Infants most ‘at risk’ of child homicide

Media release

Friday, 19 July 2018

Children are less likely than adults to be the victim of homicide but are most ‘at risk’ in the first year of life, a new research report reveals.

Child homicide in Queensland: A descriptive analysis of offences finalised by Queensland criminal courts has been published as part of our review into the sentencing of child homicide offences.

Council member Dan Rogers said: “The death of a child provokes strong emotions in the community. This is magnified when the child is a victim of homicide.

“This research report is a descriptive statistical paper about child homicide offences sentenced by Queensland criminal courts over a 12-year period. It does not seek to explain why children are the victims of homicide or what leads a person to kill a child, rather it provides information about what we know about the offence of child homicide.

“It reveals that child homicide offenders were more likely than adult homicide offenders to be sentenced for manslaughter (59.7% compared to 53.2%).

“It also shows offenders sentenced for adult manslaughter received longer average sentences (8.5 years) than offenders sentenced for child manslaughter (6.8 years).

“However, there was less difference in the median sentences imposed (8 years compared to 7.5 years), which is often a better measure to rely on when seeking to understand sentencing outcomes.”

The research report provides a descriptive analysis of the offence characteristics, victims, offenders and sentencing outcomes associated with child homicide offences finalised by Queensland criminal courts between 1 July 2005 and 30 June 2017. It also compares sentencing outcomes where the victim was a child to sentencing outcomes where the victim was an adult for the offence of manslaughter.

Children are less likely than adults to be the victims of homicide. The analysis found 10 adults per 100,000 adult population were victims of homicide, compared to 5.7 children per 100,000 child population.

A child is at greatest risk of homicide in their first year of life (29.0% of child homicides), but the risk reduces as a child ages, before increasing in the mid to late teenage years (25.8% of child homicides involved victims aged 15 to 17 years).

Key findings include:

  • The majority of child and adult homicides occur in the home (66.1% and 63.5% respectively).
  • The 62 child victims of homicide were almost equally split between boys (30) and girls (32). In contrast, almost two thirds of adult homicide victims were male (62.5%).
  • Offenders of child homicide are:
    • most likely to be family members, usually parents or parent equivalents (50% of offenders in the 12-year period) — the younger the victim the more likely the offender is a parent.
    • unlikely to have a previous conviction for a violent offence
    • predominantly male (75.8%), but females represent a higher proportion of child homicide offenders (24.2%) than of adult homicide offenders (10.3%).
  • The most common cause of death for child homicide is striking (21.0%), while the most common cause of death for adult homicide is stabbing (34.5%).

The report draws on data sets from the Queensland Government Statistician’s Office, Queensland Family and Child Commission, Queensland Corrective Services, Queensland Police Service, Queensland Sentencing Information Service, the National Homicide Monitoring Program in the Australian Institute of Criminology and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

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