Australian Bureau of Statistics

Rate the ABS website
ABS Home > Statistics > By Release Date
4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1997  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/06/1997   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product  
Contents >> Crime & Justice >> Violent Crime: Murder & manslaughter

Crime and Justice: Murder and Manslaughter

In 1995, there were 321 cases of murder in Australia, an average of about one a day.

The incidence of violent crime in the community is an issue of continuing social concern. This is particularly so in cases of murder and manslaughter, which typically receive a great deal of public attention. Not only does this attention focus on the circumstances of the events and the characteristics of the perpetrators and their victims, but also on possible underlying factors that may have given rise to those events.

In recent years, community attention has turned to those killings caused by firearms. A firearm was used in one in five cases of murder or manslaughter in 1995. In the wake of the Port Arthur massacre of 35 people by a lone gunman in April 1996, legislation has been put in place to control the ownership and use of certain classes of firearms.

Although they may figure highly in the public perception of crime, murders and manslaughters made up just 0.3% of recorded violent crime in 1995, and only 0.3% of all deaths. There were 321 police-recorded cases of murder in Australia in 1995, or about one a day, on average. This was an increase from 288 in 1994 and 300 in 1993. Manslaughter remained fairly constant over the three-year period, with 30 recorded cases in 1995, 32 in 1994 and 37 in 1993.

There were a further 301 cases of attempted murder in 1995, down from 334 in 1994 and 369 in 1993. These figures should be treated with caution, however, as it is difficult in some cases to distinguish between attempted murder and other crimes, such as assault.

The chance of being a victim of murder in 1995 in Australia was 18 in a million. Even when the 30 manslaughter victims in 1995 were included, the chance increased to only 20 in a million.

As would be expected, the greatest number of murder/manslaughter deaths recorded by police in 1995 occurred in the most populous States: New South Wales (111), Queensland (68) and Victoria (67). However, the highest rates, when averaged over the three years from 1993 to 1995, were found in the Northern Territory (97 per million people) and Western Australia (27 per million).

VICTIMS OF MURDER/MANSLAUGHTER, 1995


Source: Causes of Death (unpublished data).


Trends
The numbers and rates of recorded murder and manslaughter deaths fluctuate considerably from year to year, partly because they are rare events, and partly because they can be influenced by unusual occurrences such as multiple killings. (The peaks in the number of deaths in recent years are not, however, totally accounted for by multiple murders.) Because of these fluctuations, annual changes have little meaning.

To overcome problems caused by such wide variations, trends can be more readily viewed by presenting each yearly figure as an average over the three-year period (using the previous and the following year in each case).

Using these smoothed figures, it is apparent that murder/manslaughter death rates have tended to rise, from a low of around 11 per million during the World War II years to a peak of 22 per million in 1989. Since then, it has fallen slightly to 19 per million in 1994.

MURDER/MANSLAUGHTER DEATH RATES(a)(b)


    (a) Rates per one million people. Rates for each year are given as the average over the three-year period using the two adjacent years.
    (b) Figures for murder/manslaughter deaths for Indigenous people were not recorded prior to 1967.
    Source: Causes of Death (unpublished data).

International comparisons
Australia's murder/manslaughter death rate in 1995 was comparable with those observed in Canada and New Zealand. The United States of America had a murder/manslaughter rate four times higher than Australia, while Germany, and England and Wales had lower rates.

The proportion of murders/manslaughters through the use of firearms in Australia was less than half that of the United States of America, but two to three times that of England and Wales.
MURDER/MANSLAUGHTER RATES(a), 1995

Murder/manslaughter
Selected countries
rate(a)

USA(b)
8.2
Canada
2.0
Australia
2.0
New Zealand
1.8
England and Wales
1.4
Germany
1.5

(a) Rate per 100,000 of the population.
(b) The USA figure only includes murder and non-negligent manslaughter.

Source: Australian Institute of Criminology (unpublished data).

Profile of victims
Victims of murder/manslaughter were more often male (three out of five in 1995) than female, and most were aged in their early to mid adult years. In particular, victims were more likely to be never married men aged under 45 years. This group made up half of all male victims and almost one third of all victims.

Victim/offender relationship
Contrary to the stereotypical murder committed by a stranger in a park or dark alley, most victims know their murderers and most deaths occur in private homes.

Based on available police recorded data, about three out of five murderers were known to their victims and over half (55%) of these were family members. Information from the Australian Institute of Criminology for the period 1989-93 showed that, for those murder and manslaughter offenders whose sex was recorded, about 90% were male.1

The most common site for committing a murder was a residential location (66%), followed by open space (8%) and street/footpath (7%).

Manner of death
In 1995, most murders/manslaughters were committed using a knife or similar instrument (33%), a firearm (20%) or a blunt or thrown object (13%).

The use of a knife or similar weapon was the most common method used to kill both men (37%) and women (26%), followed by a firearm (23%) for men and hanging or strangulation, or a blunt or thrown object (each 18%) for women. A further 16% of women were murdered with a firearm.

MANNER OF MURDER/MANSLAUGHTER, 1995

Source: Causes of Death (unpublished data).


Deaths due to firearms
Despite some large annual fluctuations, murders and manslaughters involving the use of firearms have generally declined in significance over the last decade. Using three-year averages because of the small numbers involved, the rate of firearm killings per million people fell from 6.8 in 1985 to 4.0 in 1994. The decline over the last decade follows a slow but steady increase in murder/manslaughter death rates attributed to firearms for most of the post-war period. In proportionate terms, murder and manslaughter deaths by firearms have generally decreased from 32% of all murder/manslaughters in 1985 to 20% in 1995.

A number of homicide incidents in Australia have involved multiple killings1. A multiple killing is defined as any incident where two or more people are murdered.

There have been 24 recorded multiple killings from the use of firearms between 1987 and April 1996, resulting in a total of 128 deaths. However, there is no evidence from the annual data to support any belief that either the frequency or the number of deaths from such incidences has been on the increase over the last decade.

MULTIPLE KILLINGS(a) BY FIREARM

Incidents
Deaths
Year
no.
no.

1987
6
32
1988
1
3
1989
3
7
1990
4
11
1991
2
10
1992
5
20
1993
1
3
1994
0
0
1995
0
0
1996(b)
2
42
Total
24
128

(a) Excludes any related suicides.
(b) Up to and including 28 April.

Source: Australian Institute of Criminology, 1996, Violent Deaths and Firearms in Australia: Data and Trends.


Endnotes
1 Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) 1996, Violent Deaths and Firearms in Australia: Data and Trends, AIC, Canberra.



Previous PageNext Page

Bookmark and Share. Opens in a new window


Commonwealth of Australia 2014

Unless otherwise noted, content on this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia Licence together with any terms, conditions and exclusions as set out in the website Copyright notice. For permission to do anything beyond the scope of this licence and copyright terms contact us.