Contempt of court or contempt for the court?

Research Brief 23   In 2016 the domestic violence epidemic shows no signs of slowing down. It seems Australian men are going mad. Women – and children – are dying as a result. The ever-increasing tally of deaths and serious injuries is prompting many to demand that the legal system needs to do more to […]

Sexual abuse in schools: An Australian history of criminalisation

Research Brief 22   In 1947 a leading psychiatrist, Dr John McGeorge, told the New South Wales Department of Justice that men who abused children were ‘the most dangerous sex offenders’. These men, he went on to assert, were ‘often in a position of trust, [such as] a schoolteacher or scoutmaster’ (State Records NSW, Report […]

Whipping as a criminal punishment

Research Brief 21 For decades, if not longer, well-meaning parents (and perhaps less well-meaning authority figures in institutional settings) utilised the cane or the belt as an instrument of punishment. These methods are increasingly frowned upon. Corporal punishment has been criminalised in some countries for more than thirty years, and in recent years, Australian courts […]

Crime across time: Mapping longitudinal changes in criminal justice

Research Brief 20   One of the benefits of the Prosecution Project’s large-scale digitisation of court records is that it not only allows researchers to trace individuals, but to map changes in the criminal justice process over a long period of time. Mapping these longitudinal changes is not only of potential value to scholars of legal […]

Joe Bragg: a life in crime

Research Brief 19   Last week a new entry appeared in the Prosecution Project database. Trial #64652 records the conviction on 16 February 1870 of Joseph Bragg on the charge of wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm. He had pleaded guilty. Bragg was tried before the Chief Justice of New South Wales, Sir […]

Reading against the grain: Queer lives and loves in court

Research Brief 18   Court records document more than policing patterns and criminalised behaviours of the past. While they are crucial to writing criminal justice histories, they can be used in other ways, read against the grain to provide a window into particular cultural practices and social behaviours. These narratives are not without their methodological […]

Alcohol abuse and criminal offending

Research Brief 17   Alcohol addiction can be a criminogenic risk factor. Contemporary criminology studies show that drug and alcohol abuse is linked to increased contact with the criminal justice system. A Queensland Corrections policy document cites studies indicating that 29% of offenders reported being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol at the time […]

The Truth about child sexual assault

Research Brief 16       In January 1924, an article in Sydney Truth alerted its readers to a spate of crimes against children that had recently appeared before the courts. Sexual offences against three girls and one boy had been committed in various suburbs around the city within a matter of weeks. While the […]

The court as spectacle

  Research Brief 15   The principle of open justice – referring to the transparency of the trial process – has a long history. Courts in ancient Greece, for example, were constructed with low walls so the public could observe the proceedings while attending to their ordinary business. Similarly, following the Norman Conquest, courts were […]