Australian Institute of Criminology

Skip to content

Self-inflicted firearms deaths in police custody

Media Release

28 August 1998

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

Minister for Justice, Senator Amanda Vanstone, today released a paper from the Australian Institute of Criminology, which analyses self-inflicted firearms deaths in police custody.

"The paper, Police Custody and Self-Inflicted Firearms Deaths, part of the AIC's series, Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, reveals there were 33 such deaths between 1 January 1990 and 30 June 1997," Senator Vanstone said.

"Suicide, whether by firearm or any other means is an extremely serious issue for the criminal justice system and society as a whole."

"With almost half of the deaths involving a domestic altercation, often involving an intimate partner [spouse, defacto or estranged partner], the paper highlights the need to ensure effective strategies and interventions to deal with depression and mental illness resulting from relationship breakdown."

"More than half the deaths covered in this paper occurred at private residences during siege or stand-off situations. These deaths are considered deaths in custody because police are in the process of seeking to apprehend an offender."

"All the deaths were of males and more than two-thirds were reported to have been either depressed or to have had some form of psychiatric history requiring treatment."

"Thirty-nine percent of the firearms used were weapons now illegal under new national firearms regulations. The paper reinforces the need to ensure restrictions on access to firearms by those who may be at risk of aggressive or violent behaviour are enforced and maintained at an appropriate national level."