Alternative Law Journal
Adam Graycar and Peter Grabosky (eds); Cambridge University Press, 2002; 380 pp; $75.00 hardcover.
This impressive reference resource is an edited collection of essays focusing on the Au5tralian criminal justice system. Published in 2002 this book makes a valuable contribution to contemporary Australian criminological literature. The promise of a biennial publication makes it all the more attractive as an Australian criminal justice reference resource.
The commission of research essays from a range of well-known academics in the field of Australian criminology prov1des a sound empirical base. The information presented is accurate and current, providing a balance of relevant statistics and well-considered theoretical perspectives. All chapters follow a similar structure which is helpful for the researcher seeking to draw comparisons. Each topic includes an historic overview followed by research results drawing on contemporary policy and practice and concluding w1th a discussion of future policy directions.
A number of the chapters include detailed tables and charts, presenting a range of comprehensive data. While these may at times be difficult for the reader to decipher, the, discussion provides an in-depth analysis of the data, frequently present1ng a range of possible (often competing) explanations by way of clarification. The Inclusion of a range of perspectives is one of the significant strengths of this book. Divided loosely into five general themes the material is presented in a consistent format that is easy to follow.
The initial section 'sets the scene' by providing a discuss1on of major crime trends in Australia identifying how and why these trends have changed throughout the 20th century. A key feature is the speed of technological developments resulting in the need for responsive and adaptable criminal laws. Relevant data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics is presented providing an overview of diverse statistics from the criminal justice system and paving the way for later chapters.
The second section includes policing, court administration and corrections in Australia. Policing is discussed in terms of the evolution of a range of agencies responsible for the enforcement of law and security. The complex and contradictory nature of policing in Australia is highlighted with an emphasis on the difficulty of maintaining ethical standards and meeting benchmarks in relation to performance indicators and accountability. A comprehensive introduction to legal administration through the Australian courts is presented identifying differences and similarities between and w1thin jurisdictions. The historical development of criminal laws and criminal procedure is also discussed highlighting the evolution of a range of criminal laws. Some recent court reforms are identified with the suggestion that as courts become more respons1ve to global issues, increasingly innovative reforms will occur. The imprisonment rate in Australia has risen dramatically over the last two decades (p. 98). The changes that have occurred in imprisonment rates in Australia have profound implications for future corrections policy development. Increasingly, prison populations include a significant percentage of prisoners convicted of v1olent, fraudulent and drug related crimes.
Research into the prison population has identified a link between illicit drug use and crime. However, this does not necessarily indicate that there is a causal relationship between the two. In Australia a systematic data collection and monitoring program has not occurred so it is impossible to respond accurately to the question 'how much crime is drug related?' (125). Homicide is a relatively rare event, but it invariably results from a violent incident Consequently the relationship between the offender, victim and the incident is of specific interest to researchers in this area. 'White Collar crime' is a very different type of crime being difficult to define and difficult to regulate, all the more so because it is increasingly technologically based. However, high profile cases of 'financial crime' impact on Australia's ability to maintain credibility within the global market. It is suggested, therefore, that it is as important for Australia to develop and maintain a culture of deterrence of white collar as well as violent and drug-related crime. From discussions of these specific areas the following section broadens to explore a range of social groups as both victims and offenders.
The next series of chapters investigates crime in Australia in relation to gender, race and class, juvenile crime, older people, Indigenous people, and victims of crime. Gender and offending, and gender and victimisation are discussed emphasising the interconnection within criminological theories of race class and crime. However, it is suggested that there is still significant work to be done if criminologists are to develop theories that adequately explain this interconnection. The intersections are relevant for all social groups. A comprehensive discussion of juvenile justice in Australia identifies the legislative framework, processing of juvenile offenders and apprehension outcomes. The discussion results in an informative comparison of jurisdictional differences and highlights the theoretical problems in identifying and addressing the causes of juvenile crime. Issues of victimisation of older people are explored from the perspectives of 'crime and abuse, fear of crime and intersectional responses' (235). While fear of crime is prevalent within the older population this is the group least likely to be victimised. The authors emphasise, however, that it is misleading to categorise older people as a homogenous group when dealing with crime and victimisation. Significant differences exist in the experiences of different groups of older people and this is highlighted within the Indigenous population. The Australian Indigenous population is significantly over represented in criminal justice stat1stics. A number of initiatives that have been introduced to deter criminals have resulted in an increasing number of Indigenous people being caught up in the Criminal justice system. Recent statistics identify the high incidence of victimisation in this group also. Services for victims of crime have increased notably in recent decades. However, significant gaps remain in effective serv1ce provision for these victims although the increase of restorative justice programs is perceived to be a positive path for both victim and offender.
The final two chapters 'look to the future' in relation to restorative justice and crime prevention. Restorative justice is a relatively recent trend in Australia and New Zealand. This form of diversion has been used most commonly within the juvenile justice area with research indicating that participants generally perceive the process and outcomes as fair. Crime prevention has become a popular branch of criminology recently. A range of programs are discussed in this chapter highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of incorporating a range of government and community initiatives related to prevention of crime.
As a uniquely Australian anthology, this reference resource is compelling reading for the Australian academic and student of criminal justice. While the material presented is generally too complex to be an introductory reader it has the potential to be an extremely useful resource for higher level students and academics from a wide range of disciplines including criminology, sociology, public policy, legal studies, politics and law. The reference lists draw largely on recent material, with the potential to serve as a useful starting point for additional research. I look forward to the next edition of this most valuable reference resource.
MARY McKENNA teaches and researches in Legal Studies at Flinders University.