Homicide in Australia: 2007–08 National Homicide Monitoring Program annual report

Foreword | Through the National Homicide Monitoring Program (NHMP), the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) monitors trends and patterns in homicide across Australian jurisdictions. The NHMP data are the most comprehensive collection on homicide in Australia, providing details of victims, offenders and the circumstances of the incident. This is only made possible through the strong support and commitment to the Program provided by all state and territory homicide squads.

This report presents findings of the nineteenth year of homicide data collection (2007–08) and provides an overview of key characteristics. During 2007–08, there were 260 incidents of homicide resulting in 273 victims and committed by 308 offenders. Since 2001–02, there has been a decrease in the incidence of homicide.

The rate of homicide in 2007–08 remained stable at 1.2 incidents per 100,000 of the population—the same as was recorded in 2006–07. Similarly, the homicide victimisation rate was equivalent to the previous year at 1.3 victims per 100,000 Australians, which remains the lowest recorded since the inception of the NHMP.

With regard to the gender of victims, there were some notable findings. Female victimisation increased from 0.8 per 100,000 females in 2006–07 (n=81) to 1.0 per 100,000 females (n=112) in 2007–08. The proportion of female victims by type of homicide stayed relatively consistent with the previous year. The most prominent change was a decrease in the proportion of females killed in an acquaintance-type homicide in 2007–08 (11%) compared with 2006–07 (16%).

In contrast, there was an overall decrease in male victimisation from 1.8 per 100,000 males in 2006–07 (n=185) down to 1.5 per 100,000 males in 2007–08 (n=161). Further, while there was an increase in the proportion of both acquaintance-type homicides from 2006–07 (36%) to 2007–08 (42%), and family-type homicides from 2006–07 (15%) to 2007–08 (24%), male victimisations in stranger-type homicides decreased to 16 percent in 2007–08 (from 25% in 2006–07).

In general, most homicide incidents in 2007–08 were domestic homicides involving one or more victims who shared a family or domestic relationship with the offender. Intimate partner homicides comprised the largest proportion of domestic homicides (60%).

The proportion of homicide incidents in 2007–08 involving a firearm increased modestly to 12 percent (n=30), an increase from nine percent (n=24) in 2007–08. Despite this increase, the involvement of firearms in homicide incidents remains at an historical low. The majority of firearms used in 2007–08 were identified as being either unregistered and/or unlicensed.

While annual fluctuations in the patterns of homicide are quite common, the continued monitoring of these trends is important. The resource investment in monitoring serious crimes bears fruit by identifying changes over time and just as importantly, by placing short-term changes in a broader context. It also provides the opportunity to identify changes in risk markers associated with incidents, victims and offenders. Such information allows policymakers and law enforcement practitioners to better target intervention and prevention policies to have the most impact.

Throughout the year, the AIC has released a number of publications using NHMP data and these are available on the internet. A full reference list of NHMP publications can be located at http://www.aic.gov.au/crime_types/violence/homicide.aspx.

Adam Tomison