Sexual offenders in New Zealand: Gender disparities in police proceedings and judicial sentencing

Dr Kelley Burton1Dr Nadine McKillop1Dr Tess Patterson2, Ms Linda Hobbs2
1USC Law School, University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia, 2Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, New Zealand

In this presentation we disseminate findings on our investigation into gender disparities in police and  judicial decision-making for sexual offences in New Zealand (NZ). Police statistics over a 12-month timeframe were used to compare police actions for female and male adults (20 years and over) charged with a sexual offence. Data presented here were extracted and combined from reports made publicly available by the New Zealand Police a Of all sexual offence charges, 2.1% were laid against a female. Our findings indicate that in NZ females were more likely to be charged for ‘non-assaultive sexual offences’ than ‘sexual assault’ and that a significantly greater percentage of females, compared to males charged with a sexual offence, did not proceed to court action. Separate data (measured by the NZ Police Crime Harm Index [CHI]) was used to examine sentencing outcomes imposed across gender. CHI is a derived measure of sentence length calculated for each sentence type(New Zealand Police (2017). Crime Harm Index (Beta Version 5) Provisional User Guide. Wellington, New Zealand Police). Our results showed that sentence types handed down to male sexual offenders were significantly longer compared to those handed down to female sexual offenders. Together these findings indicate possible gender disparities in police proceedings and judicial sentencing of sexual offenders. These issues require further examination to increase societal recognition of the harms associated with female sexual offending, for providing justice for victims, and to enable timely and appropriate access to gender and offence-specific treatment for female perpetrators.


Dr Kelley Burton is an Associate Professor in the USC Law School. Kelley is the sole author or co-author of three leading texts on criminal law in Queensland and Western Australia. In 2016, Kelley’s work on double jeopardy was cited by the Australian Law Reform Commission. In 2017, Kelley was awarded with an AAUT Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning for leadership in designing innovative resources that demonstrate a strong command of criminal law education. Kelley’s research interests include criminalisation; criminal law reform; domestic violence; making and distributing visual recordings in breach of privacy; consent; and sentencing.

Preventing Child Sexual Abuse Post the Royal Commission

Dr Vicky Nagy1
1Deakin University, Burwood, Australia

The conclusion of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse has provided Australia with recommendations to move forward in preventing child sexual abuse. Recommendation 6.1 outlines the need for the establishment and development of a national strategy to prevent child sexual abuse and Recommendation 6.2 outlines what this national strategy should encompass, including information and help-seeking services for people who are concerned about their own risk status to perpetrating child sexual abuse, or others who are concerned that someone they know may be an at-risk offender.

While programs exist elsewhere in the world to help prevent child sexual abuse perpetration, Australian state and territory efforts have focused on imprisonment, post-prison detention and sex offender registries in an attempt to prevent recidivism. Recent efforts to consider COSA (Circles of Support and Accountability) to reintegrate child sexual offenders back into their communities have begun and demonstrate the need for Australian jurisdictions to consider new alternatives to traditional methods of dealing with perpetration of this crime. International prevention programs aimed at self-identified or family or community identified at-risk offenders have shown success in the US, UK, Ireland, and Germany. One such program, the Stop It Now! UK and Ireland phone line and counselling service is one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission.

This paper will consider the possibilities of introducing such programs into Australian jurisdictions and what barriers may need to be overcome in order for perpetration prevention programs to receive community, political and criminal justice support in the coming years.


Vicky is a lecturer in criminology at Deakin University. Her research focuses on socio-legal responses to crime in historical and contemporary contexts. Her research has investigated sexual violence and abuse against adults and children, and women’s offending and imprisonment in Australia and the UK. She is also interested in researching prevention efforts of child sexual abuse

Institutional Abuse and Organizational Reform in the Australian Defence Force (1969-)

Ben Wadham1
1Flinders University, Bedford Park, Australia

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse has exposed the extent of child abuse in some Australian institutions. In 2011 (after a national sex scandal), the ADF commissioned legal firm DLA Piper to review allegations of sexual and other abuse in Defence. In 2016, Elizabeth Broderick, the former Sex Discrimination Commissioner, tabled a review for the Australian Federal Police (AFP), finding cultures of bullying, harassment and sexism. The South Australian Police (SAPOL) were reviewed by the South Australian Equal Opportunity Commissioner with similar findings only months later. The historical character of these cases demonstrates the persistence of this feature of institutional life. A key feature of institutional abuse is the gendered character of organisational cultures within which it occurs. The reviews highlight a principal focus: men, their cultures of masculinities and their traditions of othering and violence. Institutional abuse in the ADF is a key marker of the tension between diversity and uniformity in the military – of the overwhelming force of the masculine and martial norm and the management and governance of difference. The ADF has faced the problem of abuse since its inception, but it is only since 2011 that the leadership of the organisation has attempted to identify and change the cultural drivers that enable abuse. This paper outlines the subject matter of institutional abuse in the military as a criminological concern. A short history of Defence Abuse is presented within a gendered institutional/organizational frame, and within the context of state, military and civil society relations.

Ben’s main research interest is militarism and militarisation in Australia. Of particular interest is crime and the military. His research has focused on military cultures and their propensity for internal violence. He is interested in how mono cultural institutions can be diversified, the institutional strategies for achieving this, and the manner in which this contest plays out across state, military and civil society. In order to understand these forces of change he focuses on scandals, and how they act as a catalyst for transformation and/or reproduction. Ben’s background in governance and public policy locates these activities in the changing character of key social institutions. He currently holds an ARC Discovery 2018-2021 on Institutional Abuse and Organizational Reform in the ADF (1969-) with Dr James Connor UNSW ADFA.

A decade of Victorian inquests, commissions and inquiries into family violence and institutional child abuse: comparing the processes

Anita Mackay1, Jacob McCahon
1La Trobe University, Bundoora , Australia

Inquisitorial processes such as Royal Commissions and parliamentary inquiries are increasingly being used in Victoria as a means of investigating a range of complex policy and legal problems. This paper uses a specific timeframe of the past decade (January 2008 to 31 December 2017) and two specific subject-areas (inquiries into family violence and institutional child abuse) as a means to consider what the different processes have to offer, with a particular emphasis on the participation of victims and family members.  The processes examined include: the 2015 coronial inquest into the death of Luke Batty, the 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence and the 2013 Parliamentary Committee Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations.

Dr Anita Mackay is a lecturer at La Trobe Law School.  Dr Mackay has an interest in how inquisitorial processes, such as parliamentary committee inquiries and Royal Commissions, provide avenues for public participation and exposure of wrongdoing.  In conducting this research she draws on her experience as a legal researcher for a Victorian parliamentary committee, and extensive experience developing government responses to recommendations from within the public service.

Can Crime Scene Behaviours Differentiate Between and Predict Serial Versus Non-Serial Rapists?

Serena Davidson1
1Bond University, Robina, Australia

Stranger sexual assault is a difficult crime to solve, with a high cost to both victims and society (Abrahams et al., 2014). As policing has become more proactive, methods such as case linkage analysis have been formalised and enhanced to assist investigations. Case linkage examines the similarities and differences of behaviours across multiple offences to link similar crimes and identify potential serial rapists (Woodhams & Bennell, 2015). These links can help investigators collaborate to identify and apprehend serial offenders quickly.

For case linkage to be successful, it is assumed that a serial rapist will behave relatively consistently across his offences yet distinctively compared to other offenders (Canter, 2004). Inherent in this is the assumption that serial offenders can be distinguished from non-serial offenders. As this has yet to be fully examined in Australia, the current research analyses offence behaviours of serial and non-serial rapists in Queensland to determine more clearly whether these assumptions are valid. Two hundred and fifty solved stranger rapes have been identified from Queensland Police Service crime records. Specifically, this research seeks to answer three questions: 1. Do serial rapists (as a group) display behaviours that are distinct to non-serial rapists? 2. Do serial rapists (individually) behave distinctively compared to other serial rapists as well as non-serial rapists? 3. Can offence behaviours predict whether an offender is serial or not? Preliminary findings of data analysis will be provided to begin to answer these questions, and the implications for practice and further research will be discussed.

**The author acknowledges the assistance provided by the Queensland Police Service. The views expressed in this material are those of the author and are not those of the Queensland Police Service. Responsibility for any errors of omission or commission remains with the author. The Queensland Police Service expressly disclaims any liability for any damage resulting from the use of the material contained in this publication and will not be responsible for any loss, howsoever arising, from use of or reliance on this material.**

Serena Davidson is a PhD candidate at Bond University. Her research explores stranger rape offence behaviours in Queensland. Specifically, she is assessing whether serial and single rapists engage in significantly different behaviours during their offences, and whether those behaviours can be used to predict serial versus single rapist classification. She received her Master of Criminology from Bond in 2015 and BA in Psychology and Spanish from the University of New Mexico, USA in 2010, graduating summa cum laude. Miss Davidson plans to further her research with the aim of continuing to bridge the gap between criminology academia and investigative practice.


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