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CRC funded reports


The Council received reports from 7 completed research projects during the year 1980-81. 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. Prison administration in New South Wales - 1896 to 1909
  2. Remands in South Australian courts
  3. Mental retardation and stealing
  4. Gun ownership in Australia
  5. Criminal law in the bedroom: a study of South Australian 'rape in marriage' legislation
  6. A pilot program in diversion and prevention of juvenile delinquency
  7. Crime perception and inner city population migration

Prison administration in New South Wales - 1896 to 1909

Report title: Penal Reform in New South Wales: Frederick William Neitenstein 1896-1909 by M.L. Sernack Cruise, 2 vols (PhD thesis), University of Sydney
Grantee: Dr M. Sernack, Department of Government and Public Administration, University of Sydney
Criminology Research Council grant ; (22/73)

This is an historical study of the career of F. W. Neitenstein, I.S.O., Comptroller-General of Prisons in New South Wales from the time of his appointment in mid-1896 to his retirement in late 1909. Special emphasis is given to the prison service as an organisational entity set within the context of the state bureaucracy of the day, and to some incentives for and barriers to the reform of this organisation.

The historical orientation of the study is intended to reduce in some measure the problems of historical thinness and inaccuracy besetting contemporary Australian penology generally, as well as the utilisation in part of the immensely rich and varied trove of historical data which exist in relation to the penal system of New South Wales.

The study is divided into five sections. Part I describes the historical background and origin of the New South Wales prison system from the time of the arrival of the First Fleet; the appointment of Harold Maclean as first Inspector-General of Prisons in 1864; the career of Maclean (1874-1889) and later George Miller (1890-1896) as Comptroller-General of Prisons, and Neitenstein's early career in the New South Wales Department of Public Instruction, first as Commander of the N.S.S. 'Vernon' and subsequently of the I.S.S. 'Sobraon'.

Part II is an account of the changes made by Neitenstein to the prison system from mid-1896 to 1902. These changes were of three kinds: structural, systematic and regulatory change. Regulatory changes in particular are analysed in terms of three different perspectives-as Neitenstein viewed them, and as they were regarded from within and outside the prison system.

From this time Neitenstein increasingly strove to implement reforms through legislative and judicial change. The shifting of his concerns from the internal aspects of the prison system to the legislative and political arenas is discussed, along with the reasons and factors compelling this action.

Part III is an account of the later years of Neitenstein's administration. Here his activities as a penal reformer are considered from a slightly different perspective so as to bring out the specifically bureaucratic factors which influenced his policies and practices. Statutory changes effected from 1899 to 1908 are closely examined. A tour undertaken by Neitenstein during 1903-04 and his subsequent philosophical orientation is described. The problem posed by a particular class of prisoner (in this case women) and the limited ways and means open to Neitenstein to attempt its resolution are discussed. Finally Part III considers Neitenstein's qualities as an administrator, and evaluates some of the reasons for his success and failure to achieve reforms within the parameters of the state bureaucracy.

Part IV examines the final details of Neitenstein's career as a penal reformer: the circumstances of his early retirement and the appointment of a successor. The career of his nominee, Samuel McCauley, is briefly reviewed in an attempt to establish whether or not this choice of a successor was an error of judgement, and to see why Neitenstein was unable to ensure McCauley's appointment.

The conclusion of the study represents an attempt to describe and to define the ways in which change of a reformist kind may be implemented by administrators in Westminster-model bureaucracies.

Broadly, in considering the question as to why and how Neitenstein managed to make such a profound impression on the New South Wales penal system, the factor taken to be of greatest importance was the quality of leadership. Neitenstein's role as leader is in some respects akin to the forms of leadership described by Weber as charismatic, traditional and bureaucratic. Elements of each are seen in Neitenstein's leadership, particularly in charismatic form. But above all Neitenstein was considered a great 'bureaucratic' administrator who skilfully combined patriarchal leadership and orderly bureaucratic authority, with its streamlined routines, into a style of organisation which was at once humane, economical, efficient and just.

Remands in South Australian courts

Report title: Remands in South Australian Criminal Courts
Grantee: Mr S. C. Cole, Lecturer in Law, South Australian Institute of Technology
Criminology Research Council grant ; (15/79)

This research study sought to examine remand patterns and disposal times in South Australian criminal courts. A total of 498 Adelaide Magistrates Court cases, 243 District Criminal Court cases, and 41 Supreme Court cases were examined.

Sixty two percent of Adelaide Magistrates Court cases were dealt with in one month or less, 75 percent were dealt with in two months or less, and 82 percent were dealt with in three months or less. The mean time from the first court appearance to disposition of offenders prosecuted in the Adelaide Magistrates Court was 2.1 months. Defendants pleading guilty took a mean time of 1.9 months to be dealt with. Defendants pleading not guilty took a mean time of 3.5 months to be dealt with.

Twenty nine percent of Adelaide Magistrates Court cases were dealt with at first appearance. Seventy three percent of cases produced two remands or less. Cases showed a mean of 1.8 remands.

Defendants pleading guilty in the District Criminal Court were dealt with in a mean time of 109 days from first appearance to disposition. Defendants pleading not guilty in the District Criminal Court were dealt with in a mean time of 197 days from first appearance to disposition. District Criminal Court cases showed a mean of four remands where defendants pleaded guilty, and a mean of 6.1 remands where defendants pleaded not guilty.

Defendants pleading guilty in the Supreme Court were dealt with in a mean time of 115 days from first appearance to disposition. Defendants pleading not guilty in the Supreme Court were dealt with in a mean time of 233 days from first appearance to disposition. Supreme Court cases showed a mean of 4.7 remands where defendants pleaded guilty and 7.2 remands where defendants pleaded not guilty.

Fifty three percent (128) of District Criminal Court defendants were remanded for sentence: eight defendants were remanded on bail. Of the 120 District Criminal Court defendants remanded in custody for sentence, 65 were imprisoned and 55 were given non-custodial sentences.

Fifty nine percent (24) of Supreme Court defendants were remanded for sentence: all were remanded in custody. Of the 24 Supreme Court defendants remanded in custody for sentence, 15 were imprisoned and nine were given non-custodial sentences.

It has been recommended that:

Mental retardation and stealing

Report title: A Comparative Study of the Behaviour of Normal and Retarded Subjects in Hypothetical Temptation to Steal Dilemmas (PDF 1MB)
Grantees: Dr M. S. Jackson, Reader in Special Education, University of Tasmania, and Dr A. T. Haines, Part-time Lecturer, Faculty of Education, University of Tasmania
Criminology Research Council grant ; (16/78)

This report is divided into two parts; Part I is a comparative study of the behaviour of normal and retarded subjects in temptation to steal situations and Part II is a study of two procedures designed to facilitate the development of resistance to temptation behaviour.

In Part I, the study compared the responses of 48 retarded subjects to an older and younger group of 48 normal subjects (matched for sex, chronological age and mental age, respectively) in a series of eight hypothetical temptation to steal dilemmas, designed by Jackson.

Utilising a moral judgement component in the same dilemmas it was possible to make both inter and intra group comparisons. The results indicated that both the younger and the older normal subjects resisted significantly more often than the retarded subjects on what is described as the 'did do' measure of the test. Similarly both groups of normal subjects generated significantly more legitimate acquisition responses than the retarded, with the older normal subjects using such responses significantly more often than the younger normal subjects. Using the 'should do' measure, inter-group comparisons yielded no significant differences between any of the groups. A further comparison indicated significant differences between what all groups of subjects said they 'should do' compared to what they 'did do'. It was found that normal subjects were significantly more reflective than retarded subjects. In a series of measures relating to the perception of parental punishment, it was found that stealing was related to punishment behaviour by parents. In a test of person variables relating to 'ability to accept blame', 'ability to decide right from wrong', a sex difference was noted which indicated that retarded females who stole more had personal difficulties.

In Part II, the study concerned a comparison of two treatment programs designed to facilitate resistance to temptation behaviour in educable mentally retarded children. The treatment derived its main aspects and content from Jackson's (1968) model of cognitive processing in w hypothetical temptation to steal situations. The content and format of the treatment owed much to a study done by Haines, Jackson and Davidson with normal children in 1979.

This study, which was based on a population pool of 108 such children, employed a four group design with one group receiving a direct instruction program. A second group, serving as an alternative treatment condition received a general instruction procedure, whilst a third group (no treatment control) experienced no specific intervention. The fourth post-only control group was employed to test for sensitisation of the testing effects.

It was hypothesised that direct instruction would be more effective than general instruction, indeed an analysis of the data indicated that the direct instruction group used resistance responses significantly more than the general instruction group and no treatment control groups on the behavioural measure of the test. Another important result indicated that the direct instruction group was significantly more reflective than the other groups.

The main implication of the study is that a cognitively orientated procedure may be regarded as an effective strategy for the prevention and treatment of mentally retarded children's stealing behaviour.

Gun ownership in Australia

Report title: Firearms and Violence in Australian Life: An Examination of Gun Ownership and Use in Australia (book)
Grantee: Professor R. Harding, Law School, University of Western Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (15/73)

Funds for this project were initially granted by the Criminology Research Council in 1973. Supplementary finance was granted in 1977. With the March 1981 publication of Firearms and Violence in Australian Ute (University of Western Australia Press) by Professor Richard Harding, one of the Council's longest-running projects has reached fruition.

The original purpose of the research had been to ascertain the number of firearms in private ownership in Australia, their types, variations in pattern by State and how many separate owners of such firearms there were. Such apparently elementary data could not be supplied by law enforcement authorities because in only one State (Western Australia) was there a licensing and registration system which in principle should have produced such information. Previous estimates of firearms ownership were wildly disparate and imprecise. It was also intended to acquire more sophisticated information about owners-their socio-economic profiles, their motives for gun ownership, their conduct in relation to their firearm and ammunition, their training and general sense of safety-consciousness, etc. All such data were to be evaluated also against the backdrop of firearms use in crime, accidents, suicide and law enforcement.

During 1973 and 1974 pilot surveys were carried out in Western Australia, both urban and rural areas. These indicated that the basic methodology would work, i.e. that respondents would answer questions about what might be considered a sensitive issue honestly and comprehensively. The researcher was accordingly able to persuade the Australian Bureau of Statistics to become associated with the project on a national basis as part of its General Social Survey 1975. However, that survey was, in the event, incomplete in that it omitted from the sample some 14 percent of the Australian population living in very low density rural areas. Because the pilot survey had indicated that this part of the population had the highest gun ownership rates, it thus became necessary to plug this gap by further surveys. For reasons of finance, these could only be carried out in two States. New South Wales and South Australia were selected-the former because it is the most populous in Australia, the latter because the 1977 Firearms Act had just been passed as a consequence of which it would eventually be possible to obtain an official estimate of firearms and owners against which to measure survey results. These surveys were accordingly carried out in early 1978. Bureau of Statistics data became officially available in mid-1979, and the researcher was able to complete the manuscript of Firearms and Violence by mid-1980.

The key findings were as follows: Approximately 2.5 million firearms are owned by some 1.5 million private citizens; the inventory of firearms is increasing by about 100,000 annually. Patterns varied by State in a way which indicated that legislative arrangements are capable of affecting to some degree this particular social phenomenon. Types of firearms were: rifles, 64 per cent; shotguns, 32 percent; handguns, 4 percent. The most important feature was low handgun ownership, achieved nationally in the only area of firearms law administration where there had previously been any coordination between States.

Motives for ownership were mainly of the sort one would expect: for hunting and sport, for the destruction of vermin by primary producers, and as collectors' items. A disturbing trend was, however, the apparent propensity of Australians to arm themselves for the misguided motive of defence-misguided because it is ineffective and because its tendency is simply to increase the total amount of firearms violence in society. This trend was most marked in Queensland.

The training and safety consciousness of owners were both inadequate. This reflects itself in an unnecessarily high accident rate, causing death and injury; 90 percent of such accidents are due to shooter incompetence. It was apparent that gun club members are safer and better trained than other shooters. This fact should be utilised in licensing laws, by requiring a prospective firearms owner to acquire a shooter competence certificate issued by an approved gun club as a licence prerequisite.

The most significant misuse of firearms is, of course, in crime. The research concludes that, in Australia, this has not yet reached alarming proportions. However, it is argued that we 'are on the same road as the United States' where patterns of gun ownership and misuse are 'destructive, volatile, self-perpetuating and intractable'. A strategy is suggested whereby that situation may be headed off for Australia whilst there is still time; the key point is coordinated Commonwealth/State/Territory legislation. In particular, the Commonwealth should inquire into its present utilisation of the Customs power, which appears not to be working satisfactorily in this area.

The publication of Firearms and Violence attracted a great deal of media attention and political discussion. The Council of Australian Police Ministers announced that uniform legislation would be examined. Western Australia announced that a review of its firearms laws was to take place. In June 1981 an international conference was held in Perth to discuss gun laws; this brought together for the first time a group of shooters, dealers, bankers, private security personnel, police, government authorities, politicians, lawyers and criminologists-including four noted international scholars. A similar conference was held in Canberra later the same month.

The research project thus can be seen to have put an important social issue into the forefront of public discussion, which is now able to be conducted on the basis of hard information and facts.

Criminal law in the bedroom: a study of South Australian 'rape in marriage' legislation

Report title: Rape Law Reform: A study of the South Australian Experience, Social and personal impact of pornography
Grantees: Dr D. Chappell, former Commissioner, The Australian Law Reform Commission, and Mr P. A. Sallmann, Lecturer, Department of Legal Studies, La Trobe University, Victoria
Criminology Research Council grant ; (11/77)

This research aimed to assess the impact of rape law reform in South Australia. The main changes in law investigated were:

The study also explored the operation of the South Australian Police Department procedures for dealing with sexual offence complaints. At that time, a squad of specially trained policewomen attended the complainant throughout the investigative and court process. Also investigated were the medical procedures for treating victims and for collecting forensic evidence. These were accomplished by a panel of doctors at a major Adelaide public hospital. This panel included female practitioners, thus giving a victim the choice of a woman doctor.

The empirical research was conducted over a six month period in 1978 when extensive interviews were carried out with women's groups, lawyers, politicians, doctors, marriage guidance counsellors and many others with direct involvement in the area.

In broad summary it was found that the changes were essentially the result of strong political pressures brought to bear by the impact worldwide and at the local level of the modern women's movement. This was coupled with a government which was very receptive to women's rights. It was found that the legal changes were generally accepted as well-based in policy and sensible in direction. There were, however, strong pockets of resistance, in some instances ideological and in others technical. Ideological resistance to the rape in marriage prohibition arose from religious and conservative interests. Technical objections to the evidentiary changes in the law were raised by the judiciary and the defence bar. These groups generally felt that the changes had unduly tilted the delicate scales of justice too much towards the prosecution in the effort to achieve justice for the victim. Amongst prosecuting and defence lawyers there was widespread dissatisfaction with the final form of the legislation, as amendments were necessitated by parliamentary compromise. There was one notable instance in which a judge of the South Australian Supreme Court redrafted a large portion of the evidentiary legislation and included the result in his reported judgement in a case.

At another level the research revealed a climate of opinion which suggested that quite radical legislative reforms can be achieved and can be quickly accepted by the community generally if politicians have the courage of their convictions to act in accordance with what they think should be done rather than balk at proposals because of perceived pockets of vocal opposition.

Specifically, the new definition of rape appears to be working quite well. It was too early to make definitive statements about the impact of the evidentiary provisions because there was still a strong element of judicial discretion involved and, at the time of writing the report, a pattern had yet to be established. The researchers did have criticisms of the police procedures; despite the well-intentioned inclusion of policewomen in the system, there appeared to be far too much duplication of interviewing which compounded the stress experienced by the victim. At the time of the research, the medical panel of women doctors was in difficulty because of dwindling levels of interest in the scheme.

Most importantly, at the broad sociological level it seemed clear to the researchers that the legal and procedural changes accomplished were part of a process of social and attitudinal change. Placing the sexes on an equal level as far as sex offence law is concerned clearly has had an important symbolic, educational and conceptual impact and has set the pattern for continual movement in that direction.

A monograph article based upon the research is soon to appear in the Adelaide Law Review monograph series. Another article dealing specifically with rape in marriage is soon to be published in an American social science journal.

A pilot program in diversion and prevention of juvenile delinquency

Report title: Research Project: A Pilot Program in Diversion and Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency
Grantee: Mr A. P. Harris (on behalf of Darwin & Districts YMCA Youth Clubs)
Criminology Research Council grant ; (9/78)

The 'Time Out' program in its present form was initiated in late 1978. It was hoped to establish a program that would be attractive to a group of young people, seen as being 'at risk' by the teachers at the high school they attended. In the short term, the aims were merely to involve these young people in enjoyable activities in an effort to promote the constructive use of leisure time, and to aid the development of initiative, confidence and feelings of self worth. In the longer term it was hoped that this would reduce probability of delinquency in the group.

Participation in Time Out was entirely voluntary and informal, and every effort was made to ensure that it was not seen as a program of treatment, or in any way as being problem oriented.

In the research an attempt was made to evaluate the validity of the selection technique employed by the school by comparing their assessment, and others, against court appearances. From this it has been possible to demonstrate what appears to be a significant link between certain subjective assessments, and the probability of appearing in court. In particular the following criteria appear to be of interest.

  1. School Assessments, where, of those with a low rating, 54.5 percent had appeared in court, as against 7.7 percent for those with a high rating.
  2. Family Support and Interaction, where, of those with a low rating 63.6 percent had appeared in court, as against 12.5 percent for those with a high rating.
  3. Social Skills, where, of those with a low rating 60 percent had appeared in court, as against 20 percent for those with a high rating.

These findings suggest some justification for the continued use of subjective assessments in nominating students for diversion programs.

An attempt was also made to compare the behaviour of the 42 participants with a control group of 35, from the same school, who were also identified as being 'at risk', but for whom the program was not offered. This attempt was not successful as the control group were much less frequently the subject of police action (both prior to, and during, the evaluation period) and there is some evidence to suggest that their school behaviour was not seen as uncooperative and disruptive to the same extent as was the case with the participant group.

The main evaluation therefore comprised a comparison of the unlawful behaviour of the participants during the evaluation period and the preceding 12 months. Even though the first phase of the program started in November 1978, it was considered that the effective and fully operational starting date was February 1979, and the evaluation period was therefore February 1979 to January 1980.

During this period seven of the program participants were the subject of 32 charges, compared with 13 of the participants being charged with 74 offences in the preceding 12 months (February 1978 to January 1979).

If the unlawful behaviour of the participants over the two Christmas holiday periods is compared (December 1978 and January 1979 compared with December 1979 and January 1980) the comparison is even more striking. In the first two month period 34 charges were laid against nine individuals compared with five charges against two individuals in the latter period.

Although there were shortcomings in the experimental design, and the comparison is not claimed to prove conclusively the value of the program, it is certainly to be seen as encouraging. Overall the cautious conclusion reached was that the Time Out Program seemed to produce positive results in the small sample of participants. The program therefore appears worthy of continued experimentation and should be evaluated more rigorously at a later date.

Crime perception and inner city population migration

Report title: Crime Perception and Residential Mobility in an Inner City Suburb (PDF 1.9MB)
Grantee: Mr J. R. Minnery, Lecturer, Urban and Regional Planning, Queensland Institute of Technology
Criminology Research Council grant ; (6/80)

This study attempted to ascertain the effects of crime rates on residential mobility in an inner city suburb of Brisbane. The particular suburb, Spring Hill, was chosen for two main reasons:

  1. It is an inner city residential area undergoing the land use and demographic changes common in many similar Australian settings.
  2. Brisbane City Council is preparing a development control plan for the suburb. A great deal of basic information about the suburb has been accummulated as part of this exercise, but just as importantly, the results of the research project will be of use to the Council in the physical and social planning of the area; and it is felt by many people outside the suburb to have a high crime rate.

The study did not achieve all of its objectives, but it did produce a number of results which surprised the investigators and which would prove fruitful avenues for further investigation.

It was found that a high proportion of Spring Hill residents told interviewers that they did not think their suburb had a high crime rate. This may reflect the true state of affairs, or it may be merely part of a protective mechanism developed by residents living in an area with a truly high crime rate. More sensitive interviewing in this area would be needed to clarify this.

The results indicate an ambiguous relationship between crime rates and perception of them. The survey was unable to clarify whether there was a link between perception of crime rates and residential mobility, but an investigation over time would provide a clearer indication. There were some indications from the survey that the possible link between perception of degree of disorder in a residential environment and expectations of deviant behavior was worth further investigation.

The study confirmed the pattern of non-reporting of crime by victims. The survey also showed the extent to which people feel that action can be taken by city authorities and the police to reduce crime in their area.

The full report of this research has been published in Planscape No.2 for June 1981.

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