Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Homicide in Australia 1999-2000

Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Homicide in Australia 1999-2000

Article excerpt

Monitoring trends and patterns in homicide in Australia has been made possible through the National Homicide Monitoring Program (NHMP) and its continued annual collection of data relating to police-recorded homicides since 1989. In June 2000, the first ever compendium of a decade of homicide in Australia was published by the Australian Institute of Criminology (Mouzos 2000a).

This paper analyses NHMP data for the most current year-1 July 1999 to 30 June 2000-and provides a statistical snapshot of homicide in Australia. It reports that patterns of homicide have remained largely stable over the year, with 1999-2000 recording a slight decrease compared to the previous year, and with the Northern Territory exhibiting a marked downward trend. Consistent with previous years, more people are killed by stabbing than any other method of homicide, and more people are kicked to death or strangled than shot. Furthermore, people who are not working are more likely to be both offenders and victims of homicide than are people who are employed. Australia recorded a homicide victimisation rate of 1.8 per 100,000 population for the 1999-2000 fiscal year.

Adam Graycar

Director

The National Homicide Monitoring Program (NHMP), established at the Australian Institute of Criminology in 1990, holds data on all homicides coming to the attention of Australian police services. For NHMP purposes, this includes:

* all cases resulting in a person being charged with murder or manslaughter, excluding driving-related fatalities (except where these immediately follow a criminal event, such as armed robbery or motor vehicle theft) ;

* all murder-suicides classed as murder by police; and

* all other deaths classified by police as homicides although a suspect /offender has yet to be identified or apprehended.

Trends and Patterns

In 1999-2000, a total of 300 homicide incidents occurred in Australia, perpetrated by 324 identified offenders and resulting in the death of 337 persons. In terms of rates, Australia recorded a homicide victimisation rate of 1.8 per 100,000 residents1 for 19992000. Figure 1 illustrates the rate of homicide from 1989-1990 to 1999-2000. As stated elsewhere (see Mouzos 2000a), the homicide victimisation rate in Australia has demonstrated remarkable stability over this 11 -year period. There have, however, been a number of significant events that resulted in an increase in the rate for a given year (Figure 1). The most obvious are: the Port Arthur incident (1995-96); the Strathfield incident (1991-92); the Central Coast incident (1992-93); the Snowtown murders (1998-99); the three murder-suicide incidents in Western Australia (one in 199899 and two in 1999-2000); and, more recently, the Childers fire in Queensland which claimed 15 victims.2

A jurisdictional comparison indicates that New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory all experienced lower homicide victimisation rates in comparison to the national rate of 1.8 per 100,000 population (Figure 1). Compared to previous years, the homicide victimisation rate for the Northern Territory declined in 1999-2000 to a rate of 3.09, the lowest recorded rate for the Northern Territory since the inception of the NHMP in 1989 (Figure 1).

Status of Homicide Investigations

The majority of homicide incidents occurring in Australia are solved or cleared within a relatively short period following the incident. Of the 300 homicide incidents that were recorded in Australia during the period 1 July 1999 to 30 June 2000, 41 (13.7%) were not cleared or had not been solved by police at the time of data collection. ABS statistics indicate that about 70 per cent of murder investigations are finalised within the first month after the incident (ABS 2000a). Homicide detectives would attest that the first 48 to 72 hours after the incident are critical to solving a homicide case (Regini 1997). …

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