Research Themes

Crime and Society

  • Associate Professor Julia Quilter
  • Dr Linda Steele

Researchers associated with the Crime and Society theme undertake a broad range of projects concerned with the impact of the criminal law as a public policy and regulatory tool, and the operation of the criminal justice system and its constituent parts, including the police and the courts.  Central concerns are whether the criminal law and the justice system meet the expectations of victims and the wider community, and the complex relationship between the criminal justice system and the marginalised and disadvantaged. Our research aims to encourage judicious use of the criminal law as public policy instrument and to promote programs and practices that ameliorate the potential for the criminal system to have unduly harsh effects that are also likely to be counterproductive in terms of overarching crime prevention and social cohesion objectives.

Public Space and Public Order

Associate Professor Julia Quilter and Professor Luke McNamara

Public spaces are sites of both proliferating and increasingly complex regulation. Traditional public order criminalisation (eg offensive conduct/language) remains ever-present and controversial in its operation. These days, however, familiar criminal offences, enforced by the police, are accompanied by a diverse array of surveillance and regulatory mechanisms, in which other state agencies the private sector play a part. This project examines; i) the tension that exists between conceptions of public space as permissive, liberated and interactive environments and conceptions of public space regulation that focus on risk, safety, civility and amenity; and ii) the nature and effect of the regulatory regimes that impact on the use of public space, focusing on the blurred boundaries between criminal and civil, and between legal and administrative practices. 

J Quilter & L McNamara, ‘Time to Define “the Cornerstone of Public Order Legislation”: The Elements of Offensive Conduct and Language Under the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW)’ (2013) 36(2) University of New South Wales 534-562

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Responding to Alcohol-Related Violence

Associate Professor Julia Quilter

Through a case study of the aftermath of the killing of Thomas Kelly in King’s Cross in 2012, this project examines the motivation, form and effects of government responses to the problem of alcohol-related violence. In particular it explores the tension that exists between the need for nuanced and enduring policy responses to a complex social problem, and the expectation that the criminal law should punish harshly individual perpetrators of violence.  

Julia Quilter, ‘Responses to the Death of Thomas Kelly: Taking Populism Seriously’ (2013) 24(3) Current Issues in Criminal Justice 439.

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Re-inventing Rape

Associate Professor Julia Quilter

This project examines how the legal category of rape was “invented” during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by rewriting older property and marital laws.  The project utilises post-structuralist theorise on ‘sexuality’ and ‘truth’ and, in particular, Foucault’s genealogical methodology. 

J Quilter, ‘Re-framing the Rape Trial: Insights From Critical Theory About the Limitations of Legislative Reform’ (2011) 35 Australian Feminist Law Journal 23-56.

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Disability, Diversion and Criminal Law

Dr Linda Steele

This project is an interdisciplinary theoretical and empirical examination of the legal frameworks for the diversion of people with cognitive impairment and/or mental illness from the criminal justice system. The project has a particular focus on the social and political implications of diversion both for people with cognitive impairment and/or mental illness in the criminal justice system and for the criminal law common law jurisdictions. The project develops a theoretical framework for analysis of diversion which draws on analytical tools from a diverse range of disciplines (Foucauldian theory, critical legal and political theory and critical disability studies) and then applies this framework to a specific case study – a close interdisciplinary theoretical and empirical analysis of the diversionary scheme in Australia’s largest common law criminal jurisdiction (diversion pursuant to section 32 of the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990 (NSW)). This case study serves as the  ‘entry point’ for broaching wider concerns about criminal law and disability, to tell a story about the wider effects of diversion on criminal law and disability, and about the capacity-related foundations of western legal systems. The project also considers the implications of the analysis of diversion for key concepts in social justice for people with disability such as anti-discrimination, legal capacity, social inclusion, deinstitutionalisation and community support. 

Linda Steele, ‘Diversion of Individuals with Disability from the Criminal Justice System: Control Inside or Outside Criminal Law?’ in Alan Reed, Chris Ashford & Nicola Wake, (eds), Consent and Control: Legal Perspectives on State Power (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, forthcoming 2016) 

Civil Justice and Institutional Violence Against People with Disability

Dr Linda Steele

This project examines the role, benefits and limitations of civil law (torts causes of action in battery, assault, false imprisonment and negligence; statutory victims compensation schemes) in providing redress for institutional violence experienced by people with disability. The project focuses on an analysis of the substantive legal content and framework of specific causes of action, complementing the research which has focused on limitations in the legal processes through which civil law claims made by people with disability who experience violence are adjudicated. The project will engage with the findings and recommendations relating to civil redress made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the Senate Community Affairs References Committee Inquiry into Violence, Abuse and Neglect Against People with Disability in Institutional and Residential Settings.

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Last reviewed: 18 December, 2017