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Lowest number of homicide incidents since the start of the National Homicide Monitoring Program

Media Release

05 February 2007

'A total of 249 homicide incidents in 2004-05 is the lowest annual number since national monitoring began in 1989', Dr Toni Makkai, Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, said today when releasing Homicide in Australia: 2004-05 National homicide monitoring program annual report. 'The incidence of homicide decreased by 14 percent from the previous year and has continued a downward trend since 2002-2003' Dr Makkai said.

The annual report presents findings for the sixteenth year of national homicide data collection in Australia and includes data on all incidents, victims and offenders of homicide in 2004-05. The report highlights consistencies or changes in incidents and characteristics of victims and offenders over time.

In 2004-05 there were 249 homicide incidents resulting in the deaths of 267 people - a rate of 1.3 per 100,000 population - committed by 286 offenders.

Differences compared with the previous year, included:

  • a smaller number of firearm deaths: in 2004-05 40 victims (15%) were killed with a firearm compared to 17% (53 victims) in 2003-04.
  • handguns accounting for a smaller proportion of firearms related deaths in 2004-05 (42%) compared with 53% in 2003-04.
  • a decrease in homicides during the course of robbery offences (down from 31% to 14%).
  • an increase in the age group for those most at risk of victimisation: persons aged between 35 and 39 years experienced the highest rate of homicide victimisation in 2004-05 (rate of 2.6) whereas in the previous year, the highest risk age group was between 20 and 24 (rate of 2.4).
  • an increase in the number of victims killed by an offender with a mental disorder: 24 percent (51 victims) in 2004-05, compared with seven percent in 2003-04.

Similarities included:

  • most solved homicide incidents involved one victim and one offender
  • the majority of homicide incidents occurred in a residential setting
  • most homicide victims were male (two-thirds). The male rate of victimisation is twice the rate of female homicide victimisation
  • The majority of offenders were men. Male offenders were most likely to kill a friend or acquaintance (32%), (strangers 22%, intimates 20%). Women offenders were most likely to kill intimates or family members (66%)
  • a knife or sharp instrument is the most commonly used weapon - used against 31 percent of victims in 2004-05
  • disputes continue to be the most common motive for homicide; with male victims most likely to be killed by a friend or acquaintance(38%). Male intimate partners pose the greatest risk to females (57% of female victims were killed by an intimate partner).
  • Children are most likely to be killed by a primary caregiver, usually a parent (81 percent). An equal proportion of fathers and mothers kill their children.

In terms of characteristics of offenders, 2004-05 data showed that:

  • over half of male offenders had a criminal history, while 12 per cent of female offenders had a criminal history.
  • just over half (52%) of the homicide offenders arrested and charged had consumed alcohol (33%), illicit or prescription drugs (12%) or both (7%) at the time of the incident
  • less than one fifth (17%) of homicide offenders and 12 per cent of homicide victim were Indigenous Australians. (Indigenous Australians comprise two percent of the Australian population.)

'The NHMP dataset has increasingly been recognised for its wealth of information directly informing public policy. The data are being used to assist the police in developing investigation strategies and in the prosecution of offenders', Dr Makkai said.

Dr Makkai acknowledged the important contribution of police and coronial agencies in the provision of data for this program. 'Without their continued support, the National Homicide Monitoring Program and associated research would not be possible.'