NATIONAL CENTRE OF CRIME AND JUSTICE STATISTICS NEWSLETTER
Issue 7, October 1999
The annual convention of the National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics (NCCJS) is to be held in Perth from 26-28 October 1999. The Convention includes meetings of the Crime, Courts and Corrective Services Advisory Groups and Police/Crime Statisticians, together with an Information Day (27 October). The presentations on this day will focus on the statistical work associated with the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Review of Commonwealth/State Service Provision. The NCCJS is represented on four of the COAG working groups, specifically Police, Court Administration, Corrective Services and Emergency Management. The main theme of the presentations will be the measurement of service delivery in the crime and justice system.
NATIONAL CRIME AND SAFETY SURVEY
Major findings from the national crime and safety survey were released on 25 August 1999 with the publication of Crime and Safety, Australia, 1998 (ABS Cat. No. 4509.0). The household survey was conducted in April 1998 principally to obtain information on the level of victimisation in the community for selected offences. Information was collected from approximately 42,000 individuals and 21,000 households about their experience of selected crimes, whether these crimes were reported to police and crime related risk factors. Household crimes covered break-in, attempted break-in and motor vehicle theft and personal crimes included robbery and assault. Female victims aged 18 years or above were also asked to complete questions on sexual assault.
A set of supplementary national and standard tables (ABS Cat. No. 4509.0.40.001) has also been released which gives more detail for each of the States and Territories. Additional data from the national Crime and Safety Survey will be made available through special tabulations and the statistical consultancy service. Special tabulations can be produced on request to meet individual requirements. Unit record data can be accessed to undertake analysis such as model building or hypothesis testing.
Special consultancy services can attract a service charge and a quote will be provided if required. The publication is available for $25.00 and the Crime and Safety supplementary national and standard table set is available for $91.00. For further information, please send an email to crime.justice @abs.gov.au.
The national Crime and Safety Survey reveals some interesting details about the way crime affects Australians. Key findings show:
- There were 50 in 1,000 households that had their homes broken into in the 12 months prior to the April 1998 survey. Twenty per cent of these households had two or more break-ins in that time.
- There were 43 people in 1,000 aged 15 years and over assaulted and 45 per cent of these victims experienced two or more assaults.
- About four in 1000 women aged 18 years and over (30,100 females) were sexually assaulted in the 12 months prior to the survey. Twenty-seven per cent of these women experienced two or more sexual assaults.
- About 5 in 1,000 people aged 15 years and over (79,100 people) were victims of robbery in the 12 month period. Twenty-three per cent of these people experienced two or more robberies.
- Motor vehicle theft had the highest reporting rate with police being told of about ninety-five per cent of the most recent incidents. Assault with twenty-eight per cent and sexual assault with thirty-three per cent had much lower reporting rates.
CONFERENCE ON RESTORATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: CONTEMPORARY CHALLENGES
The Restoration for Victims of Crime Conference was jointly presented by the Australian Institute of Criminology and the Victims Referral and Assistance Service. Carol Soloff from the NCCJS presented a paper on the results of the ABS Crime Victims Survey at this Conference held in Melbourne on 9-10 September 1999. The presentation covered the major findings from the survey along with details for the offences of break-in, attempted break-in, motor vehicle theft, robbery, assault and sexual assault. It also included some comparisons with 1993 data and police recorded crime statistics where appropriate. Characteristics of different types of victims was also included, with particular attention given to repeat victims.
FAMILY VIOLENCE: FINDINGS FROM THE CRIME AND SAFETY SURVEY
The Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology held its 14th annual Conference in Perth on 27-30 September. Eng Chee of the NCCJS presented a paper on Family Violence based on findings from the 1998 Crime and Safety Survey. This is the first national crime and safety survey which collected information about the relationship of offender to victim for assault and sexual assault offences. The presentation focused on assault victims who had experienced some kind of family violence in the 12 months prior to the survey and covered both the socio demographics of victims and the characteristics of the most recent assault incident. For the purposes of the paper family violence was defined as those incidents involving partners, ex-partners, family members (eg sibling, parents) and other relatives irrespective of where such incidents took place. Statistics on assault incidents include type of assault, whether the victim was injured, if a weapon was used, whether reported to police and whether the incident was discussed with others.
Assault was defined as an incident other than a robbery involving the use, attempted use, or threat, of force or violence against the victims. In the 12 months prior to the survey, it is estimated that 618,300 persons aged 15 years and over were victims of assault. This represents a victimisation prevalence rate of 4.3%.
Using the relationship to offender variable, it is estimated that there were 149,300 victims of assault that involved family violence in Australia in the 12 months prior to the survey.
HOUSEHOLD SURVEY REVIEW
Over the past two years the ABS has conducted a review of its household survey program, involving consultation with clients and evaluation of survey practices. As a result of the review the ABS Population Survey Group has produced a proposal for a new household survey program for the next 10 years. The proposed new program contains recommendations for more frequent crime and safety surveys and new collections on other crime and justice topics. Proposals under consideration include the introduction of a General Social Survey (GSS), which if approved could be run in 2002, and a Multi-Purpose Household Survey which will run in alternate years to the GSS. The frequency of the Crime and Safety Survey could increase to every three years and a Violence Against Persons Survey which if approved could run in 2006.
Following endorsement, a detailed briefing paper will be distributed. The next step will be to consult with interested crime and justice organisations on the data items that should be collected through a General Social Survey and topics for the proposed Multi-Purpose Household Survey.
LIAISON WITH THE AIC
The Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) Adam Graycar met recently with Barbara Dunlop, First Assistant Statistician of ABS Social and Labour Statistics Division, and Stuart Ross Director of the NCCJS to discuss ways of working together. The meeting identified possible areas of collaboration.
The AIC is now using ABS prisoner census data as the basis for projects on trends in prisoner populations and forecasting models for correctional populations. Opportunities for analytical work on unpublished data from the Crime and Safety Survey, 1998 and common areas of interest in the illicit drug statistics were also discussed.
NATIONAL CRIME STATISTICS UNIT (NCSU)
The sixth in the series of the annual publication, Recorded Crime, Australia 1998 (ABS Cat. No. 4510.0) was released on 16 June 1999. Key findings from the 1998 national publication were:
- The number of victims of crime recorded by police in Australia rose for all categories between 1997 and 1998, with the exception of murder (which decreased by 12%) and blackmail/extortion (which decreased by 17%).
- During 1998, firearms were used in 19% of murders, 19% of attempted murders, 18% of armed robberies, 3.9% of kidnapping or abductions, 0.5% of assaults and 0.2% of sexual assaults.
- The most commonly reported crime was theft other than theft of a motor vehicle.
- Murders recorded in 1998 were the lowest in six years.
- Although armed robberies increased by nearly 20% the number of armed robberies involving a firearm decreased to a six-year low of 18% compared to a high of 38% in 1993.
- Males represented 58% of all assault victims.
Copies of the Recorded Crime, Australia (ABS Cat. No. 4510.0) are available from the ABS for $28.00.
HIGHER CRIMINAL COURTS COLLECTION
The fourth issue of the publication Higher Criminal Courts (ABS Catalogue No. 4513.0) covering the 1997/98 financial year was released on 26 July 1999. The publication continues the series on caseflow for defendants with criminal cases in the Supreme and Intermediate Courts. Key findings from the 1997-98 publication were:
- Nationally, there were 17,039 defendants who had criminal cases initiated (up 8% on 1996-97) and 16,406 defendants who had criminal cases finalised during 1997-98 (up 5% on 1996-97).
- More than three quarters (77%) of all defendants dealt with by the higher courts in 1997-98 had guilty outcomes;
- More than half (56%) of the Higher Courts defendants who had an initial plea of not guilty later changed their plea to guilty during 1997-98;
- The median time taken to finalise cases in the higher courts in 1997-98 was 21 weeks, an 8% increase on 1996-97;
- New South Wales and the Northern Territory recorded the longest median time taken to finalise defendants cases at 32 weeks. Western Australia had the shortest median time taken to finalise cases at 13 weeks;
- The number of defendants waiting to have their cases finalised in the higher courts during 1997-98 rose in all the States and Territories except South Australia and the Northern Territory, Queensland data was unavailable;
- Tasmania reported the youngest median age of defendants at 25 years, while Victoria had the oldest at 32 years;
Copies of the Higher Criminal Courts, Australia are available from the ABS for $20.00.
COAG COURTS DATA QUALITY PROJECT
The NCCJS is finalising approval to proceed with the data quality improvement program of data published in the Report on Government Services (Steering Committee for the Review of Commonwealth State Service Provision). The Court Administration Data Collection, which generates the national data, is currently underway for the 1998-99 reference period. Collection responses from jurisdictions are being received by the Productivity Commission. Many of the strategic issues previously identified (for example, improving data quality, reducing respondent burden, increasing detail through unit record extraction, improving cross jurisdictional information dissemination) are now being developed.
NATIONAL CORRECTIVE SERVICES STATISTICAL UNIT (NCSSU)
Quarterly Custodial Collection
The June quarter 1999 issue of Corrective Services, Australia (ABS Cat. No. 4512.0) was released on 30 September 1999. In that quarter, the average daily number of prisoners in Australia was 20,504, an increase of 626 (3%) on the March quarter 1999. New South Wales and Western Australia made the greatest contributions to this increase, rising by 293 (4%) and 194 (7%) respectively.
On 1 June 1999 the highest number of Indigenous persons in prison custody was recorded in Queensland (1,100), followed by Western Australia (1,030) and the Northern Territory (492) (New South Wales did not supply information on Indigenous prisoners).
The highest ratio of Indigenous to non-Indigenous rates of imprisonment was recorded in Western Australia, which had an Indigenous rate of imprisonment 22 times the non-Indigenous rate.
- The average daily number of prisoners in Australia increased by 1,812 (10%) over the year from the June quarter 1998.
- Between the March quarter 1999 and the June quarter 1999, the national imprisonment rate increased by 3%.
Community Based Corrections
The first production cycle of the new National Community-Based Corrections (CBC) collection is nearing completion, and will be published in the September quarter 1999 issue of Corrective Services Australia. Statistics to be published are for all offenders with active CBC orders on 1 April and 1 July 1999, and include information on sex, Indigenous status and the types of orders being served. The collection will be conducted on the first day of each quarter.
In June, the 1998 issue of Prisoners in Australia was released, containing the results of the National Prisoner Census. As well as continuing the series on characteristics of prisoners, it contained information on the country of birth of prisoners for the first time since the 1993 issue.
At 30 June 1998:
- The average age of prisoners in Australia was 33 years, with half of all prisoners in Australia less than 30 years of age.
- There were 15,072 (76%) prisoners who had been born in Australia.
- More than half the prisoners (62%) were reported as having been previously imprisoned under sentence.
- There were 17,118 prisoners (86%) serving a sentence. The remaining 2,788 (14%) prisoners were remanded in custody awaiting trial or sentence, or were being held under a deportation order.
- Nearly half (48%) of all sentenced prisoners were convicted of offences involving violence or the threat of violence including: murder (7%), other homicide (3%), assault (12%), sex offences (13%), other offences against the person (1%) and robbery (13%).
- The average aggregate sentence for prisoners was 4.6 years.
- The average time spent in custody on remand in Australia was 4.2 months.
- There were 3,750 Indigenous (Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander) prisoners, an increase of 165 (5%) compared to the previous year.
The results of the 1999 Prisoner Census will be released in March 2000, and will be published in the ABS format for the first time. A substantial revision of the collection is planned for the 2000 Census, as it has remained largely unchanged since its inception in 1982. This revision will be discussed by National Corrective Services Advisory Group members at the forthcoming Convention.
There have been some staff changes in the NCCJS and we would like to thank Cassie Purdy, Rod Taylor, Wendy Lenc and Louise Ibraheim, who have recently left the Centre, for their valuable contributions. The Centre welcomes a number of new starters as they take up their positions and we aim to maintain the level of excellence achieved over recent years.
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The National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics is located in the Melbourne Office of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 485 La Trobe Street, GPO Box 2796Y, Melbourne, 3001.
Director: Stuart Ross
Facsimile: 03 9615 7372
This page first published 29 November 1999, last updated 8 November 2004