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Deaths in custody rates: lock-up deaths down, police pursuit deaths up

Media Release

29 July 2002

These are the findings from the 2001 National Deaths in Custody Program (NDICP) annual report released by the Australian Institute of Criminology today.

"Over the years police have put a lot of effort into reducing the number of deaths in custody occurring in police lock-ups, and these figures show how effective these efforts have been", said Dr Adam Graycar, AIC Director.

Last year, there were 2 deaths in police lock-ups and 5 in other close contact situations (e.g. shooting deaths and raids). This figure represents the lowest number of such deaths ever recorded by the NDICP.

The majority of police custodial deaths occurred during custody-related police operations (e.g. police pursuits and sieges) (n=24). This is the highest recorded number since the NDICP commenced monitoring these deaths in custody in the early 1990s. The majority of these deaths involved motor vehicle pursuits.

Other findings include:

  • In 2001 there were a total of 56 prison custody deaths (down from 64 in 2000) and 31 deaths in police custody and custody-related police operations during this period (up from 25 in 2000). There were no deaths recorded in juvenile detention during 2001. The 87 deaths in 2001 compares with 91 in 2000.
  • Approximately 22% of all custodial deaths during this period involved the deaths of Indigenous persons (n=19), the majority of which occurred in prison custody (n=14). There were 17 Indigenous deaths in 2000.
  • There were 33 self inflicted deaths, 31 deaths by natural causes, 3 homicides and 18 accidents.
  • 3 deaths were females.
All custodial deaths 2000 and 2001
Jurisdiction20002001
IndigenousNon-IndigenousIndigenousNon-Indigenous
NSW 5 28 5 29
Vic. 1 9 0 10
Qld 3 15 2 17
WA 5 11 6 7
SA 2 10 4 4
Tas. 0 1 0 0
NT 1 0 2 1
ACT 0 0 0 0
Aust. 17 74 19 68
Source: Australian Institute of Criminology, NDICP 2000-2001 [computer file]
Trends in all custodial deaths in Australia by Indigenous status
Year of deathIndigenousNon-IndigenousTotal n
1990 10 55 65
1991 13 57 70
1992 9 58 67
1993 10 71 81
1994 14 67 81
1995 21 66 87
1996 18 64 82
1997 15 90 105
1998 16 79 95
1999 19 66 85
2000 17 74 91
2001 19 68 87
Total 181 815 996
Source: Australian Institute of Criminology, NDICP 1990-2001 [computer file]