Aggravating or mitigating? The impact of alcohol involvement on family violence incident outcomes recorded by police

C. McDonald1*, M. Millsteed2

1 Research Officer, Crime Statistics Agency
2 Manager, Crime Statistics Agency

*corresponding author: cleave.mcdonald@crimestatistics.vic.gov.au

Existing evidence suggests that alcohol is involved in more than a third of incidents of serious violence against women. A significant body of research has established that there is a complex relationship between alcohol use and family violence, and that alcohol may increase the risk of violence occurring and the seriousness of violent incidents. Some limited evidence also exists to suggest that the involvement of alcohol may influence the attributions made by perpetrators, victims, witnesses, law enforcement officers, and judicial officers, about blame and responsibility in family violence situations. However, evidence about the directions of these attributions and how they impact on criminal justice decision making and severity of penalties is mixed.

This study therefore seeks to begin to address these inconsistencies through exploratory analysis of a sample of police-recorded family violence incidents. It aims to determine:

  • how many family violence incidents recorded by police involve noted alcohol use by either the perpetrator or the victim
  • how many of these incidents result in an offence being recorded by police, compared with incidents that do not involve alcohol use
  • where an offence is recorded, how many result in an arrest versus another outcome, and does this differ for incidents where alcohol is involved compared with those where alcohol is not involved.

Biography

Cleave McDonald is a Research Officer at the Crime Statistics Agency.  Her experience includes a range of quantitative and qualitative research projects within state government, Victoria Police and Monash University.

Melanie Millsteed is the Manager of Research and Evaluation at the Crime Statistics Agency.  She has previously worked in a range of research and evaluation roles across various federal and state government agencies, where she conducted several large scale, multi-agency evaluations of criminal justice programs incorporating both quantitative and qualitative research methods.

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