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CRC funded reports


The Council received reports from 12 completed research projects during the year 1982-83. 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. Police training and social interaction
  2. Aboriginal adolescent offenders study
  3. Crime and penal strategy in Australia
  4. The identification of petroleum residues in arsons
  5. Recidivism monitoring program for juvenile delinquents in Western Australian treatment centres
  6. Crime prevention: the extent of knowledge, understanding and expertise of architects, planners and administrators
  7. Education and justice community research
  8. Victoria Police-Ambulance Service, Melbourne, cooperative study to establish the relationship between drug overdose and criminality
  9. Juvenile runaways - alternatives to incarceration
  10. Perspectives of juvenile defendants on the children's court in Kalgoorlie and Kambalda
  11. The effect of summary conviction and court enforced fines on problem street drinkers in receipt of social security payments
  12. The attitudes of manufacturing executives towards offences against the environment

Police training and social interaction

Report title: Learning the Job: An Examination of Induction into an Australian Police Force
Grantee: Dr G. M. McGrath, Director, National Police Research Unit, South Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (11/78)

Premised on the view that one's occupational identity makes a major input into adult interaction, this study monitored the adoption of the occupational identity of 'policemen' by a cohort of New South Wales police officers. The project sought to answer four specific questions:

  1. How does becoming a 'policeman' affect the way one interacts with friends and acquaintances?
  2. Is this suspected change stressful?
  3. Does the formal training of police officers address such changes? and
  4. If such changes are stressful, how can we change training to make them less so?

The project used basically a qualitative design in that the major research methods were the conversational interview and observation. These methods were supplemented by the use of some standard statistical instruments. The fundamental qualitative technique focused on the reaction of others, relatives, friends and acquaintances to the trainees' induction into the police force. In a more general way the project sought to establish the trainees' expectations of their being police officers and how they thought being 'in the job' would affect their life generally. By following the one group through their training and probationary period (longitudinal design) and matching their views with a group already graduates (cross sectional design), the study sought to establish what becoming a police officer meant in the eyes of some 40 trainees-particularly as it affected their friendship patterns.

The project's methodology is indebted to the Chicago school of symbolic interactionism. In terms of actual research activity such a stance dictated that the researcher seek to see the police world through the eyes of his respondents.

Reporting a great amount of verbatim data the project aimed for a standard of proof which may be phrased in terms of 'balance of probability'. The chosen methodology asks that the reader be given as much exposure as possible to the first-hand data on which the researcher's conclusions, albeit tentative, are constructed. In adopting this strategy, the report sought to gauge the sort of commitment that the sample group brought to the enterprise of policing. By making a passing comparison to the commitment revealed by a group of medical students in another of the author's studies, the project estimated that the bulk of the sample approached policing with no burning commitment to the enterprise. Some were economic conscripts but the bulk were young people 'trying on' the occupational role. Some, though few, were fundamentally quite idealistic.

As soon as the decision to join the police was made known, there began to operate, against this background of peripheral commitment, social forces of a very considerable magnitude which the report argues fundamentally altered the perspective from which the trainees saw the police world. The decision to join the police is a subject of intense and enduring interest among family members. But whereas families basically supported the decision, mainly for its implications for the inductees' entering a career, friends coupled their remarking on the decision with a banter which proved, over the twelve months of service, to be onerous. Acquaintances also couched their recognition of the decision to join in bantering terms though often the recognition was accompanied by verbal, even physical hostility. The report argues that these reactions constitute a significant force for distancing the new trainee from his former world.

It is against this background of commitment that the attitude-changing force of the Police Academy operates. The separation from society, which has already begun, is paralleled by a very persuasive invitation to join the 'brotherhood of police'. This 'brotherhood' is, in turn, premised on the functionality of police working as a united group, a 'thin blue line', between the criminal or hoodlum element and the wider society who, although the beneficiaries of police protection, are largely unappreciative.

The report argues that becoming a police officer entails a fundamental change in self-identity-a change brought about in significant part by the reactions of others-reactions supportive, hostile and commercially deferential and which distinguish the officer from the community. Moreover, the report argues that present training procedures exacerbate the isolation process which, though significant, is not so stressful as to entail any serious thoughts about leaving a job which most officers found personally very rewarding in terms of the vital contribution to society. Nonetheless, the police occupation envelopes other identifying characteristics-it is a 'greedy' occupation.

In acknowledging a 1978 internal review of training by Inspector John Avery and the 1981 Inquiry by Mr Justice Lusher, the report concludes with an annotated recommendation for a restructured police education/training program in the manner of a semi-professional occupation.

Aboriginal adolescent offenders study

Report title: Aboriginal Adolescent Offending Behaviour: A study of a remote community
Grantees: Professor R. Kalucy, Head, Department of Psychiatry (in lieu Dr R. D. Morice) and Ms M. Brady, Department of Psychiatry, Flinders University of South Australia.
Criminology Research Council grant ; (15/78)

This study was conducted by a small multi-disciplinary team based in the School of Medicine of the Flinders University of South Australia. The study investigated the offences committed by Aboriginal adolescents on a remote Aboriginal settlement in South Australia. It also considered petrol sniffing behaviour which was apparent from time to time in the community.

The Aboriginal population was approximately 300, of whom 57 were adolescents between the ages of 10 and 17 (37 males and 20 females).

Data were collected over a two-year period (1979-80) on offences which resulted in appearance at court or before Children's Aid Panels. During 1981 further data of an anthropological nature were collected through participant observation in the field.

The study was set up in such a way as to involve Aboriginal community members in the collection of data, and throughout the research period, researchers met with the community's Council to keep it informed of progress. At the end of the first year of the study, a series of feedback meetings were held with different groups in the community to pass on to them the findings to date.

As a result of a literature review conducted by the researchers, a booklet on petrol sniffing has since been published by the Australian Foundation on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency in Canberra (R. Morice, H. Swift and M. Brady, Petrol Sniffing Among Aboriginal Australians: A Resource Manual, 1981).

The researchers have tried to be circumspect when referring to the community concerned, because of the sensitive nature of some of the material collected and out of respect for the Aboriginal people whose lives are described. For this reason the community is not named.

It was found that offending behaviour which resulted in appearances was predominantly a male activity, with 59 per cent of the male adolescents being charged during 1979-80, compared with 10 per cent of female adolescents. Appearances at court among males increased with age, and occasional offenders were significantly younger than frequent offenders. There was no statistical relationship between petrol sniffing behaviour (as indicated by blood lead levels) and offending behaviour, although some offences were committed as a follow-on from petrol sniffing gatherings. The majority of the offences which resulted in court appearances were offences against property owned by European Australian staff on the settlement. Break, enter and steal, and illegal use of motor vehicles were the most common charges. It was found that theft did occur away from the settlement, in the Aboriginal camps, but that these offences were rarely reported and thus did not result in court appearances.

Data were collected, with the help of Aboriginal assistants, on family circumstances and background for the adolescent population, but analysis of these data (size of available family, primary caretaker, bereavement) did not produce any distinguishing features to separate offenders from non-offenders. It was virtually statistically normal for adolescent boys to have at least one court appearance.

Relations with the local police were found on the whole to be cordial, however adolescent males were arrested more frequently than they were summonsed (89 per cent as against 11 per cent).

Members of the community engaged in acts of social control involving the chastising of wrongdoers, but it was not often that such sanctions were applied to those adolescents who were offenders against Australian law. The community on the whole did not see its responsibilities extending to the punishment of adolescents who broke into whites' houses or stole their cars. Adults did not accompany their adolescent relatives to their court appearances and they did not participate in any way with the activities of the court. These affairs were perceived as falling under the jurisdiction of the police and 'the welfare'. The court hearings had on occasions in the past been conducted at the settlement- itself and this had facilitated a degree of participation and involvement by the adult community members. The practice was discontinued, apparently for logistical reasons.

The study found that despite assumptions by some European government officers that the community was culturally or 'tribally' disintegrated, Aboriginal social structures and religious life were relatively intact. The people pursued their traditional affairs with enthusiasm and commitment. In spite of geographical isolation and dispossession of land, they had retained important spiritual and kinship links with their country and their northern relatives. In the opinion of the researchers, such links should be encouraged and facilitated wherever possible in order to further develop the community's own strengths. This would necessarily benefit all members of the Aboriginal community including the adolescents.

Crime and penal strategy in Australia

Report title: Crime and Penal Policy in Australia
Grantees: Mr P. Ward, Senior Lecturer, Institute of Criminology, University of Sydney, and Dr G. Woods, Director of Criminal Law Review Division, Department of the Attorney-General, New South Wales.
Criminology Research Council grant ; (2/74)

Australian students of criminology who wish to read an introductory text dealing with broad areas of criminology such as the causation of crime and the treatment of offenders have to choose from books written by American or English authors which have been prepared for students from the same country as the author. This book attempts to provide a similar coverage to the traditional textbooks but to use, wherever possible, examples based on Australian rather than overseas research in order to illustrate the various points made.

The book consists of three parts. The first eight chapters deal with the various types of explanation which criminologists have proposed as the major reasons for the occurrence of crime.

Chapters 9 to 14 deal with the problems of assessing how much crime is occurring in a given community and with an assessment of the position regarding violent crime, property crime, 'victimless' crime and traffic crime in Australia. Some consideration of the police and the problem of corruption within police forces is given in Chapter 14.

The remaining chapters deal with sentencing and punishment of detected offenders. Wherever possible the arguments are illustrated by reference to Australian examples. As well as dealing with the important topics in criminology in a way which should be found to be more relevant by Australian students, the results of important research reported up to the end of 1981 have been included. As most available textbooks have not been revised for some years this makes this book more up-to-date than other readily available references.

The identification of petroleum residues in arsons

Report title: The Identification of Petroleum Residues in Arsons
Grantees: Dr F. A. Bull, Senior Lecturer, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Melbourne, and Dr P. J. Thatcher, Forensic Scientist, Norman McCallum Forensic Science Laboratory, Melbourne.
Criminology Research Council grant ; (6/78)

This grant provided partial support for Dr Thatcher to undertake research leading to a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Melbourne. His summary of this research follows:

Although the damage to buildings and property caused by fire is costing the Australian community about $100 million a year, the investigation of arson remains one of the neglected areas of forensic science. Most fires that are maliciously lit are ignited with the assistance of flammable liquids such as petrol and lighting kerosene-the so-called accelerants. These and other fuels derived from petroleum are those most commonly used by arsonists and for this reason this research was concerned only with such liquid fuels.

The scientific investigation of fires suspected to be the result of arson has suffered from severe limitations and, as a result, it has often not been possible to determine whether a fire has been deliberately lit or, moreover, to produce enough convincing scientific evidence to prosecute a suspected arsonist and secure his conviction.

Remarkable though it may be, most fires do not destroy all traces of the accelerants used, even when a conflagration has occurred. In particular, traces of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons that are present in all petroleum products in very small amounts or that may be formed when these products are burnt, often remain in unburnt fuel at the source of the fire or are deposited in soots on the relatively cold surfaces of fittings, such as windows, that escape complete destruction.

This research has concentrated on two major areas of arson investigation where at present the scientific limitations result in the non-detection of some arsons. As a consequence charges are not laid in these cases.

These two areas are (i) the comparing of accelerant residues found at arson scenes with fuels suspected of being the source of these residues (in order to provide incriminating evidence) and (ii) the solving of large or confusing fires by examining the soot deposits mentioned above.

To resolve these problems the polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons in the fuels were quantitatively determined and the polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons associated with the soots formed by burning the fuels were also identified.

It was found that each fuel and solvent of different origin did not contain the same relative amounts of particular polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons and that the fuels could be distinguished by the ratios of the concentrations of these compounds.

When the fuels and solvents were burnt it was found that most of the polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons appeared in the soot extract regardless of the type of fuel burnt but, significantly, others only appeared in the soots formed by burning aliphatic fuels.

These results were used to postulate pathways leading to the formation of soot and associated polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons and also to explain the different ratios of certain structural isomers which were in the soots, depending on the degree of aliphaticity and aromaticity of the fuels. The fluoranthene/pyrene ratio in the soots was particularly important in interpreting the chemical nature of the fuel burnt.

Materials which are commonly used in the building, furnishing, decorating and packaging industries were also burnt to investigate the effect that compounds formed in these flames would have on the interpretation of the results obtained from soots taken from suspected arson scenes. It was established that these substances could be identified by the presence of heterocyclic polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons and phthalates in their soots.

Experiments were then carried out on some of the fuels to investigate the effect of a restricted air supply on the types and amounts of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons formed in flames. These experiments were done because occasionally arsons occur in situations where the fire burns with a very limited supply of air as a result of doors and windows having been left closed either inadvertently or to prevent early detection of the fire.

Finally fire scenes were attended and investigated by orthodox procedures. If the cause of the fire was successfully determined by a scene examination and subsequent conventional laboratory tests, a soot sample was taken and analysed to determine the validity of the new technique.

Since the results obtained by the new technique confirmed the conclusions drawn on the basis of orthodox procedures in most cases, there is every reason to believe that this novel method could be used not only to obtain corroborative evidence but also in its own right as a method for establishing the cause of fire.

Recidivism monitoring program for juvenile delinquents in Western Australian treatment centres

Report title: Recidivism Monitoring Program: Study Period I, Report and Volume of Tables, January-June 1979
Grantee: Mr K. A. Maine, Director, Department of Community Welfare, Western Australia.
Criminology Research Council grant ; (13/79)

In 1979 the Department for Community Welfare in Western Australia initiated a project known as the Recidivism Monitoring Program. It is an ongoing system of evaluation for the Department's three major training centres for juvenile delinquents and assesses their effectiveness in terms of offence reduction. Financial assistance towards the initial phase of the program was provided by the Criminology Research Council.

The program is a series of studies with each study incorporating all children admitted to the centres during a particular six-month period.

Offence related data for each person are collected for 180 days before and 180 days after the date of admission. In determining these 180 day periods only days when the individual is in the community and therefore in a position to commit offences are counted. On this basis data are available for analysis after about two and a half years.

The first study of the program has been completed. It has produced some interesting results in relation to both the overall level of effectiveness of the centres concerned and factors potentially associated with recidivism.

The first study involved a sample of 188 cases. There was a total of 868 offences after intervention compared with a total of 1872 offences before intervention, thus representing an overall reduction of 54 per cent. Of all offenders in the pre-intervention period 41 per cent did not offend at all in the post-intervention period. A similar proportion reduced the frequency of their offending. The Department has noted that these results are not consistent with any generalised view that juvenile institutions fail to reduce crime.

Amongst the other results of the study it was found that more frequent offenders responded as well as less frequent offenders, that Aboriginal children did as well as other children, that the number of previous admissions to an institution appeared to have no bearing on recidivism and that there was no clear trend favouring either younger or older children. On the other hand it was found that improvement appeared to be associated with increased stability of life style. All these conclusions will be subject to review as the results of further studies become available, but for the moment the Department has observed that the trends which have emerged run counter to some popularly held beliefs about juvenile recidivism.

The program is seen by the Department as having introduced a clear and consistent process of evaluation of institutionally based work at the centres concerned. It regards this as being important not only from the viewpoint of public accountability but also in relation to maintaining the ongoing effectiveness of its centres. The Australian Institute of Criminology is currently engaged in dialogue with the Department concerning the possibility of wider application of the concepts and methodology of the program, in response to interest shown by social welfare administrators in other States.

Crime prevention: the extent of knowledge, understanding and expertise of architects, planners and administrators

Report title: Crime Prevention and the Design and Management of Public Developments in Australia: Selected Case Studies (PDF 8.7MB)
Grantee: Ms W. Sarkissian and Mr D. Perlgut, formerly Social Planning Unit, South Australian Institute of Technology.
Criminology Research Council grant ; (8/80)

The project investigated the planning, design, and management of community facilities and other public developments with attention to crime prevention. Research activities involved three main components:

  1. Case studies of numerous public developments.
  2. An extensive review of the literature in crime prevention and the design and management of public developments.
  3. Structured and unstructured interviews on crime prevention with architects, planners, and a variety of public administrators.

The research primarily focused on a number of carefully selected case studies of public developments and community facilities with respect to crime prevention through environmental design. This 'environmental' approach to crime prevention encompassed not only the planning and physical design of developments, but their management as well. Case studies varied from small housing estates and small public libraries to very large housing estates and complex multi-functional community centres and shopping developments. Specific crime prevention design and management criteria were utilised in the evaluation of each development studied.

This research was often more descriptive and qualitative than quantitative, emphasising a process and policy orientation. This meant that much research effort was spent on examining questions such as: relationships between government departments; interaction between architects and managers, or between managers and staff, or managers and users; levels of knowledge and expertise of personnel involved in developing and managing facilities; and institutional reactions to problems of crime and vandalism.

The research did not attempt to prove statistically that crime can be prevented through environmental design as this relationship had been investigated at length by others. The study hypothesised at the beginning that there was an important link between not only the physical design, but the planning and the management of public developments. Each of the case studies showed that these components can directly affect criminal behaviour in and towards a facility. However, the case studies also showed that such links are usually complex. While environmental methods can influence the level of crime, by no means is it the total answer to such problems. Nevertheless, the environmental approach is usually the only one readily available to designers, planners, and managers. Utilising such an approach is often highly cost-effective as well.

The major research report concluded with a number of policy recommendations, which included:

  1. Further research in the area of environmental crime prevention.
  2. More use of post-occupancy evaluations of facilities.
  3. Training in crime prevention for planners and architects.
  4. Greater inclusion of crime prevention considerations in physical planning.
  5. Training for police in understanding physical design.
  6. Amendment of housing and building codes to include security standards.
  7. Development of security design and planning guidelines.
  8. Greater emphasis on good facilities management.
  9. More local area collection of crime statistics.
  10. Better record-keeping of crime and vandalism incidents of facilities.
  11. Special attention to the problems and needs of youth.
  12. Support for 'community responsibility' projects.
  13. Encouragement of interagency coordination in crime prevention programs.
  14. Evaluation of crime prevention programs.

Education and justice community research

Report title: Public Opinion, Punishment and Crime (PDF 4MB)
Grantee: Mr R. G. Broadhurst, Lecturer, University Extension Service, University of Western Australia.
Criminology Research Council grant ; (16/80)

A small random population survey was conducted in Western Australia during 1981 in order to explore community attitudes to crime, particularly the community perception of the seriousness of behaviour and the influence of information (if any) about crime on these attitudes. Two data gathering excursions were involved by self-report mail out in January and November 1981: 279 effective responses were analysed from the first excursion and 263 from the second-representativeness was somewhat restricted in view of sample bias, i.e., more females and higher education respondents. The first survey was principally exploratory and the results enabled some general comparison with other countries where the same survey instrument had been employed and the results suggested that community attitudes in Western Australia were more severe than other Western countries.

It was speculated that this could contribute in part to Western Australia's high imprisonment rate. The second survey was designed specifically to test for the effect of information on attitudes to crime and information about crime was supplied to some respondents and not others and analysed to determine differences. The results of this research were equivocal and a direct relationship between information and attitudes to the seriousness of crime cast doubt on previous empirical findings. Of general interest was the degree to which sex and age affected the seriousness of which crimes were regarded. Females and, surprisingly, young people were more often identified with a preference for severe sanctions.

In the follow-up survey attitudes to serious crimes such as rape, murder and so on were significantly influenced by the factors sex, information level and passage of time.

As a consequence of this research a number of conclusions can be drawn:

  1. Attitudes to the amount and type of punishment applicable to criminal behaviour varies a great deal. The consensus normally associated with assessments of the harm of criminal acts is more fragile than assumed even with serious crime.
  2. Attitudes to crime do appear to be potentially influenced by information about crime which further implicates the role of the media as an agent of moral indignation.
  3. Law enforcement relies heavily on the attitudes of the community and these attitudes bear importantly on the success of crime control to a greater degree than previously contemplated.
  4. Public attitudes appear most resistant to change or reform where information accuracy is very low or non-existent. Efforts need to be directed at progressively increasing public information about crime and acceptability of difference forms of punishment. At present public attitudes appear restricted and confined to the expensive option of imprisonment.
  5. By and large public attitudes are politically non-partisan but with an important difference, e.g., Labor voters appear more severe than Liberal voters. In some crime categories (particularly the white collar and victimless crime categories) attitudes are highly polarised. Generally, the results indicate the community's attitudes to crime could tolerate the decriminalisation of a wide range of victimless crimes (abortion, homosexuality, drug use) provided more serious crimes were seen to be dealt with more harshly.

Victoria Police-Ambulance Service, Melbourne, cooperative study to establish the relationship between drug overdose and criminality

Report title: Drug Abuse and Criminality: A Melbourne Study (PDF 2.9MB)
Grantee: Chief Commissioner of Police, Victoria.
Criminology Research Council grant ; (6/81)

The project surveyed all patients taken to hospital by Ambulance Service, Melbourne, between 1 August 1981 and 31 January 1982, displaying symptoms of acute drug poisoning. It described their characteristics and their criminal histories with special regard to the legality of the drugs used in their attempted suicide. The incidence of drug poisoning was compared with drug offences reported to police in the same time period.

Sixty-two per cent of acute drug poisoning patients were female and 48 per cent were under 30 years old. Women were more likely to be aged under 20 years while more men were in the 20 to 29 year age bracket. People living in Central Melbourne were over-represented compared with the general population. Over 13 per cent of those attempting to commit suicide had a history of psychiatric illness, 2.3 per cent were epileptics, and 4.5 per cent showed signs of drug addiction.

Forty-two per cent of patients used more than one preparation in their attempt to commit suicide and alcohol was a contributory factor in 27.5 per cent of cases. Tranquilisers, hypnotics and sedatives were used by 86 per cent of all patients and comprised 58 per cent of all drugs recorded by ambulance officers. Illegal or special permit drugs were used by 7 per cent of the acute drug poisoning group.

Forty per cent of the men who attempted to commit suicide and 20 per cent of the women were previously known to police. Three-quarters of these people were first recorded between the ages of 17 and 20 years and over 40 per cent had recorded contact with the police within one year prior to this overdose episode. There was no significant relationship between the legality of the drugs used and the likelihood of being known to the police.

About half of the first offences committed by people who came to notice through an acute drug poisoning incident were property offences and 10 per cent involved protection applications. Users of alcohol only or over-the-counter drugs were more likely to have committed offences against the person than users of illegal or prescription drugs. Only 3 per cent of drug overdose patients were known to have committed prior drug offences.

More acute drug poisoning cases occurred in the Eastern Sector of Melbourne while drug offences were more frequent in the Northern Suburbs. Nearly one-third of both incidents occurred in Central Melbourne.

Drug offences were more prevalent during January than in other months of the survey, and this could be attributed to a surge in the incidence of amphetamine, cannabis and heroin offences. There was no similar increase in the incidence of acute drug poisoning behaviour. The weekend and the evening were significant factors in the incidence of acute drug poisoning while drug offences were more uniformly distributed across days of the week and times of day.

The study concluded that drug abuse in Melbourne is a continuum of behaviours ranging from single incidents of drunkenness in teenagers to addiction to illegal drugs such as heroin. The study did not support the view expressed by some previous researchers that need and socio-economic status are significant factors in predisposition to attempted suicide because parts of Melbourne which are known to have low indices of need have a high incidence of acute drug poisoning.

Multiple drug use and the high alcohol involvement in acute drug poisoning cases draws attention to the important role of legally available drugs in the drug abuse problem. Users of illegal drugs, known drug offenders and people showing symptoms of addiction could not be separated from users of legal preparations and users of different legal groups of drugs had similar likelihood of criminal involvement. These factors suggest that property crime committed by illegal drug users is not only an income producing exercise. Psychological factors may be more important than economic necessity in determining the criminal behaviour of drug abusers.

Juvenile runaways - alternatives to incarceration

Report title: Runaway Behaviour and its Consequences (PDF 1.3MB)
Grantee: Dr P. R. Wilson, Reader in Sociology, University of Queensland.
Criminology Research Council grant ; (8/81)

Intensive interviews with runaway youths were conducted in Perth, Brisbane and Surfers Paradise. Runaways were defined as youths under 16 years who are (a) away from home without parental consent, (b) defined as runaways by law enforcement or service agencies or (c) identified by themselves or by relevant significant others as runaways. Altogether 120 runaways and 40 parents were interviewed. In addition refuges and agencies dealing with runaways were observed and analysed.

There was much evidence of a growing problem of runaways in Australia. Four basic types of runaways were identified. The first, Adventure-Seekers, are pulled towards areas they define as 'exciting' as part of their search for independence and self identity. Refugees on the other hand, perceive major problems in their family situations and cope with these problems by running away. The Escapees also cope with institutional settings by absconding while the fourth group, Problem-Solvers choose to run away from home as a result of a specific problem involving their family, school or personal relationships.

Many refuges and agencies were found to treat runaways as being of one type and are in turn perceived by the young person as being irrelevant to his or her needs. It is clear that most urban areas require far more runaway refuges and ones which cater specifically for the drug, crime and emotional problems that accompany running away behaviour.

Hostel and wayside services to reduce the hazards of travel and survival away from home are called for.

The report suggested that runaway behaviour be decriminalised to allow for greater contact with and use of existing refuges and agencies.

Eleven per cent of the sample were caught up in the juvenile justice system as a result of being charged with runaway offences (absent without parental consent, needing care and control).

The consequences of running away were extensive. Fifty-two per cent of the sample had experienced juvenile court proceedings and 28 per cent had been institutionalised. Serious drug, prostitution, health and psychological problems (including suicide) existed among the sample. Further work in the area is continuing and Dr Wilson has commenced work on a book on this subject.

Perspectives of juvenile defendants on the children's court in Kalgoorlie and Kambalda

Report title: Up Before the Judge: Perspectives of Juvenile Defendants in the Children's Court System
Grantee: Mr K. A. Maine, Director, Department of Community Welfare, Western Australia.
Criminology Research Council grant ; (8/79)

The aim of the project was to describe and account for the perspectives of juvenile defendants on the Children's Court system in Western Australia. An 'observational' sample of 472 youths was selected from cases as they were being processed through the courts at Perth, Fremantle, Midland and Kalgoorlie (of these 436, or 92.6 per cent, were actually observed in court). From this sample, 151 youths were interviewed and 147 of these interviews formed the basis of analysis for the project.

The findings indicated that a sizeable minority of youths felt that they had been unfairly treated by the court or had difficulty in understanding the proceedings. In addition the majority of the youths held views of the function of the court which differed significantly from official policy.

This research indicated that arrest rather than summons was the chief avenue of prosecution of juveniles; this goes against the spirit of the Child Welfare Act (1947-1977) which calls for action to be taken against children by way of notice to appear in court. More importantly, it seemed to be common practice for the police to interview youths about offences without their parents or other independent adults being present. While there may be differences in the degree of the intensity of the interrogation process, it is still by nature coercive and juveniles r are not as capable as adults in withstanding the pressures created.

Whereas it must be stressed that the experiences of the large number of youths during apprehension processing and interrogation were good, characterised as matter of fact affairs, one in five youths complained of assaults or threats at various stages. If substantiated, these findings would indicate that changes are required in the police handling of juvenile offenders.

Once in court, juveniles had problems understanding the proceedings and in identifying key personnel. According to their own assessments 35 per cent of the youths were only able to understand some of the proceedings, the main reason for this being due to the complexity of the language used. Only 41 percent of youths were aware of the identity of the Department for Community Welfare court officer. Four in 10 of the youths were unsure if there was a relationship, or thought that there was no connection, between the court and the Department of Community Welfare.

In the context of fear and uncertainty relating to the court the general view of the youths was one of 'getting it over with'. This view was given support by the widespread belief that 'you can't beat the cops'. Because of the centrality of the youths' perceptions of guilt, it was considered that magistrates need to take more steps to ensure that defendants know and fully understand the charges against them.

Though the majority (85 per cent) of defendants were accompanied to court by parents or others, only 35 per cent were legally represented. Significantly, more Aboriginal than non-Aboriginal youths were represented. The greater use of legal representation by Aborigines was due to the continuous 'outreach' policy adopted by the Aboriginal Legal System. However, most youths, especially non-Aboriginal youths, felt that legal representation was not necessary.

The effect of summary conviction and court enforced fines on problem street drinkers in receipt of social security payments

Report title: Problem Street Drinking and the Law (PDF 1.3MB)
Grantees: Mrs L. Boyce, Deputy Chief Social Worker, and Mr R. Okely, Social Work Supervisor, Department of Social Work, Royal Perth Hospital, Western Australia.
Criminology Research Council grant ; (22/81)

The research was designed to investigate the effect of summary conviction and court imposed fines on problem street drinkers in the inner city of Perth. In a small number of documented cases through the Emergency Centre at Royal Perth Hospital, it was possible to monitor the proportion of Social Security payments surrendered as personal bail or fines for street drinking charges. If this was indicative of a larger population, then an assessment could be made of the amount of money involved, the effects on subsequent re-conviction and lifestyle.

A structured interview was administered and court records searched for 50 respondents following their being committed in the East Perth Court of Petty Sessions on public drunk and drinking charges. It was found that the majority of respondents were on Social Security and had not worked for over two years. Over half had attended the Royal Perth Hospital Emergency Centre for alcohol and alcohol related conditions but less than one-third had had specialised treatment for alcoholism. Voluntary agency support was utilised by half the sample.

While the majority of public drunk and drinking charges were dismissed or dealt with by default, the discriminatory nature of the penalty and sums paid in bail represented significant losses in income. The deterrent effect was found to be negligible. One-third of the respondents expressed interest in an income maintenance program. The implications of implementing such a proposal are discussed with reference to health, welfare and legal services.

The attitudes of manufacturing executives towards offences against the environment

Report title: The Attitudes of Manufacturing Executives to Offences Against the Environment (PDF 1.9MB)
Grantees: Mr D. A. Cole and Ms J. Russell, Environmental Research and Planning Group, South Australia.
Criminology Research Council grant ; (7/80)

The study involved measuring the perceptions of senior industrial management in South Australia to crimes against the environment. Following the methodologies of Sellin and Wolfgang (1964) and more recently, in Australia, Pocock and Landauer (1978; 1979; 1980), a series of 20 offence descriptions in questionnaire form was delivered to senior employees of 100 of the largest manufacturing companies in South Australia. The respondents were requested to apply a numerical score to each brief description, depending upon his/her perception of the seriousness of each offence. These were ultimately ranked 1-20 in descending order of seriousness. To establish whether certain offences were regarded as serious per se, or whether the critical factor for scoring was the particular fact situation, two questionnaires (A and B) were administered to the sample. The descriptions in A were modified slightly for B in order to provide an apparent variation of relative seriousness whilst retaining a qualitative comparability. For example:

Questionnaire A: A company owning 12 cinemas fails to install emergency exits in three of them.

Questionnaire B: A company owning 12 cinemas fails to install emergency exits in any of them.

The examples spanned a wide range of offences but included three which were environmental in nature. They were:

The return rate was 92 per cent. From the responses it was possible to provide mean ranking, order of rank, mean score, order of score and relative seriousness for both questionnaires. By omitting extremes which tended to distort results it was possible to reduce all scores to a range of 1-50 and to further standardise each response by reducing to a basic minimum score of one. A median split was then produced from which some measure of the relative punitiveness of respondents could be obtained.

It was then possible to compare the attitudes of respondents to environmental offences compared with other offences. For the purposes of this summary, the mean ranking in the case of each environmental offence was discussed.

The offence of processing and selling canned fish contaminated with mercury was regarded by respondents to Questionnaire A as very serious and by respondents to Questionnaire B as an offence which could not be classified as minor. Its mean rank in Questionnaire A was 6.28, in Questionnaire B 10.45. In Questionnaire A, the seriousness of the offence was regarded comparably with offences of failing to install emergency exits in cinemas (mean rank 5.83) and illegally importing a noxious face cream (mean rank 7.06), both of which did or could result in personal harm to the public. In Questionnaire B, the less serious mercury contamination offence was ranked comparably with the offences of transporting livestock in overcrowded conditions (11.79) and failing to purchase workers' compensation insurance (8.93).

Polluting an urban waterway with sump oil in its more severe form (Questionnaire A) was generally regarded as a relatively serious offence. It received a mean rank of 7.55 and compared with the offences of receiving bribes (7.28), a breach of fruit fly regulations (8.47) and the offence of illegally importing a noxious face cream (7.06).

In Questionnaire B, the lesser form of the offence received a mean ranking of 8.91 which compared with the offence of failing to purchase adequate workers' compensation insurance policies (8.93) and, possibly, importing fruit in contravention of fruit fly regulations (7.84).

Generally, the reaction to these two environmental offences was not totally unexpected, although the author had anticipated that mean ran kings in both cases would be slightly lower than in fact occurred.

The response to the noise emission offence was, however, noteworthy. In Questionnaire A, despite the very high emission level, it received a mean rank of 14.04 which was comparable with the offence of contracting to purchase sausages with an illegally high fat content (13.57) and tampering with a motor vehicle odometer to effect a sale (14.68). In Questionnaire B, the lesser offence attracted a mean rank of 13.98 compared with the offence of obtaining credit by misrepresentation (13.77) and common assault (14.07).

It is not possible to precisely identify the reasons for the perceived seriousness (or lack thereof) of this offence. Possible contributing factors are as follows:

The study has proved worthwhile. However, its value would be enhanced if it were to be replicated using samples of the public and Public Service in independent studies. This would provide the opportunity to compare perceptions of different sectors of the community to the same offences.

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