New Victorian Crime Stats Agency welcomed, but independence questioned

October 04, 2013 |

Funding for Victoria’s new Crime Statistics Agency is welcome, but Michelle McDonnell, the Smart Justice spokesperson for the Federation of Community Legal Centres, has questioned the independence of the body in light of today’s advertisement for a chief statistician to lead it. Details so far announced suggest the agency will fail to fulfil the true independence flagged in the initial announcement, which now appears to have been qualified in several aspects.

“The job description for the chief statistician indicates the body will sit within and report to the Department of Justice, and will not be the truly independent agency Victoria needs to provide robust and objective data to inform justice policy. It is also concerning that the person sought to lead the agency is not required to have qualifications in criminology,” Ms McDonnell said.

She said the agency’s work would be vital to underpin the independent monitoring of the impact of all criminal justice policies, including providing evidence that would be likely to challenge the Victorian State Government’s assertions that its tough-on-crime agenda and increasing reliance on new prisons are viable solutions to crime in this State.

“The Crime Statistics Agency must be fully resourced, independent of both police and government and have capacity to audit and analyse police data, as well as to evaluate and monitor initiatives designed to reduce crime and reoffending. From what we’ve seen so far, we can’t have confidence this will be the case,” Ms McDonnell said.

She called for further detail about how the agency would operate.

“The transparency and accessibility of reliable data about crime in Victoria is a step that must be taken, and we would argue this should also be extended to all aspects of the criminal justice system, including Corrections Victoria. There is no substitute for evidence if we are to ensure a Smart Justice approach that will give us a system that works and makes the community safer,” she said.

Last night, ABC TV News Victoria included comment from Federation Executive Officer, Liana Buchanan, that the agency was a long overdue response to sustained advocacy by the Federation and the community legal sector.

The Crime Statistics Agency will commence operation on 1 July 2014.

See also:

New independent crime stats agency to be set up, ABC News Online, 3 October 2013