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CJB125

Author Kate O'Brien, Craig Jones and Victor Korabelnikoff
Published December 2008
Report Type Crime and Justice Bulletin No. 125
Subject Domestic violence; Offenders; Sexual assault and violence; Victims; Weapons
Keywords sexual assault, clear-up rates, injury, weapon use, co-occurring offences, domestic violence.

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Summary

Aim

This study assesses three possible reasons for the decrease in sexual assault clear-up rates:

(1) changes in the time taken by police to clear sexual assault incidents;
(2) changes to the definition of what constitutes a ‘cleared’ sexual assault incident; and
(3) changes in the number (and proportion) of cases where police are able to lay criminal charges.

Abstract

The proportion of sexual assault incidents recorded by the NSW Police Force as ‘cleared’ or ‘partially cleared’ fell from 63 per cent in 1995 to 28 per cent in 2006. This study assesses three possible reasons for the decrease:

(1) changes in the time taken by police to clear sexual assault incidents;
(2) changes to the definition of what constitutes a ‘cleared’ sexual assault incident; and
(3) changes in the number (and proportion) of cases where police are able to lay criminal charges.

There is no evidence to support the first of these possibilities, very little evidence for the second, but considerable evidence for the third. While it is not possible to give any definitive explanation for the fall in the number (and proportion) of cases where police are able to lay charges, the most plausible reason is that the profile of sexual assault cases coming to police attention has shifted in a way that makes victims less willing or less likely to give evidence against suspected offenders. The changes in offence profile that are consistent with this interpretation include statistically significant decreases in the proportion of incidents involving physical injury, weapon use and co-occurring offences and a significant increase in the proportion of incidents where the victim and offender were known to one another.

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