Australian Bureau of Statistics
4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1997
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/06/1997
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Crime and Justice: Murder and Manslaughter
VICTIMS OF MURDER/MANSLAUGHTER, 1995
Source: Causes of Death (unpublished data).
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)
(b) Figures for murder/manslaughter deaths for Indigenous people were not recorded prior to 1967.
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.
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
(b) Up to and including 28 April.
Source: Australian Institute of Criminology, 1996, Violent Deaths and Firearms in Australia: Data and Trends.
1 Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) 1996, Violent Deaths and Firearms in Australia: Data and Trends, AIC, Canberra.
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