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Newsletters - Crime and Justice Statistics - Issue Number 6, April 1999
 
 


1999 National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics Convention

Following the third successful Convention which was held in Adelaide in October last year, the next annual National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics (NCCJS) convention will be held in Perth. The Western Australia Police and the Crime Research Centre, University of Western Australia, have offered to coordinate the convention which will be held either in the last week of October or the first week in November.

The Convention will follow the usual format with meetings of the Crime, Courts and Corrective Services Advisory Groups and the Police/Crime Statisticians, plus the presentation of papers focussing on crime and justice statistical issues.

National Crime Statistics Unit (NCSU)

Preparation of the sixth in the series of the annual publication, Recorded Crime, Australia 1998 (ABS Catalogue No. 4510.0) is currently under way. The expected release date is 30 June 1999. See Main Features for Recorded Crime, Australia 1997 (ABS Catalogue No. 4510.0) for an overview of the current edition.

Developments in the approach to Scenario Based Testing as part of Quality Assurance are continuing and the methodology for the approach is currently being considered by the Police/Crime Statisticians. The National Crime Statistics Advisory Group is being canvassed for input into the medium to long term work program objectives of the NCSU.

A meeting between representatives of the Queensland Police Service (QPS) and the NCSU was held in November 1998. Issues regarding an initial small scale collection of statistics on Indigenous status amongst apprehended offenders in selected regions of Queensland were discussed.

Plans to create a steering committee for the above project are under way. Membership would include representatives from the Cultural Affairs Unit QPS, Information Resource Centre QPS, police from the regional areas selected for the trial, staff from the National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics (NCATSIS) and the NCSU.

The NCSU Board of Management meeting was held in Sydney on 20 April 1999 as part of the wider Australian Police Ministers' Council meetings.

Higher Criminal Courts Collection

The fourth issue of the Higher Criminal Courts publication (ABS Catalogue No. 4513.0) covering the 1997/98 financial year is scheduled to be released in August this year. The publication will continue the series on caseflow information on defendants with criminal cases in the Supreme and Intermediate Courts.

Data from the last publication release covering the 1996/97 reference period was included for the first time in the recently released 1999 annual COAG Report on Government Services, Steering Committee for the Review of Commonwealth/State Service Provision. See Main Features for Higher Criminal Courts, Australia 1996-97 (ABS Catalogue No. 4513.0) for the Summary of Findings for the current issue.

Civil Courts Statistics

During recent months the civil courts project has undertaken a comprehensive review of Australian civil court case flow management practices and information technology infrastructure. The national review, completed following initial surveys of the Commonwealth Courts by the Australian Law Reform Commission, has identified an on-going priority amongst state and territory jurisdictions for system improvement.

For example, South Australia has recently completed a comprehensive information technology upgrade for courts which should yield a significant improvement in civil court statistical reporting capabilities. In Western Australia, the data warehouse has significantly enhanced data analysis capabilities, particularly of state-wide issues.

The Centre will continue to monitor developments and encourage the adoption of national statistical standards and classifications in new information technology systems. It is anticipated that this will occur in conjunction with improvements to existing civil court data reporting requirements, in particular the national Court Administration Data Collection of the Court Administration Working Group.

The emphasis is on a long term strategy to improve data quality, reduce respondent burden, increase detail through unit record extraction, improve cross-jurisdictional information dissemination and meet some of the statistical requirements of non-court data users.

A final report, enunciating a strategy for achieving these objectives, is currently being prepared by Christian Klettner who can be contacted by Email at crime.justice@abs.gov.au. The report will be tabled to ABS management, Advisory Groups and Working Groups in June 1999.

National Corrective Services Statistical Unit

Quarterly Custodial Collection

The December quarter 1998 Corrective Services Australia publication (ABS Catalogue No. 4512.0) has just been released. This publication is now in its fourth issue and contains results for the year 1998. See Main Features for Corrective Services, Australia, December Quarter 1998 ( ABS Catalogue No. 4512.0) for the Summary of Findings for the current issue.

Major findings of the December quarter publication were:

    • In the December quarter 1998, the average number of prisoners in Australia was 19,631, an increase of 2.7% on the September quarter 1998.
    • From December quarter 1997 the average number of prisoners in Australia increased by 8.7%. The average daily number of prisoners increased between December 1997 and December 1998 in all States except South Australia and Northern Territory.
    • Nationally, the daily average imprisonment rate was 139 prisoners per 100,000 adult population. This compares with 135 in the September quarter 1998, and 129 in the December quarter 1997.
    • Of the average number of prisoners in Australia during the December quarter 1998, 94.2% were males.
    • There was an average of 72% of prisoners in secure prison custody.
    • Information on Indigenous prisoners is not currently available for New South Wales. The highest rates of Indigenous imprisonment were recorded in Western Australia (2,755 Indigenous persons per 100,000 adult Indigenous population), Queensland (1,787) and South Australia (1,639).
Community Based Corrections

The NCSSU will soon ask each State and Territory Corrections Agency for data for a national Community-Based Corrections (CBC) collection. The NCSSU's Advisory Group has been involved in the development of this collection on a consultative basis and will continue to be approached for comment as data and further investigative results become available.

The framework for the collection has been largely settled upon, and contains the following features:

    • The collection will initially release information on the number of persons rather than orders, although numbers of person with each type of order will be tabulated;
    • Data items to be collected will be Sex, Indigenous Status and Order Type in the first stage;
    • Data collected will be unit record data, with one record per active order;
    • Point-in-time (stock) data will be collected and published in the first stage, and flow data in a later stage;
    • The collection will commence with a reference date of 1 April 1999, and the beginning of each quarter after that.
The results of the collection will be published in the June quarter Corrective Services Australia, due to be released in September 1999.

National Corrections Advisory Group Meeting

In February 1999 staff of the NCSSU attended the meeting of the National Corrections Advisory Group (NCAG) in Hobart. This involved NCSSU staff in discussions relating to the Review of Government Service Provision and the NCAG benchmarking process. NCSSU staff took the opportunity to raise several issues relating to the NCSSU's own work program.

During this meeting NCAG members discussed the revised statistical framework for CBCs, and some Prisoner Census issues relating to timing and content. This further confirmed the basis on which the NCSSU's work is informed and influenced by Agency policies.

Prisoner Census

The 1997 Prisoner Census report (Prisoners in Australia) was released in September 1998, nine months after the release of the previous Census publication. The 1998 Census report is due for release at the end of May 1999. This report will include revised Country of Birth statistics, which have been absent from reports since the 1994 report due to problems with data quality.

During 1999 and 2000 work will be done to expand the existing national corrective services statistical framework to incorporate the Prisoner Census. This work will involve revision of the collection to standardise data across jurisdictions, and to bring the collection into line with the revised Quarterly Custodial Collection. The NCSSU is aiming to release the 30 June 1999 Prisoner Census publication as an ABS catalogued release, subject to satisfactory statistical standards being achieved. The expected release date is June 2000.

National Crime and Safety Survey

The National Centre has just received the final weighted data from this survey, which was conducted in April-May 1998. Due to delays with processing, data release is now scheduled for late August.

The main publication will contain analysis by offence type (break-ins, motor vehicle theft, robbery, assault and sexual assault) and additional chapters on perceived problems in local neighbourhoods and household break-in risk factors, including logistic regression analysis.

Additional standard table sets will be available at national and state levels. Anyone interested in particular tabular output from this survey should contact Carol Soloff by Email on crime.justice@abs.gov.au, as it may be possible to include this in the standard sets at minimal cost to users. Any output requested after the formal release of data will incur normal consultancy fees.

Statistical Framework

The development of a national framework for crime and justice statistics is a priority task for the NCCJS, and one that has the potential to yield substantial benefits in the development and integration of high quality administrative by-product statistical systems across the criminal justice environment.

The availability of a comprehensive integrated set of data standards will provide a basis for national statistics to be collected so as to maximise their comparability and minimise provider load.

To date, work on the framework has been focussed on the development and implementation of the Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC).

The next stages in the process will be to prepare high level descriptions of the scope of crime and justice statistics, the primary elements of the system and the key user requirements associated with these elements. This will provide a structure into which the data standards inherent in the existing crime, courts and corrective service statistics can be incorporated as appropriate.

Finally, the framework will allow the gaps within the current range of statistics to be identified, and new or expanded collections planned to fill them.

ASOC

Over the last few months, a number of issues relating to the Australian Standard Offence Classification (ASOC) have been raised and these have been discussed at length by the NCCJS ASOC working group. Some of these issues are complicated and have required us to gather further information prior to determining a resolution.

Consequently we have spoken to a number of Police Statisticians and operational Police in order to obtain a better understanding of offences reported and charges laid in relation to a number of specific scenarios. We have also sought information regarding the circumstances under which a person would be charged with particular sections of the legislation.

We are currently in the process of consolidating the results of these discussions and investigations.

The outcomes will be documented in the form of an ASOC errata sheet and coding guidelines, and will be forwarded to the ASOC co-ordinator in each state/territory by the end of April.

ABCI/NCSU National Illicit Drug Statistics Project

The National Illicit Drug Statistics Project report was completed in January 1999. It provides a framework for the collection, analysis and publication of nationally comparable statistics on illicit drugs that is designed to facilitate the accurate assessment of the effectiveness of law enforcement strategies.

The joint Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence/NCSU project was funded through the National Community Based Approach to Drug Law Enforcement (NCBADLE). The final report was provided to the NCBADLE Secretariat in January and is currently being considered by the NCBADLE Board.

Once it is approved by the Board, the report will be distributed to Law Enforcement Agencies, after which detailed estimates of the cost of implementing the recommendations of the report will be sought from each of the major State and Territory stakeholders.



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