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Research Report: Justice made to measure: NSW legal needs survey in disadvantaged areas
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Justice made to measure: NSW legal needs survey in disadvantaged areas  ( 2006 )  Cite this report

Ch 3. The incidence of legal events



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Summary: the incidence of legal events


This chapter focused on the reported incidence of legal events. Some of the major findings were as follows.

About two-thirds of survey respondents reported experiencing one or more legal events in the 12 months prior to the survey. The average number of legal events reported by each participant was 2.4.

A minority of participants accounted for a disproportionate number of the legal events reported, with the one-third of participants who reported experiencing three or more legal events accounting for over three-quarters of all the legal events reported.

Of the 11 civil legal event groups, the accident/injury, consumer, credit/debt, employment, government, housing and wills/estates groups had the highest incidence. The two most common civil law events fell into the consumer group. These events involved problems with goods or services (reported by 10.6% of participants), and disputes with financial institutions (reported by 9.8% of participants).

Of the three criminal legal event groups, the general crime group had the highest incidence. The most frequent criminal law event was the general crime event involving stolen or vandalised property (reported by 18.9% of participants).

Some types of legal events tended to co-occur. Cluster and factor analyses suggested three main groupings of legal event types: a general, broad grouping; a family grouping; and an economic grouping. More specifically:

  • general crime, consumer, government, accident/injury and employment events tended to co-occur16
  • family and domestic violence events tended to co-occur,17
  • business and credit/debt events tended to co-occur.18

Age, country of birth, disability status, personal income and education level were statistically significant independent predictors of reporting any type of legal event according to the logistic regression analysis. The odds of reporting a legal event of any type were higher for:
  • all age groups compared with people aged 65 years or over
  • people born in an English speaking country than other people
  • people with a chronic illness or disability than other people
  • people in the highest income group compared with every other income group
  • university graduates than people who completed schooling only to Year 10.

A series of logistic regressions showed that different sociodemographic characteristics were related to experiencing different types of legal events. Table 3.6 summarises the regression results for the 10 most frequent legal event groups (i.e. accident/injury, consumer, credit/debt, education, employment, government, housing, wills/estates, general crime and family). It was found that:
  • age was a consistent predictor for all 10 event groups
  • people with a chronic illness or disability had increased vulnerability for nine of the 10 most frequent event groups
  • Indigenous people, people born in an English speaking country and high-income earners had relatively higher odds of reporting a few or several types of events
  • university graduates had relatively higher odds of reporting government and wills/estates events
  • males had relatively higher odds of reporting accident/injury events.

Table 3.6: Summary of significant sociodemographic predictors in the 11 regression models for reporting legal events
Reporting
Gender
Age
Indigenous status
Country
of birth
Disability status
Personal income
Education level
Legal events of any type
x
x
x
x
x
Accident/injury events
x
x
x
x
x
Consumer events
x
x
x
Credit/debt events
x
x
x
Education events
x
x
Employment events
x
x
x
Government events
x
x
x
Housing events
x
x
x
Wills/estates events
x
x
x
x
x
General crime events
x
x
x
x
Family events
x
x
x
x


According to the cluster analysis, housing and wills/estates events also tended to co-occur with this grouping of events, while according to the factor analysis, human rights events tended to co-occur with this grouping of events.
According to the cluster analysis, education and human rights events also tended to co-occur with family and domestic violence events.
The factor analysis suggested that consumer events also tended to co-occur with business and credit/debt events.

16  According to the cluster analysis, housing and wills/estates events also tended to co-occur with this grouping of events, while according to the factor analysis, human rights events tended to co-occur with this grouping of events.
17  According to the cluster analysis, education and human rights events also tended to co-occur with family and domestic violence events.
18  The factor analysis suggested that consumer events also tended to co-occur with business and credit/debt events.


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Coumarelos, C, Wei , Z & Zhou, AH 2006, Justice made to measure: NSW legal needs survey in disadvantaged areas, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney