Violence Research Lab will be able to provide detailed insight into the phenomenology of delinquent violence in Croatia by addressing its’ incidence, structure, geographical distribution, offender profiles, victim profiles, and violence profiles. Based on the holistic approach in capturing all delinquent violence, ranging from the least sever misdemeanours (e.g. participating in a fight) to the most sever criminal offenses (e.g. aggravated murder), and the “phenomenologically thick description of violence”, it should be possible to ‘map’ the violence in Croatia, not according to its normative classification, but according to the level and quality of violence employed.
“GENUINE VIOLENCE CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM”
The collected data will be analysed using a specific set of parameters measuring the actual violence outside its normative context in order to find out whether a “genuine violence classification system” will result in a different ‘severity ranking’ of delinquent violence than the normative one. If so, and this is Violence Research Lab’s starting assumption, where are the differences most striking and what would be an adequate ‘translation’ into the normative language? It should be interesting to see the differences in Croatia’s violence mapping according to the normative and the actual violence ‘severity ranking’. Thus the data analysis will enable Violence Research Lab to assess the structure of delinquent violence, esp. in relation to particularly vulnerable groups of victims. A large share of delinquent violence in Croatia, that is usually labelled domestic violence, is prosecuted as misdemeanours and has therefore received only limited attention in terms of empirical research. Violence Research Lab will also cover this type of delinquent violence.
Based on the phenomenological findings Violence Research Lab will be able to investigate etiological explanations of delinquent violence, esp. related to specific (sub)types of offenders, victims, and violence. Criminogenic and victimogenic factors are of particular relevance, as they should have the highest value in terms of preventing and handling delinquent violence and protecting particularly vulnerable groups of victims. The findings should also enable Violence Research Lab to test criminological theories that have so far tried to explain delinquent violence.
Here Violence Research Lab will focus on the workflow analysis of delinquent violence into and through the prosecution process, which starts with detection, or non-detecting (‘dark figure’). Although empirically the prosecution process regarding non-detection and ‘dark figure’ will be addressed outside the framework of the planned case analysis, it is clearly in case of detection the starting point of the process analysis and closely connected to the reporting. This stage is particularly relevant since the “power to define” delinquent violence as a normative reality usually lies in the hands of the police and the public prosecutors. The mechanisms and criteria for defining a certain act of delinquent violence as a misdemeanour or a criminal offense, and the decision on the specific offense that will be further prosecuted (e.g. grave bodily injury or attempted murder), are of particular interest, as are the reasons for prosecutorial decisions to continue prosecution through indictments, or to stop further investigations and prosecution, or to solve the case through plea bargaining. The largest share of case ‘drop out’ happens at this stage and, at least in Croatia, there has never been conducted a comparable investigation into these prosecutorial filter mechanisms and criteria. In the next stage the focus will be on court adjudication and sentencing. Here some of the main research questions include evidence procedures, pre-trial detentions and their relation to sentencing probability, length of court proceedings, appeals and repeat trails, victim participation, sentencing practices and criteria, etc. Overall, this part of the data analysis should enable Violence Research Lab to assess the criminal justice response to delinquent violence in Croatia and specifically highlight the differences in proceedings and their outcomes when it comes to particularly vulnerable groups of victims.
Violence Research Lab’s last objective concerns the practical application of research findings with the aim of improving the protection of particularly vulnerable groups of victims. Although there is a considerable amount of strategies and specific protocols already in place in this area, preliminary findings based on practitioner consultations confirm the general impression that these are not being successfully implemented in practice, esp. regarding the mandatory collection of statistical data on certain types of delinquent violence by all government institutions. One of the reasons for non- or low-perception of these protocols in practice is their very general nature with a one-fits-all approach instead of targeted solutions for each institution involved in the process of preventing and detecting delinquent violence and cyber harassment. Based on Violence Research Lab’s research findings targeted solutions shall be offered via an overall national strategy paper with targeted manuals and protocols, but also through education and training.