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Criminal Justice blog maintained by Alistair Harkness.

Crime behind the farm gate: Preventing and policing farm crime in rural Victoria, Australia

Alistair Harkness from Federation University’s Gippsland Campus attended the Stockholm Criminology Symposium this week, and presented a paper addressing farm crime and reporting on his research from Victoria Australia, Here is the abstract of his presentation:


Crime devastates lives and communities across different spaces: in cities; remote settings; provincial towns; smaller urbanised regional areas; and on the urban-fringe. However, rural offending has hitherto been a largely forgotten frontier of crime, but one that warrants considerable further attention. In addition to bearing financial costs for farming communities, rural crime also bears significant sociological impacts.


Situational crime prevention theory is premised on the notion that a potential offender makes a rational choice as to their behaviour. In essence, situational crime prevention involves increasing the effort involved in crime (by making offending more difficult), increasing the risks of detection (real or perceived), and reducing the rewards for the offending. However, there exists a rural mentality that “she’ll be right” and many opportunities are provided inadvertently for thefts to occur.


Drawing upon primary interview and survey data collected between October 2013 and September 2014, this paper will consider the opportunities presented to offenders’ often unwittingly by farmers and farm communities’ and will determine a suite of situational crime prevention strategies which could be implemented by individuals and agencies of the State to address offending rates.


Importantly, this paper will identify initiatives for the prevention and control of property crime against farms and for the improvement of service delivery to confront an increasingly important aspect of crime and crime control. In so doing, existing policing practices to confront farm crime such as the role of Agricultural Liaison Officers in Victoria will be assessed, and challenges for contemporary rural policing explored. Building and strengthening relationships with farmers and addressing ingrained reticence in country communities to report crime, seek assistance when needed, and overcome fear are essential to reduce the incidence of farm crime. Experiences from Victoria could well serve as a guide for other jurisdictions.


Ground-breaking report on rural/regional family violence

Amanda George and Bridget Harris have produced a ground-breaking report which focuses on family violence in rural and regional Victoria. An extensive series of interviews and consultations has led to a series of vitally-significant recommendations.

The report can be found here: Landscapes-of-Violence-online

Criminal Justice Roundup: 101 sites to check out

A new site has been established which provides a wealth of information regarding criminal justice issues, and is targeted towards CJ students. One particular feature is the Criminal Justice Roundup which contains links to 101 criminal justice organisations and blog sites. Although most of the sites are US-based, there is nevertheless a wealth of info for Australian students contained within.

“Criminal justice systems locally and globally make it their goal to reduce crime and maintain the rule of law. The effectiveness of these systems is always in flux, and there are a great number of institutions, public and private, dedicated to understanding and improving criminal justice systems. The criminal justice system employs an incredible number of people in various roles, from police officers who enforce the law at the street level, to lawmakers, judges, attorneys, corrections officers, and others with varying levels of authority to interpret and enforce the law.”

Here is the site:

Criminal Justice Roundup

Courting justice beyond the cityscape: Access to justice and the rural, regional and remote magistrates’ courts

Bridget Harris and two colleagues have just published a fascinating article in the February 2014 edition of the Journal of Judicial Administration.

Courting justice beyond the cityscape: Access to justice and the rural, regional and remote magistrates’ courts Bridget Harris, Lucinda Jordan and Lydia Phillips

“The lower courts in Australia are important spaces. These “people’s courts” handle the majority of civil and criminal matters and can profoundly shape perceptions, not only of the courts but of the criminal justice system at large. Lower courts play a key role in educating and guiding court workers and are places where innovative practices are pioneered and social change is pursued. Despite their significance there has been little review of the lower courts, even less of courts beyond the cityscape. In this article the authors explore the history, role and operations of lower courts in rural, regional and remote Australia to assess how the courts respond to the needs and diversity of different community groups and regions; they identify barriers to justice and signal emerging areas of research.”

Police, pickets and death: Past and present

Paper presented by David Baker, Monash University

Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology conference for 2013

Tuesday 1 October 2013 – Brisbane
Abstract of paper:

Despite the precarious nature of the policing of picket-lines, death has occurred rarely throughout Australia’s industrial disputation history. This paper explores three case-studies in which workers, innocent victims, were killed during industrial confrontation as the result of the use of police force, the only occasions when such fatalities have resulted in Australia. This paper highlights the direct policing involvement that led to these deaths, the lack of accountability of police and the deficiencies in the administration of justice. It argues that the three deaths, during a prolonged and bitter era of class warfare, highlights some glaring characteristics of police dysfunction and inadequacies. Although there has been no police-inflicted industrial death since 1929 in Australia, this historical research can stimulate comparative questions and lessons about recent events such as the fatal police shooting of 44 miners at Marikana, South Africa, in 2012.

A new era of prisons in Victoria

The Victorian Liberal-National Coalition government has a strong law and order agenda, and the most recent announcement of an expansion of the planned Ravenhall Prison in Melbourne’s West in further confirmation of this. Originally planned as a 500 bed male prison with opportunity for expansion, it will now be built as a 1000 bed prison, and when completed in 2017 will be one of Australia’s largest.

There has been increasing consternation regarding prison overcrowding, with some prison insiders identifying this as a significant issue in a recent ABC report, and with reports of the use of fold-out beds and and the possibility that prisoners might be housed in caravans as possible temporary fixes to the overcrowding issue. Victoria Police has expressed concern about the housing of prisoners in police station cells.

The Victorian Auditor General presented a report to Parliament in November 2012 regarding prison capacity in Victoria, noting that “by 2016 the male and female prison systems will not have sufficient capacity to meet increases in prisoner numbers”.

The key question is, of course, whether building new prisons is the answer to addressing crime in Victoria – or are there smarter ways of making our community safer. Perhaps now is the time to actively consider the benefits of justice reinvestment, an approach adopted in the state of Texas which has actually seen a prison closed.

Police, pickets and death: Past and Present

David Baker will be presenting at the 2013 Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology conference in Brisbane at the start of October, presenting a paper of Police, Pickets and Death: Past and Present. David is an internationally renowned expert in the policing of disputes, and has written extensively on the subject including his 2004 book Batons and Blockades: Policing industrial disputes in Australasia.