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Knives and homicide

Media Release

11 March 1999

Media release from Senator, the Hon Amanda Vanstone, Minister for Justice and Customs

Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Amanda Vanstone, said today knives and other sharp instruments are the most common weapons used in homicides, and are used in more homicides than both blunt instruments and assault leading to murder put together.

"Homicides with a firearm, homicides with a blunt instrument and total homicides have all fallen over the last four years", Senator Vanstone said.

"Homicide incidents with a knife or another sharp instrument remained stable (there were 106 incidents in 1994-95 and 107 incidents in 1997-98)."

"Homicides with knives and other sharp instruments are of concern to the Commonwealth Government."

"In response to concerns about the availability of knives raised at the Australian Police Ministers' Council last year I have today written to my State and Territory colleagues offering to speedily ban the importation of any weapons which all States and Territories believe should be banned, but which are not currently covered by Commonwealth Customs regulations. Issues of possession and use will, of course, remain with the States and Territories (through, for example, laws relating to the possession of knives without a lawful excuse)."

"Approximately 36% of all homicide incidents in 1997-98 involve a knife or another sharp instrument, an increase from 32.5% in 1994-95."

The figures are revealed in the latest homicide data from the Australian Institute of Criminology.

The Australian Institute of Criminology's figures also show that approximately 13% of all homicide incidents occur in the context of other crimes like robbery and approximately 76% of homicide incidents involve people known to each other.

The latest findings of the National Homicide Monitoring Program also reveal that:

  • The greatest risk of homicide victimization is in infancy and the early 20s.
  • The annual average of homicides occurring between intimate partners has decreased.
  • While the risk of homicide victimization for Caucasians has declined in the last two years, the risk for Asians has almost doubled.
  • Although the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victims has declined over the past nine years to 12 per cent, they are still over-represented, considering they account for only 2 per cent of our total population.

The Australian Institute of Criminology's National Homicide Monitoring Program provides an accurate picture of homicide trends, and seeks to identify policy opportunities to reduce homicide and other violence in Australia.

A more detailed analysis of these findings will be presented at the Australian Institute of Criminology's 3rd National Symposium on Crime in Australia, Rydges Hotel, Canberra on 22 and 23 March.