Homelessness and Contact with the Criminal Justice System: Insights from Specialist Lawyers and Allied Professionals in Australia


Lawyers and allied professionals who have experience supporting, advising and representing people experiencing homelessness are uniquely placed to identify problems with the operation of the criminal justice system—from policing to courts to punishment—and to conceive reform options. This article reports the findings of qualitative interviews with lawyers and allied professionals in all Australian states and territories. Participants identified multiple points where decisions about criminal law enforcement fail to take adequate account of the complex factors that underlie ‘offending’ by people experiencing homelessness, producing outcomes that exacerbate disadvantage. They advanced a range of proposals for reform directed at breaking the nexus between homelessness and criminalisation, including re-conception of the role of police, adoption of therapeutic jurisprudence (or ‘solution-focused’) models in criminal courts, and major changes to the use of fines as a criminal punishment.

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Except where otherwise noted, content in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Published: 2021-03-01
Pages:111 to 129
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How to Cite
McNamara, L., Quilter, J., Walsh, T. and Anthony, T. (2021) “Homelessness and Contact with the Criminal Justice System: Insights from Specialist Lawyers and Allied Professionals in Australia”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 10(1), pp. 111-129. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.1742.

Author Biographies

University of New South Wales

Professor Luke McNamara is Co-Director of the Centre for Crime, Law and Justice, Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales, Australia. His current research examines the patterns, drivers, modalities and effects of criminalisation as a public policy tool, with a focus on regulation of behaviours and activities in public places.

University of Wollongong

Associate Professor, School of Law, University of Wollongong

The University of Queensland

Professor, TC Beirne School of Law, The University of Queensland

University of Technology Sydney

Professor of Law, University of Technology Sydney.