Australian Institute of Criminology

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The number of homicides

The term homicide for the purposes of this report includes cases of murder, manslaughter and driving causing death (an unlawful killing through culpable, dangerous or negligent driving). It does not, however, include cases of attempted murder, which have been included in the estimates for assault.

In 2011, there were an estimated 463 homicides in Australia. This figure includes 274 cases of murder and manslaughter as recorded by the ABS (ABS 2012b) and 189 estimated cases of driving causing death. Since 2006, the ABS has been unable to provide the information on driving causing death as not all jurisdictions were able to provide data (ABS 2012b). In the absence of other available data, the 2011 figures were proportionally estimated by using the average decrease (2.3%) in the number of cases of driving causing death from 1998 to 2005, as reported by the ABS (ABS 2007). This decrease is consistent with the average decline (2.5%) in fatal road crashes in Australia from 2002 to 2011 (BITRE 2012). While these two measures are not directly comparable, the decrease in fatal road crashes in Australia supports the current estimate as reasonable.

In line with both Australian and International costs of crimes studies (Brand & Price 2000; Dubourg, Hamed & Thorns 2005; Mayhew 2003b; Rollings 2008; Smyth 2011) it is assumed all homicides were known to police, so a multiplier of 1 was applied. However, as noted by Mayhew (2003b), it is possible that the number of homicides may be slightly underestimated because of instances where missing persons may have been murdered and no body or bodies have been recovered or cases where the cause of death may have been incorrectly assigned (eg Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Both instances are examples of where a murder may have occurred and not been recorded.

Medical costs

Consistent with Mayhew’s (2003b) approach, figures on the medical cost of homicide were obtained from an Australian study on the costs of injury (Watson & Ozanne-Smith 1997) and inflated to 2011 costs. The estimated medical cost of a homicide in Australia in 2011 was $10,100 (see Table 4). Overall, the total medical cost of homicide in 2011 was $4.7m.

Lost output and intangible losses

Using the same approach as Mayhew (2003b), lost output included the present value of foregone lifetime earnings. The total cost excludes any costs of supporting the surviving dependents of victims and offenders, and any intangible costs for family and friends of homicide cases. Also excluded are the costs of investigation, prosecution, trial and imprisonment of homicide offenders, which are included in criminal justice system costs. BITRE (2010) estimated the cost of lost output (in the workplace and household) for a fatal road accident in 2006 and this cost was then inflated to 2011 costs. BITRE’s (2010) calculations of the value of intangible losses based on compensation payments for road accident fatalities were used as the starting point. Using Mayhew’s (2003b) approach, the ratio of BITRE’s quality of life figure to BITRE’s lost output figure for fatal road accidents (0.24) was applied to MUARC’s lost output figure for homicide. This discounts the fact that the circumstances and consequences of road accident fatalities and homicides may differ, although the present category of homicide does include cases involving driving causing death. The cost per homicide of lost output in 2011 was estimated to be $2.17m and $1.04b overall. Applying this ratio to the lost output figure for fatal road accidents, the intangible cost per homicide in 2011 was $520,000 or $241m overall.

Total costs

As shown in Table 4, the total cost for homicide is estimated at $2.7m per incident, or $1.25b overall. Not surprisingly, the largest component in the costs of homicide was the losses due to lost output of victims.

Table 4 Costs of homicidea
Category Per incident cost ($) Total cost ($m)
Medical costs 10,100 4.7
Lost outputb 2,170,000 1,004
Intangible losses 520,000 241
Totalc 2,699,000 1,250

a: Based on 463 homicides in Australia in 2011

b: Based on a 3% social discount rate

c: Totals may not add to sub-components due to rounding