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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 4. The response to legal events



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Factors related to action taken for legal events


A mixed-effects logistic regression was conducted to examine whether or not sociodemographic characteristics and type of legal event were independent predictors of action taken by participants in response to legal events.3 The regression examined which variables predicted whether participants sought help as opposed to whether they either handled the matter on their own or did nothing.4

Table 4.2 provides a summary of the regression results (and Appendix Table C29 provides the full results). The regression identified age, Indigenous status, education level and legal event group as statistically significant independent predictors of action taken in response to legal events. Gender, country of birth, disability status and personal income were not significant predictors of action taken. The regression results are further described below, with reference to the relevant descriptive statistics.

Table 4.2: Summary of mixed-effects binary logistic regression for action taken

SIGNIFICANT VARIABLES
VariableComparison
Odds ratioa
Age (years)15–24 versus 65+
ns
25–34 versus 65+
ns
35–44 versus 65+
1.7
45–54 versus 65+
ns
55–64 versus 65+
ns
Indigenous statusIndigenous versus non-Indigenous
0.6
Education levelDidn’t finish/at school versus university degree
ns
Year 10/equivalent versus university degree
0.7
Year 12/equivalent versus university degree
ns
Certificate/diploma versus university degree
ns
Legal event groupbCivil
Accident/injury versus average
1.7
Business versus average
ns
Consumer versus average
0.5
Credit/debt versus average
ns
Education versus average
ns
Employment versus average
1.6
Government versus average
ns
Health versus average
ns
Housing versus average
ns
Human rights versus average
0.4
Wills/estates versus average
1.9
Criminal
Domestic violence versus average
ns
General crime versus average
ns
Traffic offences versus average
ns
Family
Family versus average
ns
NON-SIGNIFICANT VARIABLES:   Gender, country of birth, disability status, personal income
a An odds ratio greater than 1.0 indicates the first category in the comparison had higher odds than the second.
An odds ratio less than 1.0 indicates the first category in the comparison had lower odds than the second.
b Each legal event group was compared to the average effect for all legal event groups (rather than to any specific legal event group).

Notes: N=2380 events and 1200 participants. Data on one or more potential predictor variables were missing for 541 events where information was provided on action taken.
‘ns’ indicates the odds ratio was not statistically significant, that is, the odds for the first category in the comparison were not statistically different from the odds for the second (even though the overall variable was significant).

Sociodemographic factors

Participants aged 35 to 44 years had odds of seeking help that were 1.7 times higher than those of participants aged 65 years or over (see Table 4.2). As shown in Table 4.3, whereas participants aged 65 years or over sought help for 50.0 per cent of events and handled 25.0 per cent of events on their own, 35 to 44 year olds sought help for 54.5 per cent of events and handled only 14.2 per cent of events on their own. Table 4.3 also shows that 15 to 24 year olds had the lowest rate of seeking help (43.2%), while people aged 65 or over had the second lowest rate of seeking help (50.0%). The youngest age group also had the highest rate of doing nothing (41.0%).5

Table 4.3: Action taken in response to legal events by each sociodemographic factor, all six LGAs, 2003

Sociodemographic factor
Sought help
% of events
Handled alone
% of events
Did nothing
% of events
No. of events
GenderFemale
51.6
16.6
31.8
1467
Male
50.8
15.4
33.8
1454
Total
51.2
16
32.8
2921
Age (years)15–24
43.2
15.8
41
525
25–34
51.3
15.3
33.4
674
35–44
54.5
14.2
31.2
660
45–54
54.9
15.2
29.9
566
55–64
51.4
16.9
31.7
290
65+
50
25
25
204
Total
51.2
16
32.8
2919
Indigenous statusIndigenous
36.8
12.3
50.9
114
Non-Indigenous
52.1
15.9
32
2483
Total
51.4
15.7
32.8
2597
Country of birthEnglish speaking
51.5
16.1
32.4
2565
Non-English speaking
48.4
15.2
36.4
349
Total
51.2
16
32.8
2914
Disability statusDisability
53.9
12.3
33.8
725
No disability
50.4
17.2
32.4
2186
Total
51.3
16
32.8
2911
Personal income ($/week)0–199
49.6
15.5
34.9
490
200–499
50.4
15.1
34.4
938
500–999
51.9
15.5
32.6
950
1000+
56.6
19.6
23.9
327
Total
51.5
15.9
32.6
2705
Education levelDidn’t finish/at school
45
19.6
35.4
271
Year 10/equivalent
47.2
17.5
35.3
714
Year 12/equivalent
51.1
14.4
34.5
589
Certificate/diploma
55.2
13.9
30.9
582
University degree
54.4
15.8
29.8
755
Total
51.3
15.9
32.8
2911
Note: Where the total for a given sociodemographic factor is less than 2921, data were missing on that factor.

The odds of seeking help for Indigenous participants were only about 0.6 times those for non-Indigenous participants (see Table 4.2). Whereas non-Indigenous Australians sought help in response to over half the legal issues they faced, Indigenous Australians sought help in response to only 36.8 per cent of their legal issues (see Table 4.3). Indigenous participants did nothing in response to 50.9 per cent of events whereas non-Indigenous participants did nothing in only 32.0 per cent of events (see Table 4.3).

The odds of seeking help for participants who had completed school only as far as Year 10 were 0.7 times those for university graduates (see Table 4.2). University graduates sought help for 54.4 per cent of events whereas those who completed school only as far as Year 10 sought help for 47.2 per cent of events (see Table 4.3).

Type of legal event

As shown in Table 4.2, compared with the odds of seeking help for all types of events, the odds of seeking help for accident/injury, employment and wills/estates events were higher than average, whereas the odds of seeking help for consumer and human rights events were lower than average. Figure 4.2 shows that help was sought for 57.8 per cent of accident/injury events, 56.6 per cent of employment events and 60.3 per cent of wills/estates event, but for only 37.3 per cent of consumer events and only 27.3 per cent of human rights events. The types of events that participants handled alone at the highest rates were related to consumer (28.2%), traffic offence (25.0%), wills/estates (22.5%) and education (21.5%) issues (see Figure 4.2). The types of events resulting in the highest rates of inaction were human rights (63.6%), traffic offence (50.0%), general crime (44.4%) and credit/debt (42.3%) events (see Figure 4.2).

Table 4.4 summarises the data in Figure 4.2, presenting the action taken in response to legal events broken down by the three broad areas of law, rather than by the 15 legal event groups. A chi-square test was conducted to examine whether the type of action taken was significantly related to whether the event was a civil, criminal or family law event.6 The relationship was significant. Respondents sought help for 55.4 per cent of family law events, but only 46.7 per cent of criminal events and 51.4 per cent of civil law events. Respondents did nothing about 43.3 per cent of criminal events, but only 31.6 per cent of civil events and 32.1 per cent of family events (see Table 4.4).

Figure 4.2: Action taken in response to legal events by legal event group, all six LGAs, 2003


Notes: N=2915 events. Six unclassified events were excluded.

Table 4.4: Action taken in response to legal events by broad area of law, all six LGAs, 2003

Area of law
Sought help
% of events
Handled alone
% of events
Did nothing
% of events
No. of events
Civil
51.4
17
31.6
2456
Criminal
46.7
10
43.3
291
Family
55.4
12.5
32.1
168
Total
51.2
16
32.8
2915
Notes: Six unclassified events were excluded.
x2=21.98, df=4, p=0.000.

A mixed-effects logistic regression was conducted because some participants provided information on their responses to more than one legal event.
That is, action taken was a binary outcome variable in the regression.
Note that the regression did not test comparisons between the youngest age group and every other age group.
Note this relationship was not examined in the regression.

 A mixed-effects logistic regression was conducted because some participants provided information on their responses to more than one legal event.
 That is, action taken was a binary outcome variable in the regression.
 Note that the regression did not test comparisons between the youngest age group and every other age group.
 Note this relationship was not examined in the regression.


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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