Justice Access Research Alert No. 86
November 2020
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Access to Justice

Access to justice and the COVID-19 pandemic, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales, September 2020
DISCUSSION PAPER: Co-published by the OECD and the Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales, this policy brief focuses on the immediate and medium-term consequences of the COVID-19 crisis for justice systems and their users, and proposes examples of steps that can be taken during this period to support  access to justice. It discusses nine key lessons, from research and practices across the globe that justice systems can draw on to develop stronger people-centred practices and contribute to an inclusive economic recovery.


Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, October 2020
INQUIRY: On 28 October the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements published its final report. The inquiry was called for after a devastating bushfire season in 2019-20 where fires burnt across tens of millions of hectares of land, threatening and displacing hundreds of communities. The commissioners made 80 recommendations for all levels of government during emergencies. The Commission has concluded that Australia needs a national approach to natural disasters. The Commission's key recommendation stated that the Australian Government should lead in the development and coordination of a long-term, national strategic policy directed at making Australia resilient to natural disasters. It is uniquely placed to see the national picture, the national risks, and the impacts on all Australians. However, like all governments, it should also increase its capacity to address the complex and long-term strategic problems in disaster risk management and resilience.

Children and Young People 

See also Youth Justice
Care-experienced children and the criminal justice system, A McGrath, A Gerard, and E Colvin Australian Institute of Criminology, Australia, September 2020
RESEARCH: This paper from the Australian Institute of Criminology examines the factors underlying pathways from out-of-home care into the criminal justice system. Using a multi-method approach (specifically, court observations, file reviews and qualitative interviews), the authors indicate that they found evidence of how histories of trauma and situational factors relating to the care environment interact to increase criminalisation. The authors suggest that while many policy initiatives have been developed to address this criminalisation, in all parts of their study they found little evidence these are having an impact on practice in relation to care-experienced children. They contend that some innovations they observed in their United Kingdom case study offer potential solutions to address this serious and ongoing problem.
Enhancing evidence-based treatment of child sexual abuse material offenders: The development of the CEM-COPE Program, M Henshaw, C Arnold, R Darjee, J Ogloff and J A Clough, Australian Institute of Criminology, Australia, October 2020
RESEARCH: According to this report from the Australian Institute of Criminology, recent research suggests that child sexual abuse material (CSAM) offenders have distinct characteristics and intervention needs when compared to contact sexual offenders, with the implication that many sexual offender treatment programs may not be suitable for CSAM offenders without a history of contact offences. This paper describes the development of the CEM-COPE (Coping with Child Exploitation Material Use) Program. The authors discuss CSAM offender characteristics, recidivism rates and treatment considerations, before outlining the rationale, specifications and underpinnings of the CEM-COPE Program. Challenges in this research area and considerations for future research are also addressed by the study.


See Access to JusticeDomestic and Family ViolenceMental Health

Criminal Justice System

See also Drugs and Alcohol, Youth Justice
An evaluation of the Suspect Target Management Plan, S Yeong, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), Sydney, October 2020
EVALUATION: This study from BOCSAR evaluates the second iteration of the Suspect Target Management Plan (STMP-II), a NSW Police Force program reducing crime by proactively policing individuals deemed to be at a high risk of offending, against four key aims. First, to determine whether STMP-II reduces violent and property crime. Second, to determine whether DV-STMP reduces domestic violence (DV) related crime. Third, to determine whether these programs operate through deterrence or incapacitation. Finally, to determine whether STMP-II has a differential impact on juveniles versus adults and Indigenous Australians versus non-Indigenous Australians. The report concludes that both STMP-II and DV-STMP are effective in reducing crime, with both programs reducing crime through deterrence. Moreover, BOCSAR found these also hold for juveniles and Indigenous Australians.

Domestic and Family Violence

See also Criminal Justice System
Coercive Control: Discussion Paper, NSW Department of Communities and Justice, Sydney, October 2020
DISCUSSION PAPER: On 13 October, NSW Attorney-General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Mark Speakman announced the establishment of a Parliamentary Joint Select Committee that will hold a public hearing examining coercive control in the context of domestic and family violence. This discussion paper from the NSW Department of Communities and Justice highlights key questions for any potential reform, including how coercive control should be defined, experiences of other jurisdictions in responding to coercive control, potential benefits and practical challenges associated with criminalising coercive control, and possible elements for an offence of coercive control.
Family Violence and Temporary Visa Holders During COVID-19, M Segrave and N Pfitzner, Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre, Monash University, Melbourne, September 2020
RESEARCH: This study from the Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre captures the immediate needs, contexts and circumstances of 100 women who held temporary visas and sought the support of inTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence (inTouch) due to their experience of family or domestic violence during the first COVID-19 lockdown phase (that is, the period from the declaration of a State of Emergency across Victoria on 16 March to 31 May 2020). inTouch is a state-wide Victorian specialist family violence service that works with women from migrant and refugee backgrounds, their families and their communities.
Responding to adolescent family violence: Findings from an impact evaluation, H Boxall, A Morgan, I Voce, and M Coughlan Australian Institute of Criminology, Australia, September 2020
EVALUATION: This Australian Institute of Criminology paper sets out findings from the outcome evaluation of the Adolescent Family Violence Program. The authors indicate that the results show the program had a positive impact on young people and their families, leading to improved parenting capacity and parent–adolescent attachment. The authors suggest, however, that there was mixed evidence of its impact on the prevalence, frequency and severity of violent behaviours. They argue that the evaluation reaffirms the importance of dedicated responses for young people who use family violence, and the potential benefits, and limits, of community-based programs.
Social isolation, time spent at home, financial stress and domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, A Morgan and H Boxall, Australian Institute of Criminology, Australia, October 2020
RESEARCH: Using data from a large online survey of Australian women, this Australian Institute of Criminology study examines whether the increased time spent at home, social isolation and financial stress resulting from COVID-19 containment measures were associated with a higher likelihood of physical and sexual violence among women in current cohabiting relationships with and without a history of violence. The authors conclude that the pandemic was associated with an increased risk of violence against women in current cohabiting relationships, most likely from a combination of economic stress and social isolation.

Drugs and Alcohol

The long-term effect of the NSW Drug Court on recidivism, D Weatherburn, S Young, S Paynton, N Jones and M Farrell, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), Sydney, September 2020
EVALUATION: In this BOCSAR study, the researchers compared re-offending rates among NSW Drug Court participants with offenders who had been deemed eligible for the Drug Court but not placed on it. Offenders were followed-up over an average period of 13.5 years. The study found that Drug Court participants had a 17 per cent lower reoffending rate than those not placed in the program, and that participants in the Drug Court program also took 22 per cent longer to commit an offence against the person. The authors conclude that the Drug Court appears to have long-term beneficial effects on the total number of reconvictions and the risk of another person offence.
Street-level drug law enforcement: An updated systematic review, L Mazerolle, E Eggins, and A Higginson Australian Institute of Criminology, Australia, September 2020
SYSTEMATIC REVIEW: In this paper from the Australian Institute of Criminology, the authors use the Global Policing Database to update a 2007 systematic review of the impact of street-level law enforcement interventions on drug crime and drug-related calls-for-service. A total of 26 studies (reported in 29 documents) were eligible for this updated review. Eighteen of the 26 studies reported sufficient data to calculate effect sizes. The authors summarise that overall, street-level policing approaches are effective in reducing drug crime, particularly those approaches involving partnerships. The paper’s findings also indicate that geographically targeted law enforcement interventions are more effective in reducing drug crime than standard, unfocused approaches. 
The impact of arrest and seizure on drug crime and harms: A systematic review, E Eggins, L Hine, A Higginson and L Mazerolle Australian Institute of Criminology, Australia, September 2020
SYSTEMATIC REVIEW: This Australian Institute of Criminology review draws on the Global Policing Database (GPD) to assess the impact of supplier arrests and seizures on drug crime, drug use, drug price, drug purity, and drug harm outcomes. According to the authors, just 13 impact evaluation studies (reported in 18 documents) met inclusion criteria. The authors constructed an evidence and gap map, showing that research to-date relates primarily to drug harms, followed by drug crime and drug price, and that there are significant gaps in the impact evaluation literature. The authors state that the results of this review demonstrate the limited amount of high-quality scientific evidence that can be used to examine the impact of supplier arrest and seizure on a range of drug-related outcomes.

Indigenous Australians

See Criminal Justice System, Domestic and Family Violence

Mental Health 

Legal Help as Mental Healthcare, M T Nagy and S Forell, Health Justice Australia, September 2020
DISCUSSION PAPER: This paper reviews key research and policy papers and provides insights into the potential role of legal help in addressing the intersecting economic and mental health impacts of COVID-19. The authors note that the current redesign of access to mental health support and treatment provides an opportunity to offer more holistic responses to compounding issues that may otherwise continue to escalate. They contend that health justice partnership offers one avenue for achieving this by using legal help to improve client health outcomes. Specifically, the paper suggests that the range of expertise in a healthcare team be broadened to include legal help, with the aim of supporting clients to gain control of underlying mental health stressors (such as housing, finances, and family safety).


See Youth Justice


See also Drugs and AlcoholYouth Justice

Bail practices and policy alternatives in Australia, M Travers, E Colvin, I Bartkowiak-Théron, R Sarre, A Daly, C Bond, Australian Institute of Criminology, Australia, October 2020
RESEARCH: In this Australian Institute of Criminology paper, the authors seek to review the rapid rise in remand in custody rates in Australia. The study sets out to explore how offender vulnerabilities influenced bail decisions in court, to examine the possibility of using predictive tools to identify factors that explain offending on bail and to identify recommendation for extending pre-trial services. The authors note that, across 150 cases observed in court, defendants had vulnerabilities (such as mental illness, homelessness, drug and alcohol use, and cognitive impairment) in 70 (47%) of the cases. The authors suggest further investigation and the development of actuarial tools may help balance concerns regarding public safety, confidence in the criminal justice system and further rises in the remand population.

Evaluating the first tranche of the Table Offences Reform: Impacts on District Court finalisations, time to finalisation and sentencing outcomes, C Ringland, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), Sydney, September 2020
EVALUATION: This paper from BOCSAR seeks to examine the impact of reclassifying strictly indictable offences (which must be dealt with in the higher courts, namely, the District Court or Supreme Court) to offences that can be dealt with summarily in the NSW Local Court (known as ‘Table offences’) on District Court finalisations, court delays and sentencing. The focus of the study was the first tranche of the Table Offences Reform, which was introduced in November 2016 and involved a small subset of break-and-enter offences. The study found that the number of finalisations for reform-related charges increased by 26 per cent post-reform (from 713 to 902). Results from this study suggest that reclassifying offences from strictly indictable to Table offences significantly reduced both the number of matters finalised in the District Court and court delay. The Table Offences Reform also decreased the likelihood of a custodial penalty being imposed.


See Access to Justice, PrisonersSentencing, Youth Justice


See Criminal Justice SystemDomestic and Family Violence

Youth Justice

See also Domestic and Family Violence

Children Held on Remand in Victoria: A Report on Sentencing Outcomes, Sentencing Advisory Council, Melbourne, September 2020
STATISTICS: In this report, the Sentencing Advisory Council examines case outcomes for children who were held on remand in Victoria in 2017–18. It reports on the demographics and criminal history of children held on remand, the offences remanded children were charged with and the outcome of their case. It considers the relationship between remand and sentence, and identifies the proportion of remanded children who did not go on to receive a custodial sentence for their offending.
What are the characteristics of effective youth offender programs? K Pooley Australian Institute of Criminology, Australia. September 2020
REVIEW: This Australian Institute of Criminology reviewed consolidated research on the practical implementation of tertiary youth offender programs in order to identify the design, delivery and implementation factors associated with positive changes in youth offending behaviours. The author conducted a systematic review of 44 studies, revealing nine common components of effective programs. According to the review, these components have been empirically associated with program effectiveness in methodologically diverse studies conducted in various contexts, suggesting they may contribute to reduced reoffending among young people who come into contact with the criminal justice system.
Youth justice in Australia: Themes from recent inquiries, G Clancey, S Wang & B Lin, Australian Institute of Criminology, October 2020
REVIEW: This paper from the Australian Institute of Criminology provides a summary of some key themes emerging from the numerous reviews and inquiries into Australian youth justice systems from 2016 to 2019, particularly in the context of increased media coverage relating to the operation of state and territory youth justice facilities. These included inquiries into the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in the Northern Territory, Frank Baxter Juvenile Justice Centre in New South Wales, Parkville Youth Justice Centre in Victoria and Banksia Hill Detention Centre in Western Australia.

About this newsletter

JARA is a free email alert service covering recent research in the area of access to justice and legal need. JARA entries are publications identified by Foundation staff rather than the product of a systematic search or review. Foundation staff have produced the summaries based on the original publications. The summaries do not necessarily reflect the views of the authors or the Law and Justice Foundation. Your feedback is important to us. If you have any comments or suggestions please email us at
© Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, 2020.
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