Improving the Justice System Response to Sexual Offences: Report (html)

6. Adding to the evidence base about sexual violence

Overview

• We need to know more about sexual violence and what works in responding to it.

• Gaining this knowledge should be a key goal of the Sexual Assault Strategy.

• We need to know more about the contexts and patterns of sexual violence, why people commit sexual violence, and how to change their behaviour.

• The Sexual Assault Strategy should commit to evaluating what works.

• We need to improve the way we collect, use and publish data on the criminal justice system. This should be the job of a working group.

• This working group should develop an annual report on key data. It should record and address the reasons for delays and measure the impact of reforms.

• The Crime Statistics Agency should also publish regular studies on why cases do not progress through the criminal justice system.

We need further research about sexual violence and our responses to it

We don’t know what we don’t know, although we do know that we don’t know enough around data reporting.[1]—First roundtable on the experience of LGBTIQA+ people

6.1 We need to understand sexual violence before we can decide the best ways to respond to it.

6.2 We need to know who experiences sexual violence, and who commits it. We need to know why, how and when it happens, and how it affects people. We need to know what people who experience sexual violence want and need in response (see Figure 8).[2]

Figure 8: Foundation for a data collection and reporting framework[3]

6.3 Knowing this will make our responses to sexual violence appropriate and effective. It will help us design safer environments to prevent sexual violence and more accessible and effective services.

6.4 To end sexual violence, we need to know why people commit it and how to change their behaviour. To improve the justice system’s response, we need to know what we’re doing right and what needs fixing.

6.5 We are still a long way from knowing all of this. It can be hard to understand sexual violence or how well we are responding to it because:

• It is often hidden, so we only know a small part of what is going on.

• The patterns of power that structure sexual violence make it harder for us to understand some types of violence.

• Different organisations and systems respond to sexual violence, so the data we have about responses are fragmented and inconsistent.[4]

We can improve what we know by building on reforms

6.6 These problems are not new, and they are not unique to sexual violence. The many reform processes tackling different forms of violence (see Chapter 1) all address the need to improve our knowledge.

6.7 The key themes across these reform processes (see Figure 9) include:

• improving the consistency of data collection and reporting (for example, by adopting data frameworks and dictionaries)

• investing in data collection (for example, through national surveys)

• identifying priorities for research through research agendas and investing in research

• establishing centres to conduct research that translates into practice

• sharing data collected by organisations in delivering their services and publishing data and research (for example, through data portals and data linkage projects)

• funding and building capacity to conduct more regular evaluations.

Figure 9: Key data, research and evaluation reforms

6.8 As discussed in Chapter 1, the Victorian Government is developing a Sexual Assault Strategy. A key part of this strategy should be to improve our understanding of sexual violence and our responses to it. In this chapter, we identify key priorities.

6.9 Some of these gaps in our knowledge may also be addressed through activities in related areas. The most recent action plan on family violence reform includes relevant actions on data.[5] A National Child Sexual Abuse Strategy is also due to be released in September

2021.[6] Reforms concerning sexual harassment and elder abuse, and the next National

Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and Children are also in progress.[7]

Understanding sexual violence—what are the priorities?

6.10 There are three key priorities for improving our understanding of sexual violence. These should be a focus of the Sexual Assault Strategy:

• understanding the hidden contexts of violence

• understanding why people commit sexual violence, and what changes their behaviour

• understanding what works in responding to sexual violence—including our criminal justice response.

6.11 The third priority is the thing we understand least: after a discussion of the first two priorities, this chapter therefore focuses on understanding what works in responding to sexual violence.

We need to understand the hidden contexts and patterns of sexual violence

6.12 A National Research Agenda has identified the main gaps in the research on violence against women. One of these gaps is the experiences of those who face discrimination, especially how different forms of discrimination intersect (for example, the experience of being a migrant and a sex worker).[8]

6.13 People who face discrimination are more likely than others to be under-represented in surveys, in data collected by mainstream services, and in research.[9] They may not be visible in ‘one-size-fits-all’ methods of data collection, such as national surveys that do not account for people who do not identify as male or female.[10]

6.14 Their experiences of discrimination often mean they are less likely than others to disclose sexual violence and are harder to find and engage in research. Their experiences of sexual violence therefore remain hidden. For example, Project Respect told us that some women they had assisted in the sex industry ‘stated that there was no point recognising their experience as sexual violence given [they] did not believe they could escape the violence’.[11]

6.15 We need to know more about certain patterns of sexual violence. These include sexual violence within intimate partner violence,[12] and technology-facilitated sexual violence

(see Chapter 14).[13]

6.16 There has been progress in improving our understanding of the diverse contexts of sexual violence (see Table 7). We briefly discuss some gaps that we heard about in this inquiry, although this only reflects what people told us, and is not a comprehensive account of the gaps. We also recognise that what people told us is affected by the same factors that mean some people are under-represented in research.

Table 7: Key initiatives to improve our understanding of key contexts

Focus

Initiative

Source

Status

Older people, including people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds

National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study[14]

National Plan to Reduce Elder Abuse

Funded between 2019–2021

Children and young people

Australian Child Maltreatment Study, a national survey of all forms of child maltreatment including child sexual abuse[15]

Response to Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

First results expecte d July 2023

Sexual harassment

National survey on sexual harassment[16]

Response to Australian Human Rights Commission’s Respect@Work inquiry

Announced in 2021, to be conducted in 2022

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Aboriginal Data Mapping and Data Needs project

Rolling Action Plan under Victoria’s family violence reforms[17]

Scheduled to complete in 2021

LGBTIQA+ people

Private Lives surveys[18]

Private Lives funded by the Victorian Government

Third Private Lives report published in 2020

Trans and Gender Diverse Sexual Health Survey[19]

Community-led collaboration

Inaugural report published in 2018

Understanding sexual violence and the sex industry

6.17 Project Respect told us that there should be more research to understand sexual violence within the sex industry. It suggested that:

• The national research body on violence against women and their children, ANROWS, should research relevant measures, data and statistics.

• The Australian Human Rights Commission should collect data on sexual harassment and assault within the sex industry.[20]

6.18 Sex Work Law Reform Victoria told us that data published by the Crime Statistics Agency does not include the occupation of victim survivors so it is difficult to know—beyond anecdotal information—how frequently sexual assault is occurring in the sex industry and being reported to police.[21]

Understanding older people’s experiences of sexual violence

6.19 The Health Law and Ageing Research Unit told us that very little is known about sexual assaults in aged care, even though these incidents must be reported by law.[22] The number of reported incidents in aged care is published annually, but it is ‘unknown what, if any’ deeper analyses had been made of the data. The Unit called for more investment in research.[23]

6.20 Even less is known about the experience of sexual violence of older people outside of aged care,[24] which may be where most older people experience sexual violence.[25]

Understanding LGBTIQA+ people’s experiences of sexual violence

6.21 There are extensive gaps in data about the experiences of LGBTIQA+ people.[26] Victoria Police also noted the gap in data and qualitative research specific to these communities and families.[27]

Understanding culturally and linguistically diverse communities’ experiences

6.22 The Victorian Multicultural Commission suggested there was a need to improve data and research on the experience of sexual violence within culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and their use of services and systems and the outcomes. This should include reviewing and implementing guidelines for collecting data across the criminal justice system.[28]

6.23 It supported including requirements in funding agreements for organisations to report on how the diversity of their clients compared with the demographics in their area.[29]

6.24 Springvale Monash Legal Service said there was a need to prioritise research into the ‘specific barriers to reporting’ that may be faced by people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, given ‘this cohort appears to disproportionately under-report’ sexual violence.[30]

Understanding the experiences of children and young people

6.25 Child Protection told us that there was no law enforcement data on child sexual exploitation. Data about child sexual exploitation is not captured by the sexual assault sector, and departmental data is not shared.[31] The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse also identified key gaps in data on child sexual abuse broadly that have or are being addressed (see Figure 9).[32]

6.26 Sexual Assault Services Victoria told us there was a need for research on harmful sexual behaviour in children and young people, and its connection with family violence.[33]

6.27 We heard there were opportunities to ask more questions about sexual violence through existing surveys for young people, such as through a national survey of secondary students on sexual health.[34]

We need more research on people who commit sexual violence

6.28 We lack understanding of the behaviours and characteristics of those who commit sexual violence.[35] More research is essential in helping us understand how to prevent sexual offending, and to design programs to reduce the risk of re-offending.

6.29 Victoria Police supported more research in this area, to identify trends and help us understand when support services should engage with people responsible for sexual violence to reduce the risk of offending.[36]

6.30 Others supported more research into the causes of sexual offending and risks of re-offending,[37] and the need for more information about people who commit sexual offending who do not end up in the criminal justice system.[38]

What should we make a priority in understanding our responses to sexual violence?

Services responding to sexual violence

6.31 We need to know more about our formal responses to sexual violence, including health, legal and community services. There is limited national data on these services.[39] These services all collect data, but do so inconsistently, and the data is not linked to that of other organisations.[40]

6.32 Victoria’s new Family Violence Data Collection Framework provides a detailed guide to help organisations collect data more consistently, including about the diversity of their clients.[41] However, the framework is yet to be implemented.

6.33 In her latest report, the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor said there was a ‘critical lack of data on the demographic characteristics of people accessing services’ and ‘numerous gaps in data on demand and service delivery’.[42] She said that implementing the framework and identifying ways to improve data collection should be priorities.[43]

6.34 The Victorian Government has committed to developing a family violence and sexual assault data dictionary to help define data elements within databases consistently.[44]

We need to improve data collection, sharing and reporting

6.35 The Sexual Assault Strategy provides an opportunity to improve data collection, sharing and reporting. As Victoria Police observed, there are opportunities to improve the sharing of information and databases, and to improve ‘regular system wide’ reporting mechanisms to ‘allow for greater whole of system analysis’.[45]

6.36 This work should be included in the Sexual Assault Strategy and taken forward through the revised governance structure proposed in Chapter 4. One aim of that structure is to enable information sharing between partners. In that chapter, we recommend a multi-agency protocol with feedback processes, which is another opportunity for sharing data.

6.37 In Chapter 22 we recommend establishing an independent body with a broad scope. Its functions could include supporting data collection and research into sexual violence, and evaluating responses to sexual violence. We discuss there the relationship between this body and existing bodies.

6.38 We discuss below some priorities for this work.

The Sexual Assault Strategy should examine opportunities to improve data collection

6.39 A key step is to identify how we can improve the way we use and share the data we already have,[46] and adjust systems to improve our data.[47]

6.40 This approach was taken with family violence reforms. A key step was to develop a Family Violence Data Portal, which brings together data held by a broad range of organisations, including the police, courts, family violence services and emergency services.

6.41 Several organisations told us that data should be used and shared more effectively than it is now. Springvale Monash Legal Service told us that there could be support for community legal centres to allow their data to be used for research.[48] Star Health noted that, while it had data on the use of services, more could be done to improve statewide data collection on people in the sex industry.[49]

6.42 The Commission for Children and Young People said that data about the use of support services for children and young people should be publicly available. It should include waiting times for counselling and drug and alcohol services, broken down by region.[50]

6.43 As a first step, it would be useful for the high-level governance mechanism we recommend in Chapter 4 to identify the existing data and better ways of sharing and using it.

6.44 Another model that can be explored is the use of statewide dashboards to measure and monitor key data supplied by key services. This has proved useful for the family violence sector during COVID-19.[51]

We should replace legacy databases

6.45 Many of the key agencies responding to sexual violence are unable to collect quality data.[52]

6.46 Sexual Assault Services Victoria told us that its system was ‘inadequate and does not provide meaningful data to inform research and evaluation of services and client outcomes’. There is an ‘urgent need for a coordinated system for data collection’ between itself, family violence services, child protection, Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Teams (SOCITs) and the Victims Assistance Program.[53]

6.47 As Chapter 12 discusses, the Victorian Government has received a review of government-funded victim support services. The report recommends investing in a database that would enable referrals between agencies supporting victims of crime.

6.48 Chapter 5 also discusses the limits of Victoria Police’s electronic referral systems. Victoria Police’s ability to collect quality data is limited by its ageing database.[54]

6.49 As part of the family violence reforms, the Magistrates’ and Children’s Courts are developing a new case management system to improve the data that is captured by courts. In our recent report on committals, we recommended linking this new system to the case management systems of higher courts.[55]

6.50 There is an obvious need to overhaul the ageing databases of sexual assault agencies and the police. Investing in new data systems will help us target our resources and efforts more effectively in the future.

6.51 We recommend that the Victorian Government should support key organisations to modernise their databases as soon as is practicable. We recognise that these are major projects that will take time and resources, especially as the aim is to share information with other social services.

6.52 In the meantime, the Victorian Government should develop the indicators needed to measure the effectiveness of responses to sexual violence. This work can feed into the design of new databases.

We should improve our understanding of what works

We should measure outcomes

6.53 The Sexual Assault Strategy should define the broader aims of our responses to sexual violence, including beyond the justice system (see Chapter 4).[56]

6.54 This can build on the work being done in family violence reform. The Victorian Government published a Family Violence Outcomes Framework in 2016, refreshed significantly in 2020. It includes 29 indicators to assess progress (see Figure 10).

The government will publish its first annual report using these indicators in

November 2021.[57]

Figure 10: Selected outcomes, indicators and measures under Victoria’s Family Violence Outcomes Framework[58]

6.55 Indicators and measures like this (see Figure 10) can help identify, for example, the cultural appropriateness of services.[59] The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service noted that social indicators should be informed by the views of Aboriginal people, and that this information should be available in the form of data and evaluations for Aboriginal organisations.[60]

We should define what works for people experiencing sexual violence

6.56 A clear statement of what outcomes we want to achieve would help us focus on the voices of the people who experience sexual violence. The Family Violence Outcomes Framework includes as an overall aim that ‘victim survivors, vulnerable children and their families are safe and supported to recover and thrive’. This includes increasing their confidence in the justice system and making them feel supported and understood.[61]

6.57 People want different things from the justice system. These needs and their experiences should be reflected more clearly in how we measure the performance of the criminal justice system. A shared outcomes framework can direct attention to these needs.

6.58 This is a key gap in the data. Victoria Police told us that there should be more research about, and feedback from, people who had gone through the criminal justice system. It observed that this data was not ‘routinely collected’ or ‘collected in a format that can be easily analysed’.[62]

6.59 Sexual Assault Services Victoria suggested there is a need for more research on the experience of the service system, and on what determines successful outcomes. It also suggested research on trauma-informed approaches within legal and criminal systems.[63]

6.60 There are different ways of gathering this information, such as through surveys or qualitative research (see box).[64] As discussed in Chapter 4, the multi-agency protocol should include processes for giving feedback.

6.61 We recommend that the Sexual Assault Strategy should include as a priority how to listen to the voices of people who experience sexual violence when defining and measuring the ‘success’ of our responses. This should also be a focus for the working group that we recommend below.

The experiences of victim survivors overseas

New Zealand

In New Zealand, the Ministry of Justice commissioned a study to collect baseline data on the perspectives of victim survivors of sexual violence who have had some contact with the justice system over the previous three years. The study involved 37 interviews and two questionnaires, with respondents mostly recruited through witness support services. The study will be used to assess the impact of reforms in the future.[65]

England and Wales

The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales surveyed 491 rape survivors about their experience of the criminal justice system. This research aimed to improve understanding of their views and experiences at each stage of the criminal justice system.[66] The survey found, for example, a strong link between receiving specialist support and their engagement with the criminal justice system (see Chapter 12).

In another recent review of rape in the criminal justice system, the government committed to conducting targeted research to improve its understanding of the experiences of rape survivors, what they want from support services, and how to best meet the needs of those disproportionately affected by rape.[67]

We should find what works in responding to sexual violence

Research so far has focused on ‘describing the problem of sexual assault rather than evaluating what is effective to achieve its eradication.’—Sexual Assault Services Victoria[68]

6.62 The National Research Agenda has identified that we do not yet know ‘what works’ in preventing and responding to violence against women and their children.[69] The main way of identifying what works is by evaluating programs. Evaluations help us build on good practice. They reveal what works and help to make sure no one is harmed by reforms.[70]

6.63 Throughout this report, we have identified responses to sexual violence that appear promising and effective. But it is hard to tell which models, or aspects of models, are most effective. This is true of:

• multi-disciplinary models of working (see Chapter 5)[71]

• alternative, informal and anonymous reporting to police (see Chapter 7)[72]

• victim advocates (see Chapter 12)[73]

• interventions for people responsible for proven sexual violence (see Chapter 13).

We should improve evaluations

6.64 The Royal Commission on Family Violence recognised a need to improve standards for evaluating family violence programs. It recommended that:

• Evaluations should be properly resourced.

• Their outcomes should be published where appropriate.

• Programs should be funded for long enough to support an evaluation.[74]

6.65 The latest family violence action plan includes commitments that focus on evaluations, including:

• an evaluation of the family violence reforms at the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria and the specialist court reforms

• a systematic review of research on the effectiveness of family violence initiatives

• measures to build capability for using evaluations.[75]

6.66 We recommend that the Sexual Assault Strategy should include a similar commitment. However, we also heard suggestions to improve the effectiveness of evaluations, including:

• focusing more on assessing impact and cultural change, which requires longer evaluation timelines[76]

• having a more rigorous evaluation of clinical programs for sexual assault and sexually abusive treatment services[77]

• ‘captur[ing] data early so you have something against which to evaluate reforms’[78]

• greater recognition of the complexity involved in achieving long-term cultural change.[79]

6.67 These issues should be addressed in the Sexual Assault Strategy. We also recommend that evaluations should be published to improve transparency. Currently, some evaluations of the multi-disciplinary centres and other pilots run by Victoria Police are not publicly available.

6.68 In addition to the key reforms proposed in this report, we recommend that the Sexual Assault Strategy should include a commitment to regular evaluations of other reforms relating to sexual violence. This would provide a sound basis for improving their effectiveness. The Centre for Innovative Justice, for example, suggested including in evaluations of restorative justice programs whether these programs met the ‘justice needs’ of participants, and how the relationship between the criminal justice system and restorative justice influences outcomes.[80]

Recommendation

14 The Victorian Government should, as part of its Sexual Assault Strategy:

a. identify key gaps in data, research and evaluation on the experiences of and responses to sexual violence and develop measures to address these gaps

b. identify the data that should be shared and mechanisms for sharing the data among key partners

c. identify opportunities to build on existing data on sexual violence

d. fund the modernisation of data systems for key agencies

e. develop measures and indicators to support shared goals and outcomes

f. identify ways to include measures of progress that reflect the experiences of people who have experienced sexual violence

g. commit to a consistent practice of requiring, resourcing, planning for and publishing regular evaluations.

Our understanding of the criminal justice system must improve

6.69 In this inquiry, we were especially interested in understanding the response of the criminal justice system. We found, however, that we did not know much more than we did in 2004, when we published our last report on sexual offences (see box).

Our 2004 recommendations on data

Recommendations 4–6 recommended establishing ‘an integrated process for the collection of reliable statistics’. This should, if possible, allow offences to be tracked from the time they were reported until the case was completed. The database should include information on the incidence of offences, the characteristics of victims and offenders, the police reports and prosecution rates, as well as prosecution outcomes and the factors that may affect them.

Recommendation 7 recommended developing a program for uniform data collection by agencies and services responding to sexual violence. This should include developing standards, systems and providing training on how to record accurate data on relevant characteristics of those using services, to be forwarded to a centralised agency.

Recommendation 168 recommended that the integrated process should consider how to collect information relating to complainants and offenders with cognitive impairment.[81]

6.70 Nearly 20 years on, it remains challenging to propose reforms to the criminal justice system because of the lack of a solid evidence base. During this inquiry, we tried to understand:

• trends and reports of sexual offences and outcomes through the criminal justice process

• when and why there were delays

• how far reforms (for example, to jury directions) had made a difference in the courts

• when and why cases stop progressing through the criminal justice process (commonly referred to as attrition).

Reforms to data collection in the criminal justice system should be a priority

6.71 The challenges we faced in building an evidence base for our proposals demonstrate the need for more regularly published data. Without such data, it is difficult to know what is not working and how to deal with any problems. Such data will also improve transparency, enable a richer public debate about the criminal justice system, and provide a firmer foundation for reforms in the future. This could also improve the research base on the policing or prosecution of family, domestic and sexual violence.[82]

6.72 The Department of Justice and Community Safety should establish a working group with a focus on improving information about the justice system’s response to sexual offences. The Commission for Sexual Safety that we propose in Chapter 22 should be represented on this working group, but those within the justice system are best placed to carry out functions that relate to their own organisations, such as identifying data needs and addressing delays. We discuss some priorities for this working group below.

6.73 The working group should also be involved at an early stage with the design of some of the key reforms proposed in this inquiry, such as restorative justice and victim advocates. This will ensure that any new reforms will be designed with data collection in mind.

6.74 This section focuses on the criminal justice system. We know almost nothing about outcomes in cases related to sexual offending in the civil justice system, including sexual harassment cases, which are often settled confidentially.[83] However, the Australian Government has recently agreed to ask the newly established Sexual Harassment Council to collect data from agencies handling workplace sexual harassment, including settlement outcomes.[84]

What we know about the criminal justice system is limited

6.75 Table 8 maps some of the key information about the criminal justice system (see Appendix D for more detail). This shows that we have:

• good data about the numbers of cases in the justice system and the outcomes, with the most transparent reporting and analysis available for police and sentencing data

• some data about the progress of cases during the prosecution and the court stages, although only some of this is published

• some basic data on who reports sexual violence and who is identified as an offender, and some data on the contexts of the offending, mostly from police data

• limited data on procedural stages or matters within courts

• reasonable data on time taken between key stages of the process, but no data on the reasons for the time taken

• limited data on the reasons police reports or charges do not progress.

Table 8: Table of data available on criminal justice system, adapted from Appendix D

Information

Do we know this?

Police

Numbers of people reporting

Yes

Characteristics of people reporting

To some degree—age, gender, Aboriginal status

Contexts

To a reasonable degree—location type, relationship type, whether it involves family violence, local government area, the time between incident and report

Police outcomes

To some degree—some categories are broad

The reasons for police outcomes

To a limited degree—broad categories are available

Time taken to progress

The time between report and outcome

Reasons for time taken

No

Experiences of complainants

No

Prosecution

Number of cases

Yes

Prosecution outcomes

Yes

The reasons for prosecution outcomes

To a limited degree—broad categories available

Time taken to progress

The time between filing hearing and trial

Procedural matters (eg applications for joint trials, confidential communications or to introduce sexual history evidence)

No

People referred for support services

Yes

Experiences of complainants

No, but a research project has been undertaken on communication with complainants

Courts

Number of cases

Yes

Characteristics of complainants

Some—age, gender, cognitive impairment

Court outcomes

Yes

Time taken to progress

Yes (between key stages and between key time periods)

Procedural matters (eg adjournments, reasons for adjournments, jury directions)

No

Reasons for outcomes

To a limited degree (and not possible for jury verdicts)

Sentences

Yes

Experiences of complainants

No

Access to data and its context should be improved

6.76 Even when data were available, it was not always easy to access or analyse. It was difficult for us to get a ‘system-wide’ view of how the criminal justice system is performing, as the data had to be extracted by request from each organisation.

6.77 We often need more context than is now available to interpret the data. For example, looking at conviction rates by themselves does not tell us much. Incentives to plead guilty and encourage early settlement may cause cases to resolve earlier, which can be a good thing. It should be possible to compare prosecution and resolution rates for sexual offences and other cases, as well as convictions.[85] The relationship between delays in reporting and conviction rates should also be analysed.

6.78 We can improve public understanding and transparency by publishing criminal justice data on sexual offending in a more accessible and user-friendly way. There are good examples of such reports and analysis in other places (see box).[86]

Examples of public reporting

The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics publishes summaries of key data about sexual offences in the criminal justice system.[87] It has also published reports analysing trends, such as a recent spike in sexual assault reports.[88]

In England and Wales, the Office of National Statistics publishes an overview of sexual offending in England and Wales, bringing together a range of official data, including prosecution data.[89] The Rape Monitoring Group, a multi-agency group involving organisations within the criminal justice system, also publishes annually data on how rape cases are dealt with at all stages of the justice process in an interactive dashboard, with links to useful information.[90]

The United Kingdom Government has also recently committed to publishing regular scorecards on rape in the criminal justice system. This will include reporting on timeliness, quality and ‘victim engagement in each part of the system’, including at a regional or local level. It has also committed to making the data collected by police, prosecution and the courts ‘more consistent and focused on identifying where the system needs further improvement’.[91]

In Northern Ireland, the Public Prosecution Service publishes an annual thematic bulletin on sexual offences, together with data tables. This includes broad data on the reasons for not prosecuting, the number of days for a decision on prosecution, as well as court outcomes.[92]

Canada has published reports and interactive dashboards on the state of the criminal justice system. These identify progress against indicators under an outcomes framework for the criminal justice system. Indicators include, for example, the time cases take to complete and victim satisfaction with police responses.[93]

6.79 The Victorian Government has already committed to including sexual assault data within the family violence data portal run by the Crime Statistics Agency. The portal already includes data from police, the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria and the Children’s Court of Victoria. It is not yet clear what further data will be included in relation to sexual violence.

6.80 To provide a complete picture of sexual violence, we recommend that the family violence data portal should also include data from centres against sexual assault (CASAs), forensic medical examinations, the Office of Public Prosecutions and the higher courts. This expansion would need more resourcing. It may also be useful to brand this data set differently so that people understand that it extends beyond family violence.

6.81 While an expanded portal is a good start, the data still needs to be put into context and analysed to inform public debate and policy. The statistical reports of the Sentencing Advisory Council provide a model for explaining trends in a more accessible way for the public.

6.82 We recommend that the proposed working group should ensure that a similar report or analysis is published annually on sexual offending. This should begin with existing data, but as with the family violence portal, should include more data as it is collected.

6.83 The report should include data on other justice options outside the criminal justice system that we recommend, such as the restorative justice scheme recommended in Chapter 9 and the victim conferences discussed in Chapter 10.

6.84 This report could be published by the Crime Statistics Agency or in partnership with the Victims of Crime Commissioner. It could supplement the annual report that we recommend the Commissioner publishes (Chapter 4), and the Commissioner’s involvement could enrich the analysis with the views of those who have experienced sexual violence. It could also be published by the Commission for Sexual Safety we propose in Chapter 22.

Better data should be collected on delays in the criminal justice system

6.85 We were asked in this inquiry to look at how to reduce delays (discussed in Chapter 19). However, as we observed in our recent inquiry on committals, it is hard from existing data to identify the causes of any delay. While there is data on the time between key stages of the criminal justice system in most cases, this does not by itself tell us if there were avoidable delays, or the reasons for delays.[94] For example, while we can tell that a police investigation took longer than usual, this may well have been justified by the complexity of the case.

6.86 The Productivity Commission reports annually on the performance of criminal justice systems in Australia. The indicators for courts provide insights to the size of backlogs, how long cases are taking to complete and clearance rates. However, they do not identify avoidable delays and their causes.[95]

6.87 To properly understand where delays are happening, we need to begin by measuring the time between key stages of the criminal justice system and the time from report to finalisation. We already have this data.

6.88 For example, the Crime Statistics Agency can identify the time between key stages and the time from report to finalisation (including by courts), using police files. The prosecution has unpublished data that measures the time between the first hearing in court after charges are filed and when a trial starts.[96] The courts have data on the key stages during which cases are finalised—although as we discussed in our committals inquiry, data on indictable cases is not shared between the lower and the higher courts.[97] Courts can identify whether cases resolved at the door of the court, on the first day or during a trial.

6.89 We recommend that the working group should agree upon a way to record and report on key data on the progress of cases across the criminal justice system. This should be shared with other key partners such as sexual assault services, and a subset of this data should be published in the annual report.

6.90 A second measure is needed so the reasons for delays can be understood. In England and Wales, the courts must record the reasons trials do not proceed on the first day of trial. Reasons range from why the prosecution or defence were not ready to an interpreter being unavailable. The Ministry of Justice publishes this information.[98]

6.91 This provides a much clearer evidence base for addressing delays. We consider this model should be used across the criminal justice system, such as when police investigations take longer than a set period.

6.92 We recommend that the working group identifies ways to record agreed reasons for delay throughout the criminal justice system. This information should be used to provide feedback and reduce delays. In Chapter 19 we discuss the need for the working group to address these delays.

We should measure the impacts of reforms

6.93 This inquiry was asked to build on previous reforms. This was challenging for several reasons.

6.94 First, several reforms have not yet been in place long enough for the data to be useful, especially because of the effects of coronavirus (COVID-19).[99] It can often take four to five years after changes to the law are made before it is possible to evaluate whether they are having their intended effect.[100]

6.95 Secondly, it is a complex challenge to identify the impact of the reform. For example, it is not possible to identify how a jury responded to a change in the law, such as a new jury direction. It is also hard to isolate the impact of one reform from other causes.

6.96 Thirdly, the data did not identify the effects of many procedural reforms. For example, there was no practical way to identify the number of applications to introduce confidential communications or evidence about sexual history.

6.97 Another example of this is the use of jury directions. In Chapter 20, we discuss the need for more research and data on reforms that aim to improve the understanding of juries, including jury directions, and a proposal for a permanent body to advise on and research these reforms.

6.98 When implementing reforms, we recommend developing at an early stage an evaluation plan. This should include how to collect data or conduct research to measure their effectiveness. For some reforms, qualitative evaluations will be the most practical option.

We should understand why cases do not progress

6.99 To understand the progress of cases through the justice system (or their ‘attrition’), we need to track them from the time they are reported until they are concluded. The Crime Statistics Agency recently conducted an attrition study of sexual offences that updated a study published in 2017.[101] The study looked at sexual offence incidents reported to police from July 2015 to June 2017.[102] Both studies identified the stages at which cases fell out of the justice system, and the broad reasons cases did not progress (see Figure 11). They also analysed the factors that made cases more or less likely to progress through the system (see Figure 12).

Figure 11: Sexual offences incident attrition at each stage of the criminal justice system,

2015/16–2016/17[103]

Figure 12: What factors are related to progression of contact offence incidents?[104]

(‘Contact’ offences include rape, indecent assault and incest).

Offence type

• Incest incidents were more likely to proceed (complaint not withdrawn) than rape incidents.

• Indecent assault incidents were more likely to have charges laid than rape incidents.

Incidents involving a non-sexual co-occurring offence

• More likely to proceed (complaint not withdrawn).

• More likely to have an offender identified.

• More likely to have charges laid.

• Incidents with a Crimes against the person co-offence were less likely to be proven in court.

Relationship between victim survivor and offender

• Incidents involving current or former partners or acquaintances were less likely to proceed (i.e., more likely to withdraw complaints) than stranger incidents. However, incidents involving other family were more likely to proceed (i.e., less likely to withdraw complaints) than stranger incidents.

• Incidents where the victim survivor and offender were known to each other (current or former partners, other family or acquaintances) were more likely to have an offender identified but less likely to have charges laid than stranger incidents.

• Current and former partner incidents were less likely to be proven in court than stranger incidents.

Offender sex

Female offenders were less likely to have charges laid than male offenders.

Offender age

Offenders 18-24 years old were more likely to have charges laid.

Victim survivor age

• Incidents with victim survivors aged under 10 years old were more likely to proceed (complaint not withdrawn).

• Incidents with victim survivors aged 17 years or younger were less likely to have an offender identified and victim survivors aged 18-24 years old were more likely to have an offender identified.

• Incidents with victim survivors aged 10-24 years old were more likely to have charges laid.

• Incidents with victim survivors aged 10-17 were more likely to have charges finalised in court.

Geographical location

• Incidents in regional Victoria were more likely to have an offender identified and more likely to have charges laid than metropolitan Melbourne.

• Incidents in justice facilities were less likely to have charges laid and less likely to have charges finalised than metropolitan Melbourne incidents.

Incident location type

• Incidents in ‘community’ (e.g., schools, train stations) or ‘other’ locations (e.g., bars, shops) were more likely to proceed (complaint not withdrawn) than residential incidents.

• ‘Other’ locations were more likely to have an offender identified than residential locations.

Time between incident occurring and being reported

• Incidents reported >12 months after occurring were more likely to proceed (complaint not withdrawn) and more likely to have offender identified.

• Incidents reported 2 weeks–6 months after occurring were less likely to have offender identified.

Offenders with prior offences

• Prior sexual offenders were more likely to have charges laid.

• Prior justice procedure offenders were less likely to have charges finalised in court.

• Prior drug offenders were less likely to have charges proven in court.

Victim survivor sex

• Incidents with female victim survivors were less likely to proceed (i.e., more likely to withdraw complaints) than male victim survivors.

• Incidents with female victim survivors were more likely to have an offender identified.

• Incidents with female victim survivors were more likely to be proven in court.

• Incidents reported >6 months after occurring were more likely to have charges laid.

Time between incident being reported and charged

• Incidents charged >12 months after reporting were less likely to have charges finalised in court and charges were less likely to be proven in court.

• Incidents charged 2 weeks-6 months after reporting were more likely to be proven in court.

6.100 The latest study found differences in outcomes between categories of sexual offence. A higher proportion of sexual offences that did not include physical contact (for example, child exploitation material) were proved in court. They were also more likely to progress when reported more than two weeks after the incident, while offences involving physical contact were less likely to progress if reported during the same timeframe.

6.101 The latest study found that cases were less likely to be withdrawn by police if:

• the incident took place in a non-residential location

• the parties were strangers or non-partner family members

• incidents were reported to police more than 12 months after they occurred

• the most serious offence was incest.

6.102 The latest study also examined whether there was a difference in patterns of attrition in specific contexts, including sexual violence within family violence and incidents involving Aboriginal offenders. However, it did not find any overall difference in attrition rates for these contexts.

Current attrition studies have gaps

6.103 Neither of the Crime Statistics Agency’s attrition studies included data from the prosecution and the 2017 study did not include higher court data. However, as the police files listed the incidents where charges were laid and the incidents that were finalised in court, it could identify that about 10 per cent of all sexual offence incidents reported to the police dropped out of the criminal justice system at the prosecution stage. Court outcomes were also reported in police files.

6.104 For both the police and prosecution, the data suggests areas to explore. For example, the study shows that a high number of complaints are withdrawn or are recorded by police as ‘no offence disclosed’, meaning there is further information that indicates that no offence occurred.

6.105 Some people told us there was a need for data on why cases do not proceed for some patterns of abuse, such as child sexual abuse[105] or sexual offending within family violence.[106] As noted earlier, the attrition study shows no significant difference in rates of attrition for contact offence cases involving family violence compared with other contact offence cases.

6.106 However, it also shows that, for contact offences, cases involving an intimate partner or an acquaintance are less likely to progress than cases involving a stranger or another family member. This could be an area to explore further.

6.107 Our previous inquiry on sexual offences included a study of prosecution outcomes. However, the data did ‘not allow reliable conclusions to be drawn about the way in which [data on the characteristics of complainants] and other factors affect prosecution outcomes’.[107]

6.108 This remains the case today. The data provided by the Office of Public Prosecutions includes a broad breakdown of the reasons cases were closed. This follows the criteria in its prosecution guidelines, which provide that a prosecution may only proceed if there is a ‘reasonable prospect of conviction’ and it is ‘in the public interest.’[108]

We need to know more about why cases do not progress

6.109 As Stuart Grimley MP told us:

we must know the reasons why sexual assault cases are being withdrawn, not pursued and not prosecuted in order to address Victoria’s low rates of reporting and high rates of attrition.[109]

6.110 A barrier to understanding why cases do not progress is that the reasons cases do not progress cannot be readily analysed from police databases. The Code of Practice requires that, if a decision is made to end an investigation, the officer making the decision must document the reasons. If a person reporting a sexual offence chooses to withdraw their report, a written statement by the complainant should be made to that effect.[110]

6.111 A manual review of police incident narratives may improve understanding of why cases do not progress (for example, understanding why people withdrew their complaints).[111] This would require significantly more work.

6.112 A study of why cases do not progress was done following our previous inquiry into sexual offences. This study attempted to identify factors that influenced police outcomes. It could identify some attitudes and factors that drove police decision making, although a lack of detail in the police data limited the study.[112]

6.113 The study attempted to identify the outcomes of people from diverse groups. For many groups, this could only be done through a qualitative review, because of the limited and variable quality of the data recorded by police in case files.[113]

6.114 A recent review of a small sample of police files in New Zealand identified factors associated with whether cases progressed. In 28 per cent of the cases, the key factor was that there was no complaint or the complaint was withdrawn. The most common reasons for someone withdrawing their complaint were concerns about their mental health or stress; being ‘reluctant’ or ‘ambivalent’; and wanting to move on. In another 28 per cent of cases, the key factor in the decision about whether the case would progress was unreliable evidence.[114]

6.115 As we note above, legacy systems are at the root of many of the issues with data collection and reporting, including in the criminal justice system. For example, Victoria Police’s ageing LEAP database has many limitations, and will require significant funding to replace this.[115] The Office of Public Prosecutions is also upgrading its records management to move away from a paper-based office.[116]

6.116 In their submission, Dr Patrick Tidmarsh and Dr Gemma Hamilton suggested that the police should include a written statement of closure in all case files. This would include ‘the rationale for any decision and, where possible, a statement from the complainant.’ They explained that ‘current practice’ made it extremely difficult to interpret case files and to understand attrition.[117]

6.117 As a first step, we recommend that the Department of Justice and Community Safety should fund the Crime Statistics Agency to conduct a qualitative review of police and prosecution files as a baseline for future reforms. This should aim to:

• identify the quality of existing data recording the reasons for closing cases and ways to improve the consistency of the data, including to inform future changes to data systems

• act as a baseline for measuring the impact of future reforms

• identify what factors influence decision making.

6.118 As part of this review, the Crime Statistics Agency should identify what demographic data should be collected and ways to improve the recording of reasons cases do not progress. This could be done, for example, by developing a standardised set of reasons or identifying what should be included in the reasons for closing a case.

6.119 We also recommend that the Crime Statistics Agency should be funded to conduct a regular attrition study. As this work will usually require several years of data, we recommend that these studies should be repeated at intervals that will help measure the impact of reforms. The qualitative review of police and prosecution files should be repeated at the same time as needed.

6.120 To improve the quality of the attrition study, this should include prosecution and court data. Together, these studies will provide more robust data about what is happening across the criminal justice system, and could provide insights about where reforms are best targeted.

Recommendations

15 The Victorian Government should include, in its extension of the Family Violence Data portal, data from sexual assault services, forensic medical examinations, the Office of Public Prosecutions and the higher courts.

16 The Department of Justice and Community Safety should establish a working group to:

a. publish an annual report providing key data about the response of the criminal justice system to sexual offences, including the progression of cases and trends in the criminal justice system

b. identify ways to record and address the reasons for delays to sexual offence cases in the criminal justice system

c. identify ways to include the experiences of victim survivors in the criminal justice system as part of broader outcomes on sexual violence

d. develop plans for measuring the impact of reforms at an early stage.

17 The Victorian Government should fund the Crime Statistics Agency to publish a regular qualitative review and a regular attrition study that includes police and prosecution records. This should include a follow-up qualitative review to complement its most recent attrition study.


  1. Consultation 22 (First roundtable on the experience of LGBTIQA+ people).

  2. For discussion of what data is required and what it should capture, including the context, risks, characteristics and impacts of sexual violence, formal and informal responses to it, and evaluations of successful responses: see generally Australian Bureau of Statistics, Defining the Data Challenge for Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence (Catalogue No 4529.0, 7 February 2013) <https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/crime-and-justice/defining-data-challenge-family-domestic-and-sexual-violence/latest-release>.

  3. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Foundation for a National Data Collection and Reporting Framework for Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence (Catalogue No 4529.0.00.003, 30 September 2014) <https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/crime-and-justice/foundation-national-data-collection-and-reporting-framework-family-domestic-and-sexual-violence/latest-release>.

  4. See, eg, ibid; Denise Lievore, Non-Reporting and Hidden Recording of Sexual Assault: An International Literature Review (Report, Australian Institute of Criminology (Cth), 15 June 2003) <https://aic.gov.au/publications/archive/non-reporting-and-hidden-recording-of-sexual-assault>.

  5. Victorian Government, Family Violence Reform Rolling Action Plan 2020–2023 (Report, December 2020) <http://www.vic.gov.au/family-violence-reform-rolling-action-plan-2020-2023>.

  6. Prime Minister of Australia, A New National Strategy to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse (Report, 11 May 2021) <https://www2.pm.gov.au/media/new-national-strategy-prevent-child-sexual-abuse>.

  7. Attorney-General’s Department (Cth), National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians (Elder Abuse) 2019–2023 (Report, Council of Attorneys-General, 19 March 2019) <https://www.ag.gov.au/rights-and-protections/publications/national-plan-respond-abuse-older-australians-elder-abuse-2019-2023>; Australian Government, A Roadmap for Respect: Preventing and Addressing Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces (Report, 8 April 2021) <https://www.ag.gov.au/rights-and-protections/publications/roadmap-for-respect>; ‘National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and Their Children’, Australian Government (Web Page, 2021) <https://plan4womenssafety.dss.gov.au/>.

  8. Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), National Research Agenda to Reduce Violence against Women and Their Children: (ANRA) 2020–2022 (Report, 20 October 2020) 9–11 <https://www.anrows.org.au/about/national-research-agenda-to-reduce-violence-against-women-and-their-children/>. See also Submission 50 (Project Respect).

  9. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (Cth), Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence in Australia: Continuing the National Story 2019 (Report, 5 June 2019) 119–22 <https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/domestic-violence/family-domestic-sexual-violence-australia-2019>.

  10. Consultation 22 (First roundtable on the experience of LGBTIQA+ people).

  11. Submission 50 (Project Respect).

  12. ‘Beyond Silence’, a project that focuses on intimate partner sexual violence, should be published this year: Consultation 46 (Safer Families Research Centre & Monash Social Inclusion Centre).

  13. Submission 71 (Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine and Victorian Forensic Paediatric Medical Service); Consultation 7 (Associate Professor Nicola Henry). We note that there is a research project underway on technology-facilitated harm: Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), ‘New Research to Investigate the Growing Problem of Technology-Facilitated Abuse’ (Media Release, 4 June 2020) <https://www.anrows.org.au/media-releases/the-growing-problem-of-technology-facilitated-abuse/>.

  14. ‘National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study’, Australian Institute of Family Studies (Cth) (Web Page, 2021) <https://aifs.gov.au/projects/national-elder-abuse-prevalence-study>.

  15. The Australian Child Maltreatment Study will be the first national study of all forms of child maltreatment (including sexual abuse), and first results are expected from July 2023: Australian Government, Annual Progress Report 2020 (Implementation of recommendations from the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Report, 2020) 9 <https://www.childabuseroyalcommissionresponse.gov.au/annual-progress-reporting>.

  16. The Commission recommended the government fund a national survey every four years: Australian Human Rights Commission, Respect@Work: National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces (Report, 2020) Recommendation 2 <https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/sex-discrimination/publications/respectwork-sexual-harassment-national-inquiry-report-2020>. The government has provided funding for the next survey in 2022: Australian Government, A Roadmap for Respect: Preventing and Addressing Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces (Report, 8 April 2021) 6–7 <https://www.ag.gov.au/rights-and-protections/publications/roadmap-for-respect>.

  17. Victorian Government, Family Violence Reform Rolling Action Plan 2020–2023: Activities Index (Combined Activity Summary) 5 <https://www.vic.gov.au/family-violence-reform-rolling-action-plan-2020-2023>.

  18. Adam O Hill et al, Private Lives 3: The Health and Wellbeing of LGBTIQ People in Australia (Monograph Series No 122 ARCSHS, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (LaTrobe), 27 October 2020) <https://www.latrobe.edu.au/arcshs/publications/private-lives/private-lives-3>.

  19. Denton Callander et al, The 2018 Australian Trans and Gender Diverse Sexual Health Survey: Report of Findings (Report, The Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales, 2019) <https://kirby.unsw.edu.au/report/2018-australian-trans-and-gender-diverse-sexual-health-survey-report-findings>.

  20. Submission 50 (Project Respect).

  21. Consultation 45 (Sex Work Law Reform Victoria).

  22. Submission 3 (Health Law and Ageing Research Unit, Monash University). For a summary of the available statistics on reported sexual assaults, also noting the issue of under-reporting: see generally, Australian Association of Gerontology, A Fair Future for Older Women Who Experience Sexual Abuse: What Needs to Be Done (Report, 2019) 11–13 <https://www.aag.asn.au/news-publications/policy-papers/a-fair-future-for-older-women-who-experience-sexual-abuse>. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety heard that the best estimate of unlawful sexual contact was 50 incidents a week: Alison Branley and Loretta Lohberger, ‘Aged Care Royal Commission Hears There Are around 50 Sexual Assaults a Week of Residents Nationally’, ABC News (online, 22 October 2020) <https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-22/aged-care-royal-comm-told-of-50-sex-assaults-a-week/12801806>.

  23. Submission 3 (Health Law and Ageing Research Unit, Monash University).

  24. See, eg, Australian Association of Gerontology, A Fair Future for Older Women Who Experience Sexual Abuse: What Needs to Be Done (Report, 2019) 20 <https://www.aag.asn.au/news-publications/policy-papers/a-fair-future-for-older-women-who-experience-sexual-abuse>; Rae Kaspiew, Rachel Carson and Helen Rhoades, Elder Abuse: Understanding Issues, Frameworks and Responses (Research Report No 35, Australian Institute of Family Studies (Cth), 28 February 2016) 6–7, 11 <https://apo.org.au/node/62300>. For discussion of the barriers to reporting: see Submission 1 (Dr Catherine Barrett).

  25. Rosemary Mann et al, Norma’s Project—A Research Study into the Sexual Assault of Older Women in Australia (Report, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, 30 June 2014) 28 <https://apo.org.au/node/40334>. But see Australian Association of Gerontology, A Fair Future for Older Women Who Experience Sexual Abuse: What Needs to Be Done (Report, 2019) 14 <https://www.aag.asn.au/news-publications/policy-papers/a-fair-future-for-older-women-who-experience-sexual-abuse>.

  26. Consultation 22 (First roundtable on the experience of LGBTIQA+ people).

  27. Submission 68 (Victoria Police).

  28. Submission 54 (Victorian Multicultural Commission).

  29. Ibid.

  30. Submission 55 (Springvale Monash Legal Service).

  31. Consultation 57 (Department of Health and Human Services).

  32. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse: Final Report (Report, December 2017) Recommendations 2.1, 12.1–12.3, 12.15 <https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/final-report>.

  33. Submission 17 (Sexual Assault Services Victoria).

  34. Consultation 51 (Associate Professor Debbie Ollis and Professor Amanda Keddie); referring to the ‘National Survey of Australian Secondary Students and Sexual Health’: see generally ‘Young People and Sexual Health Publications’, La Trobe University (Web Page, 19 April 2021) <https://www.latrobe.edu.au/arcshs/publications/young-people-and-sexual-health>.

  35. Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), National Research Agenda to Reduce Violence against Women and Their Children: (ANRA) 2020–2022 (Report, 20 October 2020) 11, 23 <https://www.anrows.org.au/about/national-research-agenda-to-reduce-violence-against-women-and-their-children/>.

  36. Submission 68 (Victoria Police).

  37. See, eg, Submission 44 (Dr Patrick Tidmarsh and Dr Gemma Hamilton) suggesting that ‘meta-analyses on research into the origins of sexual offending [could] guide a focus on primary prevention strategies’. See also Australian Institute of Family Studies (Cth), Who Abuses Children? (CFCA Resource Sheet, 1 September 2014) <https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/who-abuses-children>; Royal Commission into Family Violence: Report and Recommendations (Final Report, March 2016) vol 6, 145–8 (in relation to family violence perpetration) <http://rcfv.archive.royalcommission.vic.gov.au/Report-Recommendations.html>.

  38. Haley Clark, Antonia Quadara and Australian Institute of Family Studies (Cth), Insights into Sexual Assault Perpetration: Giving Voice to Victim/Survivors’ Knowledge (Research Report No 18, Australian Institute of Family Studies (Cth), December 2010) 6 <https://aifs.gov.au/publications/insights-sexual-assault-perpetration>.

  39. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (Cth), Sexual Assault in Australia (In Focus Report, 28 August 2020) 14 <https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/domestic-violence/sexual-assault-in-australia/contents/summary>.

  40. Submission 68 (Victoria Police). See also Australian Bureau of Statistics, Bridging the Data Gaps for Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence (Catalogue No 4529.0.00.002, 25 November 2013) <https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/crime-and-justice/bridging-data-gaps-family-domestic-and-sexual-violence/latest-release>; Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (Cth), Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence in Australia: Continuing the National Story 2019 (Report, 5 June 2019) 122 <https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/domestic-violence/family-domestic-sexual-violence-australia-2019>.

  41. Victorian Government, ‘Victorian Family Violence Data Collection Framework’, VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page, 8 January 2020) <http://www.vic.gov.au/victorian-family-violence-data-collection-framework>.

  42. Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor, Report of the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor (Report, 1 November 2020) 138, 136 <http://www.fvrim.vic.gov.au/fourth-report-parliament-1-november-2020-tabled-may-2021>.

  43. Ibid 151, 138.

  44. Victorian Government, Family Violence Reform Rolling Action Plan 2020–2023: Activities Index (Combined Activity Summary) 22, 34 <https://www.vic.gov.au/family-violence-reform-rolling-action-plan-2020-2023>.

  45. Submission 68 (Victoria Police).

  46. Consultation 8 (Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor).

  47. Consultation 75 (Family Safety Victoria (No 2)).

  48. Submission 55 (Springvale Monash Legal Service).

  49. Consultation 48 (Star Health and Project Respect).

  50. Submission 57 (Commission for Children and Young People (Vic)).

  51. Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor, Report of the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor (Report, 1 November 2020) 114, 136 <http://www.fvrim.vic.gov.au/fourth-report-parliament-1-november-2020-tabled-may-2021>.

  52. Ibid 30.

  53. Submission 17 (Sexual Assault Services Victoria).

  54. Allie Coyne, ‘Victoria Police Extends Life of 25–Yr–Old LEAP Database’, iTnews (online, 28 October 2016) <https://www.itnews.com.au/news/victoria-police-extends-life-of-25-yr-old-leap-database-440240>; Victorian Auditor-General’s Office, ‘Crime Data’, VAGO (Web Page, 2021) <https://www.audit.vic.gov.au/report/crime-data>.

  55. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Committals (Report No 41, March 2020) Recommendation 2. See also [3.31], [3.33]–[3.35].

  56. Submission 17 (Sexual Assault Services Victoria).

  57. Department of Premier and Cabinet (Vic), Family Violence Outcomes Framework: Measurement and Monitoring Implementation Strategy (Report) 17 <http://www.vic.gov.au/family-violence-outcomes-framework>.

  58. Ibid 24.

  59. The Family Violence Outcomes Framework includes this under the ‘System’ domain: ibid 12.

  60. Consultation 52 (Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service).

  61. Department of Premier and Cabinet (Vic), Family Violence Outcomes Framework: Measurement and Monitoring Implementation Strategy (Report, 2020) 5, 8 <http://www.vic.gov.au/family-violence-outcomes-framework>.

  62. Submission 68 (Victoria Police).

  63. Submission 17 (Sexual Assault Services Victoria).

  64. The Family Violence Outcomes Framework does not yet include a source of data for its measure on improved confidence in the justice system although the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety does conduct an annual survey on youth justice: Department of Premier and Cabinet (Vic), Family Violence Outcomes Framework: Measurement and Monitoring Implementation Strategy (Report, 2020) 16 <http://www.vic.gov.au/family-violence-outcomes-framework>. For an Australian example of qualitative research: see Nicole Bluett-Boyd and Bianca Fileborn, Victim/Survivor-Focused Justice Responses and Reforms to Criminal Court Practice (Research Report No 27, Australian Institute of Family Studies (Cth), April 2014) <https://aifs.gov.au/publications/victimsurvivor-focused-justice-responses-and-reforms-criminal-court-practice>.

  65. Tania Boyer, Sue Allison and Helen Creagh, Improving the Justice Response to Victims of Sexual Violence: Victims’ Experiences (Research Report, Ministry of Justice (NZ), August 2018) <https://www.justice.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Publications/Improving-the-justice-response-to-victims-of-sexual-violence-victims-experiences.pdf>.

  66. Julian Molina and Sarah Poppleton, Rape Survivors and the Criminal Justice System (Report, 20 October 2020) <https://victimscommissioner.org.uk/published-reviews/rape-survivors-and-the-criminal-justice-system/>.

  67. Ministry of Justice (UK), End-to-End Rape Review Report on Findings and Actions (Report, 18 June 2021) [62] <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/end-to-end-rape-review-report-on-findings-and-actions>.

  68. Submission 17 (Sexual Assault Services Victoria).

  69. Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), National Research Agenda to Reduce Violence against Women and Their Children: (ANRA) 2020–2022 (Report, 20 October 2020) 13–15 <https://www.anrows.org.au/about/national-research-agenda-to-reduce-violence-against-women-and-their-children/>.

  70. Submission 7 (Dr Bianca Fileborn, Dr Rachel Loney-Howes, Dr Tully O’Neill and Sophie Hindes).

  71. James Leslie Herbert and Leah Bromfield, ‘Better Together? A Review of Evidence for Multi-Disciplinary Teams Responding to Physical and Sexual Child Abuse’ (2019) 20(2) Trauma, Violence, & Abuse 214.

  72. Submission 7 (Dr Bianca Fileborn, Dr Rachel Loney-Howes, Dr Tully O’Neill and Sophie Hindes).

  73. Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Victim Advocates: A Rapid Evidence Assessment (Report, February 2019) 22–5 <https://victimscommissioner.org.uk/published-reviews/victim-advocates-a-rapid-evidence-assessment/>.

  74. Royal Commission into Family Violence: Report and Recommendations (Final Report, March 2016) Recommendation 203 <http://rcfv.archive.royalcommission.vic.gov.au/Report-Recommendations.html>.

  75. Victorian Government, Family Violence Reform Rolling Action Plan 2020–2023: Activities Index (Combined Activity Summary) 33 <https://www.vic.gov.au/family-violence-reform-rolling-action-plan-2020-2023>.

  76. See Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor, Report of the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor (Report, 1 November 2020) 30 <http://www.fvrim.vic.gov.au/fourth-report-parliament-1-november-2020-tabled-may-2021>; Consultation 51 (Associate Professor Debbie Ollis and Professor Amanda Keddie). See also Consultation 13 (Intermediary Pilot Program, Department of Justice and Community Safety).

  77. Submission 10 (Carolyn Worth AM and Mary Lancaster).

  78. Consultation 8 (Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor).

  79. Consultation 51 (Associate Professor Debbie Ollis and Professor Amanda Keddie).

  80. Submission 52 (Centre for Innovative Justice).

  81. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Sexual Offences (Report No 5, July 2004) Recommendations 4–7, 168.

  82. There has been some more recent research on predictors of reporting to police: Isabella Voce and Hayley Boxall, Who Reports Domestic Violence to Police? A Review of the Evidence (Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice No 559, Australian Institute of Criminology (Cth), 25 September 2018) <https://aic.gov.au/publications/tandi/tandi559>. There is some, although now dated, research on prosecutorial decision making, although not in Victoria: Denise Lievore, Prosecutorial Decisions in Adult Sexual Assault Cases (Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice No 291, Australian Institute of Criminology (Cth), January 2005) <https://aic.gov.au/publications/tandi/tandi291>.

  83. See Submission 27 (Victoria Legal Aid).

  84. Australian Government, A Roadmap for Respect: Preventing and Addressing Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces (Report, 8 April 2021) 7–8 <https://www.ag.gov.au/rights-and-protections/publications/roadmap-for-respect>; Australian Human Rights Commission, Respect@Work: National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces (Report, 2020) Recommendation 3 <https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/sex-discrimination/publications/respectwork-sexual-harassment-national-inquiry-report-2020>.

  85. Submission 47 (Criminal Bar Association).

  86. Submission 38 (Bravehearts).

  87. ‘Sexual Assault Offences’, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (Web Page, 22 July 2021) <https://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Pages/bocsar_pages/Sexual-assault.aspx>. These present the annual statistics from each stage of the criminal justice system, but as they do not track cases across the system this is not a true ‘attrition’ study.

  88. Jackie Fitzgerald, Why Did Sexual Assault Reports Spike in March 2021? (Bureau Brief No BB155, June 2021) <https://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Pages/bocsar_publication/Pub_Summary/BB/BB155-Summary-Why-did-sexual-assault-reports-spike-in-March-2021.aspx>.

  89. Office for National Statistics (UK), Sexual Offending: Victimisation and the Path through the Criminal Justice System (Report, 13 December 2018) <https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/sexualoffendingvictimisationandthepaththroughthecriminaljusticesystem/2018-12-13>.

  90. ‘Rape Monitoring Group—Interactive Data Dashboard’, HMICFRS (Web Page, 2018) <https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/news/news-feed/rape-monitoring-group-interactive-data-dashboard/>.

  91. Ministry of Justice (UK), End-to-End Rape Review Report on Findings and Actions (Report, 18 June 2021) [17], [41], [91] <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/end-to-end-rape-review-report-on-findings-and-actions>.

  92. Public Prosecution Service (Northern Ireland), Cases Involving Sexual Offences 2019/20 (Statistical Bulletin, Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, 5 November 2020) <https://www.ppsni.gov.uk/sites/ppsni/files/publications/Sexual%20Offences%20Publication%202019-20%20%28and%2018-19%29%20Final.pdf>.

  93. Department of Justice (Canada), ‘Canada’s State of the Criminal Justice System’, State of the Criminal Justice System (Web Page, April 2021) <https://www.justice.gc.ca/socjs-esjp/en#wb-bd-cont>; Department of Justice (Canada), State of the Criminal Justice System Annual Report (Report, 20 January 2021) <https://justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/state-etat/2021rpt-rap2021/index.html>.

  94. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Committals (Report No 41, March 2020) [3.22]–[3.25], [3.33].

  95. Productivity Commission (Cth), Report on Government Services 2021 (Report, 22 January 2021) chs 6–7 <https://www.pc.gov.au/research/ongoing/report-on-government-services/2021/justice>.

  96. Data Provided by the Office of Public Prosecutions (Vic) to the Victorian Law Reform Commission, 12 July 2021.

  97. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Committals (Report No 41, March 2020) [3.24], [3.31], [3.33]–[3.34] Recommendation 2.

  98. Ministry of Justice (UK), Trial Effectiveness at the Criminal Courts Tool (Spreadsheet, 24 September 2020) <https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/944739/trials_tool.xlsx>.

  99. Submission 59 (County Court of Victoria).

  100. Submission 47 (Criminal Bar Association).

  101. S Bright et al, Attrition of Sexual Offence Incidents through the Victorian Criminal Justice System: 2021 Update (Report, Crime Statistics Agency, 2021). This updated Melanie Millsteed and Cleave McDonald, ‘Attrition of Sexual Offence Incidents across the Victorian Criminal Justice System’ (Research Paper, Crime Statistics Agency Victoria, 2017) <http://www.crimestatistics.vic.gov.au/research-and-evaluation/publications/attrition-of-sexual-offence-incidents-across-the-victorian>.

  102. As only 63% of matters recorded in 2017–18 had been heard in court, the study only included offences from the previous years so that enough matters could be finalised for the analysis.

  103. S Bright et al, Attrition of Sexual Offence Incidents through the Victorian Criminal Justice System: 2021 Update (Report, Crime Statistics Agency, 2021).

  104. S Bright et al, Attrition of Sexual Offence Incidents through the Victorian Criminal Justice System: 2021 Update (Report, Crime Statistics Agency, 2021).

  105. Consultation 65 (Commission for Children and Young People).

  106. Consultation 32 (Anonymous member, Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council).

  107. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Sexual Offences (Interim Report, June 2003) [2.94], 95–6.

  108. Office of Public Prosecutions (Vic), Policy of the Director of Public Prosecutions for Victoria (Policy, 17 September 2020) [1] <https://www.opp.vic.gov.au/Resources/Policy-of-the-Director-of-Public-Prosecutions-for-/Policy-of-the-Director-of-Public-Prosecutions-for>.

  109. Submission 8 (Stuart Grimley MP).

  110. Victoria Police, Code of Practice for the Investigation of Sexual Crime (Policy, 2016) 26–9 <https://content.police.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/2019-01/Code-of-Practice-for-the-Investigation-of-Sexual-Crime-%282016%29.pdf>. The reasons should be set out in a letter to the complainant and, if the complainants wishes to withdraw, in the file.

  111. Millsteed and McDonald studied the reasons why cases do not progress, but were unable to use narrative case file information because it ‘was not available for analysis’: Melanie Millsteed and Cleave McDonald, ‘Attrition of Sexual Offence Incidents across the Victorian Criminal Justice System’ (Research Paper, Crime Statistics Agency Victoria, 2017) 25 <http://www.crimestatistics.vic.gov.au/research-and-evaluation/publications/attrition-of-sexual-offence-incidents-across-the-victorian>.

  112. Statewide Steering Committee to Reduce Sexual Assault, Study of Reported Rapes in Victoria 2000–2003 (Summary Research Report, July 2006) [12] <https://apo.org.au/node/8211>.

  113. Ibid [59]–[61], [99]–[100], [152]–[191].

  114. Jan Jordan and Elaine Mossman, Police Sexual Violence File Analysis Report. Women, Rape and the Police Investigation Process (Report, Victoria University of Wellington, 2019) 40 <http://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/handle/10063/8249>.

  115. LEAP has operated since 1993. A five year project to replace it that commenced in 2006 was abandoned due to cost blowouts: Victorian Auditor-General’s Office, Crime Data (Independent Assurance Report No 6, 5 September 2018) 23 <https://www.audit.vic.gov.au/report/crime-data>.

  116. ‘Corporate Modernisation’, About Us (Web Page, 2016) <https://www.opp.vic.gov.au/About-Us/Our-Corporate-Services/Corporate-modernisation>.

  117. Submission 44 (Dr Patrick Tidmarsh and Dr Gemma Hamilton).