Australian Institute of Criminology

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Drop in homicide in Australia

Media Release

05 October 2005

The number of homicides recorded by the Australian Institute of Criminology in 2003-2004 is the lowest since records began in 1989, the Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, Dr Makkai said today. It decreased by six per cent over the previous year.

Dr Makkai today released the latest report from the Australian Institute of Criminology 'Homicide in Australia: 2003-2004 National homicide monitoring program (NHMP) annual report', which presents data on all incidents, victims and offenders of homicide in Australia.

A total of 288 homicide incidents occurred in Australia between 1 July 2003 and 30 June 2004. These incidents resulted in the deaths of 305 victims (rate of 1.5 per 100,000 population) and were perpetrated by 310 offenders.

Two-thirds of all homicide victims were male, while nine out of 10 of all offenders were male. Indigenous Australians accounted for 12% of homicide victims and 17% of homicide offenders. Similar to previous years, homicide is most likely to occur between persons who were known to each other. One in four homicides occurred between strangers.

Males aged between 25 and 29 years were most at risk of homicide victimisation, while female victims were aged between 30 and 34 years; the majority of female victims were killed as a result of a domestic altercation. Arguments or altercations (over drugs, money, alcohol, domestic or other reasons) were the most common motives attributed to the homicides that occurred.

"Children are most likely to be killed by a family member" Dr Makkai said. "Of the 34 children aged under 15 who were killed in 2003-04, 70% were killed by family members. Another important finding was that only seven per cent of all victims were killed by a mentally ill offender."

Over one tenth of homicide incidents (14%) occurred during the course of another crime, most commonly during a robbery. Males were more likely than females to be involved in other criminal activities at the time of the incident.

The most common weapon used to commit homicide in Australia was a knife or a sharp instrument (32%), followed by assaultive force (hands/feet 22%), and by firearms (17%). The overwhelming majority of firearms used to commit homicide were unlicensed (89%) and unregistered (96%). Of the total 53 firearms homicides in 2003-04, 28 (53%) were committed with a handgun: a similar proportion to the previous two years.

Most homicides (57%) occurred in a residential setting.

The annual report highlights how the national collection of data on homicide provides invaluable information on trends, risk factors and unusual facets of individual incidents. The monitoring program is useful to police for strategic, tactical and operational reasons. From a policy perspective, the data on firearms related deaths informs efforts to monitor the impact of legislative reforms relating to firearms.