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Criminal Justice blog maintained by Alistair Harkness.

Research on access to justice for people with complex communications needs in the CJS

Dr Marg Camilleri from Federation University’s criminal justice department has secured a grant from the Victorian Legal Services Board to explore the needs of people interacting with Victoria’s criminal and civil justice system who have complex communication needs. This is an exciting and much-needed research project, which will contribute significantly to providing enhanced access to justice for an oft-overlooked demographic engaged with the justice system in Victoria.
Here is the press release which provides greater detail:
Researchers from Federation University Australia have received funding to explore the requirements of people with complex communication needs when interacting with the criminal and civil justice system.
The research is funded by the Legal Services Board for a period of two years, concluding mid-2018.
“Access to justice, particularly for people with disabilities, is a growing concern throughout the legal community and beyond,” Dr Margaret Camilleri, Lecturer in Criminal Justice, said.
“During the past three years some reports have highlighted the inequitable and prejudicial response to people with disabilities by justice agencies.
“People with complex communication needs who interact with the justice system, either as offenders, victims, witnesses or those attending tribunals are potentially the most disadvantaged.”
Dr Camilleri said this primarily was because there had been few adjustments made by justice agencies to ensure that information was available to those in need.
“Our research will aim to increase the understanding among justice agencies, of how they can effectively respond to the communication and support needs of everyone,” Dr Camilleri said.
“We will seek direct input direct from people with complex communication needs who have had experience in interacting with the justice system, including the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) and the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VoCAT).”
The research also will seek to answer the following questions:
  • What enabling factors were experienced during their interaction with the justice system?
  • What barriers were experienced during their interaction with the justice system?
  • What impact did their experience with the justice system have on them?
  • What suggestions do they have to improve their experience with the justice system?
The research is also being supported by Disability Advocacy Victoria and its member agencies.

European Society of Criminology Conference 2016

The European Society of Criminology is holding the 2016 conference in Muenster, Germany – more details here.
I am very pleased to be chairing a panel entitled “Theorising and responding to rural policing and crime: Different contexts, different approaches (Part 1)”. Dr Andrew Wooff from Edinburgh Napier University has organised a companion panel “Theorising and responding to rural policing and crime: Different contexts, different approaches (Part 2)”.
Here is the very exciting lineup of papers for my panel.

Chair: Alistair Harkness
Much of the literature on ‘good’ policing and crime control has been conceptualised as that which reduces crime, builds strong links with the community, is just, legitimate and, arguably, is seen as a public good. Much of the literature thus far has been developed in an urban context, with a dearth of literature exploring rural policing and rural crime. Yet it has been argued that a key part of being able address crime and disorder effectively is through the use of a contextualised approach which takes account of the broader embedded nature in which it occurs. Both Theorising and responding to rural policing and crime: Different contexts, different approaches (Parts 1 and 2) seek to explore the impact of the rural context on the types of crime experienced in rural contexts alongside some of the challenges relating to responding to rural crime. With rural crime and policing facing different challenges to those in urban contexts, and with criminal justice policy which increasingly favours risk mitigation and efficiency, now is a ripe time to examine what ‘good’ policing and crime control in rural environments looks like. Panelists will draw on rural crime in a number of different contexts to examine whether the micro-scale contexts can teach us broader lessons about what effective policing and crime control looks like in geographically challenging environments.

This pre-arranged panel – Theorising and responding to rural policing and crime: Different contexts, different approaches (Part 1) – will address fear of crime in rural Sweden, policing the wildlife trade in Norway, and will consider farm trespass in Australia.

The Future of Rural Criminology

*Joseph Donnermeyer
The Ohio State University, School of Environment and Natural Resources, Columbus, Ohio, United States
Abstract Text :
Rural criminology is a rapidly developing area due to the convergence of increased attention to rural crime and criminal justice issues in feminist theory, critical criminology, green criminology, and the emergence of criminology in the global south. Several recent books on rural crime topics were recently published and future prospects for advanced scholarly work is promising. This presentation briefly summarizes recent developments in rural criminology as a point of reflection on its future, especially the development of theoretical perspectives that both challenge and revise mainstream criminological theory.

Policing the wildlife trade in Norway

*Ragnhild Sollund
University of Oslo, Criminology and Sociology of Law, Oslo, Norway
Abstract Text :
The legal and illegal wildlife trade harms billions of animals every year, whether animals are killed on the spot to be processed into various kinds of products or are trafficked alive as part of the pet industry. Based on empirical research from Norway, in this paper I follow different cases of illegal wildlife trade, from Custom’s seizure reports to final decisions in the judicial system. The aim is to reveal possible weaknesses and what they consist of in the policing and law enforcement of this particular crime through a narrow analysis of specific cases relating to wildlife trafficking. The cases include trafficking in parrots to Norway for the pet trade, a collector case including a large number of animals and ivory artifacts, and a reptile trafficking case including breeding and trafficking of reptiles from Norway to an international market. By looking into the investigation material and based on interviews with police officers I discuss the final outcome of the cases in view of justice and crime prevention.

Fear of crime and overall anxieties in rural areas: The case of Sweden

*Vania Ceccato
KTH, Department of Urban Planning and Built Environment, Stockholm, Sweden
Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
Abstract Text :
People fear crime less in rural areas than they do in urban areas. It is submitted in this chapter that this fact represents a partial picture of perceived safety in rural areas. Instead of reducing the issue of fear of crime to the risk of victimization, we place fear of crime in a broader context using Swedish rural areas as case study. Fear of crime and other overall anxieties are captured by indicators from Living conditions and Crime victims’ surveys. We go beyond actual statistics of perceived safety to shed light on the nature of fear by looking at fear as perceived by particular groups in Swedish rural areas. The chapter develops a critical analysis of two examples of expression of fear in relation to the process of othering in the Swedish countryside: Sami youth (the old other) and berry pickers (the new other). The chapter closes with suggestions for further research on fear of crime in rural contexts.

Policing farm trespass: Experiences and lessons from Australia in theoretical context

*Alistair Harkness
Federation University, School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, CHURCHILL, Australia
Abstract Text :
Effectively policing rural landscapes – particularly the vast, low-density population expanses of rural and remote Australia – is challenging. Preventing and policing crime on farms is particularly so. This paper will focus on the role of rural police in Victoria, Australia, as first responders, investigators of rural crime, and as builders of social capital. It presents initial work of a scoping project underway which examines farm trespass by unauthorised hunters and animal activists, and the ‘thin blue line’ role of police in often fractuous circumstances. The paper argues that building and strengthening relationships with farmers and addressing ingrained reticence in country communities to report crime are essential to encourage greater reporting and more effective deployment of situational crime prevention initiatives, to reduce the incidence of disruptive trespass on farms, and to allow a problem-orientated policing philosophy to prevail. Experiences from Victoria could well serve as a guide for other jurisdictions.

2016 Victorian Farm Crime Survey

Farm crime can have enormous impacts on rural and regional communities. Developing better responses is important – to do this, we need the input of farming communities.

* Do you own a farm or work on a farm?

* Are you concerned about farm crime?

* Have you been the victim of farm crime?

* Have you avoided farm crime by implementing crime prevention measures?


The Federation University Farm Crime Research team want to:

* understand the extent that crime occurs on farms in rural and regional Victoria

* identify which types of crime are most prevalent and what are the causes

* identify crime prevention measures for Government, police, the courts, individual farmers and farm communities


The survey is anonymous. Participation is voluntary.

We know your time is precious – but the involvement of Victorian farmers is vital in tackling farm crime.

To access the survey, click on or type this address into your search engine:


For all enquiries:

Dr Alistair Harkness

Criminal Justice, Federation University

Tel:(03) 5122 6760 | Email:



Farm Crime survey flier


Police as builders of social capital with farmers

Introduced in 2011, Victoria Police Agricultural Liaison Officers (AGLOs) have expertise in rural crime and are tasked with providing enhanced responses to farm victimisation. In addition to operating in a detective capacity, AGLOs perform educative and outreach duties.

police cars at Speed VicVictoria Police interacting with farming communities at the Mallee Machinery Farm Days, 3-4 August 2016 in Speed, Victoria

Utilising a framework of social capital, Dr Alistair Harkness from Federation University’s Gippsland Campus presented a paper at the 3rd International Crime, Justice and Social Democracy Conference at the Queensland University of Technology in July 2015.

The paper investigates the roles which AGLOs assume in building and strengthening relationships between police and farmers. It considers the importance of strong police-community relationships, community policing and the problem-orientated policing approach of the AGLO program. It is asserted that with further resourcing, AGLOs could concentrate more directly on building trust with local communities to allow for awareness of, and better responses to, property thefts from farms.

You can read the full peer-reviewed paper here:

HARKNESS ConferenceProceedings_3rdInternationalCJSDConference_2015_v2



Reporting thefts from farms

In addition to bearing financial costs for farming communities, rural crime also bears significant social impacts. Implementation of prevention tactics and techniques is, therefore, essential to reducing farmer victimisation.

Thefts from farms can be either opportunistic (eg box of chemicals, a few sheep) or targeted (eg firearms, machinery etc).

Incredibly important is the need for thefts from farms to be reported. Associate Professor Elaine Barclay from the University of New England surveyed farmers in NSW in 2001 and again in 2014 and found that only about half of crime experienced is reported to police.


Why are many thefts from farms not reported?

Barclay’s research and responses to the Victorian Farm Crime Research Project surveys indicate similar reasons for non-reporting.

Some of the reasons offered by farmers for not reporting thefts are concerns about aspects of the criminal justice system: for example, a belief that police are not able to do anything; a perception that police do not have agricultural knowledge; a worry that police won’t take it seriously; and hassles of the legal process.

Concerns about not having any or insufficient evidence are also commonly cited: a feeling that the crime not serious enough to report; unable to prove ownership of stolen property; not sure a crime has occurred; and a belief that too much time had passed.

There also exist what can be categorised as community concerns: the offender was known / living in a small community; fear of revenge; farmer solved themselves; and did not want the media to get hold of the story.


Why is reporting important?

Police, legislators, policy makers, farming communities, and individual farmers themselves will benefit if we can formulate a clear, accurate picture of offending. Limited resources will always be deployed where they are needed, first and foremost. Apprehension of offenders, too, is only possible if police know that crime has occurred.


Making sense of rural crime – new criminal justice book with Australian context

Locating crime in Context and Place: Perspectives on Regional, Rural and Remote Australia

Alistair Harkness, Bridget Harris and David Baker (eds) – Federation Press, 2016


Final_Locating Crime in Context_email_banner full sizeThe urban focus of crime has dominated the attention of  criminologists.

Although images of idyllic, crime-free areas beyond the cityscape persist, there is scant academic consideration of the realities and variances of crime across regional, rural and remote Australia.

Contributors to Locating Crime explore the nexus between crime and space, examining the complexities that exist in policing, prosecuting and punishing crime in different zones. The various authors draw upon original knowledge and insight and utilise innovative research and an interdisciplinary approach to their work.

The broad theme of Locating Crime is centred on ‘context, place and space’, but several sub-themes emerge too. Contributors grapple with a number of issues: contextualisations of rurality; notions of ‘access to justice’; the importance of building ‘social capital’; the role of history; and of proactively addressing offending rates with crime prevention measures.

This original research adds significantly to criminological understandings of crime in different spaces and offers novel insights of the impact upon victims and communities affected by crime in non-urban environments.

Twelve scholarly chapters are grounded in criminological, legal and socio-legal frameworks and incorporate theoretical and practical knowledge from other fields such as history, sociology, cultural geography, media, cultural studies and Indigenous studies.

The contributions from four professional practitioners with expert knowledge of specific facets of criminal justice systems in Australia offer evaluations often absent from scholarly criminological literature. By melding both academic and practitioner discourse into the same work, this book allows a greater appreciation of the nexus between thought and practice.

ePostcard_ Locating Crime

Farm crime in the news!

Here are a couple of news items dealing with farm crime in Victoria:

Radio feature on crime on farms

Report on the Bendigo farm security expo organised by Victoria Police and held last week