion of problem situations with other teachers and increased acting on students' suggestions. They also reported using more responses to student behaviour that were consistent with the aims of the project team. These increases were not shown by teachers in the three comparison schools. In addition, the self-concept, academic self-assessment, attitude to school and the behaviour of students in the three experimental schools showed improvement and the amount of delinquent behaviour also reduced.

Crime and Architectural Design in Brisbane

Report titles: Crime and Architecture in Brisbane: A Pilot study of the Relationships between the Crimes of Break and Entry and Vandalism and the Urban and Architectural Environment in four Brisbane Commercial sub-centres (Interim report); Crime and Architecture in Brisbane II: A Follow-up Study (Interim report); Final Report (1983)
Grantee: Dr G. F. de Gruchy, Reader, Department of Architecture, University of Queensland
Criminology Research Council grant ; (1/78)

This Research is continuing and was awarded further financial support during the year, but two interim reports by Dr G. F. de Gruchy and Mr G. Hansford have been submitted to the Council.

The first of these reports, published in November 1979, comprised the results of a study of four commercial sub-centres in the suburbs of Brisbane. The study examined the relationship between the offences of breaking and entering and vandalism and various aspects of the physical environment.

The second report, published in June 1980, extended the research to a further two commercial sub-centres, making a total of six. It was found that most shop breaking incidents occurred at night when surveillance was low; the rear and side facades, especially windows, were the most frequently attacked; and the police were unable, in most cases to solve the crime, apprehend the offender(s) and/or return the stolen property. Vandals were found to have no preference for a particular business type, attacked most frequently at night but caused only minor damage.

The study revealed that the pattern of criminal activity did not vary significantly across sub-centres. Variation in crime rates could not be correlated to either socio-economic catchment or location with respect to city sectors, although the physical nature of each sub-centre did seem to have some influence on the type of crime perpetrated within the sub-centre.

The study found that the complex social and environmental interactions within sub-centres made the development of an analytical shopbreaking vulnerability model difficult. The study confirmed, however, that both passive security and night-time surveillance factors are important measures of vulnerability, and that the security attributes of premises' rear facades seem to playa major role in deterring shopbreaking.

These studies resulted in these recommendations:

  1. Improve internal and external shop surveillance by removing as many obstructions to visibility of the shop and its interior from the street, footpath, and adjacent neighbours as possible.
  2. Install security grilles on all windows, particularly to side and rear windows, and deadlocks on all exterior doors, so as to improve the level of passive security of premises.
  3. Leave interior and exterior lights on all night, and maximise the level of illumination in streets and car parks surrounding the shopping centre.
  4. Install alarms to reduce the proportion of successful break and entries, and reduce the detection time of any offences.
  5. Minimise the isolation of existing shopping centres from the neighbourhoods surrounding them by encouraging residential development within the sub-centres.
  6. Design new shopping centres that minimise the numbers of enclosing structures, and maximise the level of natural surveillance after hours.

Recidivism rates of violent offenders

Report titles: Report is in four parts: (1) Homicide and Recidivism, (2) Recidivism among Assaulters, (3) Recidivism among Robbers, and (4) Recidivism among Rapists (Interim report) ; Final Report (1984)
Grantee: Victorian Department of Community Welfare Services
Criminology Research Council grant ; (7(I)/78)

This research is being jointly supervised by the Victorian Department of Community Welfare Services and the Australian Institute of Criminology, and an independent researcher, Dr Peter Burgoyne, was appointed to undertake the statistical and analytical aspects of the project. Dr Burgoyne has produced four major reports dealing with the recidivism of four groups of violent offenders who had been released from prison or youth training centres at least five years before the research commenced. A total of 662 men were studied. They had originally been sentenced for either robbery, rape, homicide or serious assault or for attempts at these offences.

The personal characteristics of the released offenders were analysed in detail in order to identify those factors, or groups of factors, that were associated with recidivism. These results are not summarised here, but the gross findings of recidivism rates for each type of offender are shown in the table below.

Subsequent offence Original offence
Robbery (N = 195) Rape (N = 115) Homicide (N = 103) Serious Assault (N = 249)
Violent 43 22.1 36 31.3 11 10.7 82 32.9
Other 80 41.0 31 27.0 20 19.4 80 32.1
None 72 36.9 48 41.7 72 69.9 87 34.9

From this table it can be seen that persons sentenced for homicide have considerably lower recidivism rates than do persons sentenced for other violent crimes. In the conclusion to his fourth report Dr Burgoyne has commented on this, saying:

From the point of view of protecting society, it would be better to increase sentences and parole supervision for men convicted of serious assault and decrease sentences for those convicted of homicide. While there are other considerations involved in making decisions about sentencing and parole supervision, there is a clear case for reviewing the allocation of correctional resources.

The breadth of the data contained in these reports will ensure that they are studied in detail by criminologists and others concerned with sentencing and correctional work. The final phase of this research will focus on the qualitative or personal attributes of those who recidivate and those who do not.

A cross-cultural analysis of the police occupational role

Report title: Police Occupational Role Study (Interim report)
Grantee: Mr K. L. Milte, Senior Lecturer, Criminology Department, University of Melbourne
Criminology Research Council grant ; (10/78)

Note: No final report was submitted for this project and the project was terminated in 1986.

The interim report authored by Mr Stephen James on one aspect of this research was received by the Council in 1979. This interim report described a study into aspects of police perceptions of their occupational and social roles. A random sampling, stratified by rank, of 200 members of the Victoria Police was drawn, and invitations to attend individual interviews were mailed. Seventy-five policemen were finally interviewed and their responses tabulated. The interviews were conducted in private in the Criminology Department, University of Melbourne, and followed a standardised format with open-ended responses.

Various areas of police work, suggested by other researchers as possible locations for the generation of stress and stress-related responses, were probed through the interview. In general, the findings support other studies which place emphasis on role conflict and ambiguity, family and social relationships, community attitudes towards the police and the quantitative and qualitative aspects of workload as foci of police problems. Responses were not always unequivocally interpretable; nevertheless concerns such as lack of public cooperation and understanding in regard to police work, social difficulties due to being a police officer, family disruption through shift work, confusions over the scope of responsibility and authority, expected levels of support from superiors, and problems with health emerged as significant issues for a considerable number of the sample.

The range of descriptive data on the subjective police working environment elicited by the study suggests that certain features of police work qualify as stressors. The extent to which individual police cope with these stressors, and the precise consequences of long-term exposure are among many of the questions which remain unanswered about occupational stress. In the Criminology Department, University of Melbourne, different methodological strategies are being adopted in further work on police stress in order to answer these questions.

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