Violent Criminal Careers: A retrospective longitudinal study

Full report - Violent Criminal Careers: A retrospective longitudinal study (pdf, 403Kb)

Release date: Wednesday 12 October, 2016


Contrary to popular belief, most violent offenders brought to court appear to stop offending after their first conviction.  

This surprising finding emerged from a longitudinal study of violent offenders released today by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR).

BOCSAR tracked the offending patterns of all 26,472 offenders born between 1986 and 1990 (inclusive) that had at least one violent offence proved against them before 31 December 2014.

The mean follow-up time was 6.35 years but the longest follow-up period was 21 years. In the median case, after 20 years, an estimated 77 per cent had not been convicted of a further violent offence.

BOCSAR found, however, that the risk of violent re-offending varied greatly across different offender groups (see table 5).

Higher rates of violent offending were found for younger offenders, offenders whose first proven offence occurred when they were young, Indigenous offenders and offenders convicted of any of the following offences: justice procedure offences (e.g. breach of bond), malicious damage to property or theft.

Interestingly, after controlling for other factors, offenders convicted of domestic violence offences were no more likely to be reconvicted of another violent offence than offenders convicted of non-domestic violence offences.

Commenting on the findings the director of BOCSAR, Dr Don Weatherburn, said they highlighted the dangers associated with stereotyping all violent offenders as dangerous recidivists.

"There is a small group of violent offenders who keep on committing violent offences but the majority desist after just one offence."

"Those who do continue don't tend to specialise in violent offending. They have long criminal histories and convictions for a wide variety of different offences."

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn 02 8346 1100
Copies of the report:


Link to Table 5: Estimated percentage not committing another violent offence by offence/offender characteristics