Monday, June 7, 2004

National murder rate down, report

Australians are killing each other at a substantially reduced rate, new national homicide figures show.

The figures, released by the Australian Institute of Criminology under the National Homicide Monitoring Program, show there were 297 homicide incidents resulting in the deaths of 324 people during 2002-03.

That represents a 15 per cent decline from 381 deaths in 2001-02 - giving Australia a current national homicide rate of 1.6 per 100,000 population, the equal lowest rate since the program started in 1990.

Report authors Jenny Mouzos and Marie Segrave stressed that the murder rate remained volatile and subject to yearly fluctuations.

It ranged from a low of 297 incidents in 1997-98 to a high of 354 incidents in 2001-02.

The 2002-03 figures also show some ongoing trends. Men account for two-thirds of victims and 87 per cent of offenders.

More than half of all offenders were affected by alcohol or drugs, or both, at the time.

The Northern Territory continues to have the nation's highest murder rate of 8.6 per 100,000 population - 17 victims, the majority indigenous people.

The most common factor leading to murder for males was an argument or altercation (22 per cent) while for women in was a domestic dispute (51 per cent).

More than half of all murders occurred in a residential location.

The study found knives and other sharp implements were the most common murder weapons, used in 36 per cent of cases, followed by assault using hands and feet (21 per cent) and firearms (16 per cent).

Of the 53 firearms victims, 29 were killed with handguns. Of the 44 identified offenders who used firearms to kill, 37 were not licensed to own guns and resorted to use of unregistered illegal weapons.

The study also cited some unusual murder and manslaughter cases.

They included a tour guide who advised travellers it was safe to swim in a crocodile-infested billabong.

By Homicide Figures 7 June 04