This module is a resource for lecturers  


Case studies


Several case studies are provided to illustrate the different aspects of the topic. These can be used as handouts or included in the relevant sections of the lecture. Case studies are necessarily geographically specific. Regionally or locally relevant case studies can be constructed by viewing materials available from regional and local crime prevention entities.


Case Study 1 - The Corinna Horvath Case

On 5 June 2014, the UN Human Rights Committee found that Ms. Horvath's right to an effective remedy was violated, in relation to the cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, arbitrary arrest and detention to which she was subjected, and the interference with her home and privacy. The Committee recommended legislative reform in Victoria and adequate compensation for Ms. Horvath. Read the full decision at Horvath v Australia (2014)

On 19 September 2014, Ms. Horvath obtained an individual remedy, a written apology from the Victorian Police Commissioner and an ex gratia payment as compensation for the violent assault on her by police in 1996. In October 2015, Justice Teague recommended to the Victorian Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) that Victoria Police should investigate bringing criminal charges against Leading Senior Constable David Jenkin, who is still a serving police officer. Possible charges range from assault to intentionally causing serious injury (Bucci and Lee, 2015). In November 2016, IBAC charged Leading Senior Constable David Jenkin with recklessly causing injury, recklessly causing serious injury, intentionally causing injury and intentionally causing serious injury. Jenkin, still a police officer, was removed from operational duties, with a Magistrates' Court hearing scheduled for 19 December (Bucci, 2016). In November 2018, David Jenkin was tried in the County Court of Victoria for intentionally causing serious injury, recklessly causing serious injury, intentionally causing injury and recklessly causing injury. The jury acquitted Jenkin and Ms Horvath said she considered the case over (Cooper, 2018).


Case study 2 - Corrective Rape in South Africa

"South Africa has one of the world’s highest rates of sexual assault. According to a 2009 government survey, one in four men admit to having sex with a woman who did not consent to intercourse, and nearly half of these men admitted to raping more than once. An earlier government study found that a majority of rapes were committed by friends and acquaintances of the victim. Just as disturbing is a practice called “corrective rape” — the rape of gay men and lesbians to “cure” them of their sexual orientation.

In one of the few cases to attract press attention, in 2008, Eudy Simelane, a lesbian, was gang-raped and stabbed to death. Her naked body was dumped in a stream in the Kwa Thema township outside Johannesburg. A soccer player training to be a referee for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, she was targeted because of her sexual orientation. In 2011, Noxolo Nogwaza, 24, was raped, and stabbed multiple times with glass shards. Her skull was shattered. Her eyes were reportedly gouged from their sockets. Ms. Nogwaza had been seen earlier that evening in a bar with a female friend.

South Africa …was the fifth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage … with horrific apartheid in recent memory, the country’s 1996 Constitution committed itself to equality for the entire nation. But the new constitution could not erase deeply held biases and even hatred toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. If anything, the extension of formal legal protections exacerbated some people’s worst homophobic inclinations.…multiple layers of South African society were responsible for the epidemic of corrective rape and that bias, apathy and culpability ran deep …: in educational and religious institutions, the criminal justice system, and even within families. I met victims whose loved ones let rapists back into their homes, or even abetted the sexual assaults, sometimes under the influence of local ministers. Police officers did not document or investigate these assaults.

… Simphiwe Thandeka, was “correctively” raped three times. A tomboy, she was raped at age 13 by an uncle who didn’t approve of her “boyish” ways. “I didn’t know at the time it was rape, because I was only 13,” she told me. The next morning, she awoke bleeding and in severe pain. She spoke to her mother and grandmother, who insisted it was a family matter and was not to be spoken of again. Some years later, Simphiwe’s uncle decided that marriage would “cure” his niece of her sexuality. So he arranged a marriage for her. “He took me to his friend’s house and told me I must have sex with this man, because I was going to marry him next month,” she recounted. “I had no idea what was going on.” The friend raped Simphiwe multiple times, and beat her with a clothes hanger. “He told me I was going to be his wife and not a lesbian,” she said. The following morning, the friend returned her to her uncle’s house. “He told my uncle he couldn’t marry me because I was still a lesbian, and returned the money my uncle had given him,” she said. During a hospital visit, Simphiwe learned that she had contracted H.I.V. from her uncle and had become pregnant by his friend. “My Mum had known my uncle was positive, but she never told me,” she said. After giving birth to a son, she was raped again, this time by a priest in her township — who also impregnated her. She gave birth to a daughter. She gave her children Zulu names: her boy Happiness, and her daughter Blessing. “I opened a case against the priest but nothing happened,” she said. “They kept losing documents; there was a lot of confusion. There were a lot of people against me, this man was a priest, and they love him so much so they took his side.” She added: “I don’t have any support from my family or the community, so what could I do? I just left it like that. The only thing I can do is love my children.”

Citation for Case Study 2: Carter, Clare (2013). The Brutality of ‘Corrective Rape’ The New York Times 27 July 2013.

Case study 3 - Alternatives to Imprisonment (Penal Reform International)

In many countries in Africa, prisons are severely overcrowded.

“According to the International Centre for Prison Studies’ World Prison Brief, the number of prisoners exceeds capacity in 37 out of 46 African countries. In 10 countries occupancy levels are operating at more than twice capacity. The occupancy rates in countries where PRI currently works are 115% in Tanzania, 202% in Kenya and 273% in Uganda. This is largely the result of excessive use of pre-trial detention and disproportionate prison sentences.

Approximately half of those detained at any one time are awaiting justice. Pre-trial detainees represent 55% of prisoners in Uganda, 50% in Tanzania and 40% in Kenya. Many will spend months and even years in detention – without being tried or found guilty.

Large numbers of those sentenced to prison receive relatively short prison sentences for minor offences. Research conducted by PRI in East Africa in 2012 showed that people are imprisoned for offences ranging from using abusive language and operating without a valid business licence to desertion of a child and unlawful gambling (PRI, 2012). It is likely that at least some of these offences could be dealt with in a more effective and cost-efficient way than a prison sentence.”

Prison Reform International has a strong record of working in partnership with governments and NGOs to develop non-custodial measures in Africa, as well as to promote good prison management. In the early 1990s we assisted with the development of community service in Zimbabwe and subsequently worked in a number of countries in East Africa to help establish Community Service Orders (CSOs) as an alternative to imprisonment.

“Thanks in part to Prison Reform International’s work, the use of Community Service Orders (CSOs) increased. For example, CSOs given by magistrates in Kenya rose from 3,000 orders in 1990 to 55,000 in 1997. However, there was then a sharp decline, and in 2012, we started work to help identify the reasons why this had happened. In partnership with probation and aftercare services and civil society partners, we are now addressing the challenges that are currently preventing greater use of community service and other alternatives to imprisonment, including pre-trial measures”.

“We are helping to address decongestion in prisons in KenyaUganda and Tanzania by developing models of good practice, and by providing training and technical assistance to promote the use of alternatives. We also facilitate the sharing of good practice and expertise within the wider region. We publish research and guidance on alternatives, including Alternatives to imprisonment in East Africa: trends and challenges and a resource pack Making Community Service Work: A Resource Pack from East Africa. We are supporting probation services to raise awareness among local communities about community service orders and the potential benefits for communities. We conduct training workshops and conferences for magistrates and prison and probation services on alternatives to imprisonment and on good practice for implementing community service orders. We are supporting the development of the African Network on Probation and Community Service (CAPC), which has been set up to facilitate the exchange of good practice, experience and collaboration among probation services in Africa. To support civil society in the region, the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (Uganda) and PRI established an e-network of NGOs to share information, good practice and enable collaboration in the promotion of alternatives to imprisonment, justice for children and improved treatment and conditions for women in the criminal justice system. This work is currently largely delivered through our Excellence in Training on Rehabilitation in Africa (ExTRA) Project (2014-2016) funded by the UK Government. This pilot projects aims to increase and improve the use of community service orders with the end goal of reducing chronic overcrowding. It works with all the different, but inter-linking, levels of the criminal justice system, delivering training, awareness raising, and practical expertise and support to government probation services, the judiciary and community supervision officers.”

Citation for Case Study 3: Penal Reform International, (n.d.). Alternatives to Imprisonment.

Case study 4: Muslim Voices: Perceptions of Policing in India

Status of Policing in India Report 2018: A Study of Performance and Perceptions

“In 2018, two civil society organisations - Common Cause and the Lokniti Programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies - published a first-ever comprehensive report on policing in India. Covering 22 States, it combines official data from government sources with surveys of public perceptions of policing, on a host of parameters, including perceptions of discrimination by the police. Surveys were done to gather public opinion on whether the police discriminate on the basis of caste, religion, gender, class, and region/state.

The report throws up that institutional bias manifests in various ways – in low levels of diversity, as well as police actions towards certain groups. Hard data reveals that bias shows itself in police decisions on who to arrest: disproportionality high for minorities, the poor, and marginalised groups. It reinforces the glaring reality that Muslim representation is disproportionately low in the police and disproportionately high in prisons (see below). It states that “institutional discrimination” is a feature of policing that “cannot be denied.” 

Yet, the perceptions of discrimination, reported through the surveys, were only moderate. Taken together across the Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christian respondents, 19% held that the police discriminate on the basis of religion, while the majority denied discrimination. Muslims stand out as expressing in the highest numbers that police are discriminatory on the basis of religion.

The survey results of discrimination on the basis of religion (and in fact on the other parameters as well) diverge significantly from existing official literature (some cited above), civil society fact-finding and documentation, and documented lived experiences. This is perhaps an indication that purely quantitative, data-driven methodologies deter individuals, particularly those from marginalized communities, from honestly expressing being discriminated against. There may be conscious, or unconscious, fear at play in admitting, in a public survey, that a law enforcement body like the police discriminates.

Measuring bias and discrimination may require a combination of methodologies, and targeted efforts designed on the basis of the contexts (including the documented history of discrimination) of each community, rather than an omnibus all-in-one survey, to have the best chances of eliciting honest perceptions.”

Citation for Case Study 4: Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (2018). Muslim Voices: Perceptions of Policing in India.

Case study 5: Justice for Syrian Victims Beyond Trials: The Need for New, Innovative Uses for Documentation of Human Rights Violations in Syria

“A critical challenge to pursuing justice for victims of serious human rights violations in Syria concerns the objectives of documentation. At the international level, the issue of justice has been framed almost exclusively in terms of criminal accountability, with a focus on the Commission of Inquiry, the IIIM, the ICC, possible ad hoc hybrid tribunals, and universal jurisdiction. At the national level, Syrian organizations formed since 2012 followed this lead, specifically training and building their missions around criminal prosecution objectives. With regime change now an unlikely outcome of the war and progress at the international level slow, however, these organizations have begun to reorient their documentation work toward new goals, which could complement the longer-term objective of holding perpetrators responsible. Addressing its objectives, documentation’s relationship to different transitional justice measures and possible use for purposes other than criminal prosecutions remain a difficult but critical challenge. Developing new and innovative uses for the material that Syrian organizations have documented and continue to document is key to achieving objectives related to acknowledgment, victims’ right to truth, memory, property, civil status, and the missing and forcibly disappeared. Support from the international community for developing innovative approaches and uses for documentation is critical.”

Citation for Case Study 5: Kabawat, Nousha, and Travesi, Fernando (2018). “Justice for Syrian Victims Beyond Trials: The Need for New, Innovative Uses for Documentation of Human Rights Violations in Syria” ICTJ Briefing.
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