This thesis is comprised of two basic portions: the first being an historical survey of the changing attitudes towards major sexual offences in Queensland since its separation from New South Wales in 1859, and the second a detailed investigation of the elements of all the rape and attempted rape trials occurring in that State during the eleven-year period of 1957 to 1967.
Attention in the historical section of the thesis was focused chiefly on the alterations which the laws relating to major sexual offences underwent in the past 110 years. These changes were caused in the main by new social attitudes towards sexual and moral behaviour. Often these alterations (both social and legal) emanated from Britain and were subsequently adopted in the colony; however, this tendency began steadily to decrease as the nineteenth century drew to a close. Even earlier, arguments based on the geographic and demographic differences between Queensland and Britain had been successfully advanced to prevent the adoption by the Colonial Legislature of all such British reform measures. One notable example of this was the retention of rape as a capital offence in Queensland until 1899, some 58 years longer than was the case in the Mother Country.
Particular emphasis was placed on the various arguments advanced by parliamentarians, judges, and members of social pressure groups regarding major sexual offences, sexual offenders, and their victims, whether such arguments were successful in achieving or preventing law reforms on these matters or not. The interest here was not so much on the relevant merits of the arguments advanced, but on the extent to which they enjoyed parliamentary, public, or judicial support within Queensland.
In the second, analytical section of this thesis, an investigation was made of all the trials resulting in a conviction for either rape or attempted rape which were held in Queensland during the years 1957-67 inclusive. From this examination a considerable amount of factual data was obtained concerning the offenders and the victims involved in these two major sexual crimes, and some generalized profiles of the offenders, victims, and crime-situations were given. The established characteristics of both the participants in, and the elements of, these two crimes were then compared with the numerous expressed assertions and underlying assumptions contained in the various arguments and "theories" which had previously been found to hold, or to have held at one time, some degree of influence and/or popularity in Queensland.
With regard to several of these "theories" (e.g. the alleged deterrent effect of corporal punishment on sexual offenders), this statistical analysis provided no satisfactory information; but other "theories" experienced either considerable corroboration or contradiction as a result of this investigation. A particularly intensive examination was made of the cases of "pack" rape which occurred in this eleven-year period, and a comparison between these and other, "non-pack" cases revealed that such crimes involved offenders and victims significantly different in such characteristics as age, marital status, and (in the case of the victims) chastity from those found to be the participants in "non-pack" cases. The characteristics of the crime-situations in "pack" as opposed to "non-pack" cases were also found to be significantly different in several important aspects (e.g. in the extensive use made of a motor vehicle by "packs" and their choice of an isolated bush area as the location of the crime). These factors combined to lend strong support to the conclusion that "pack" rape is a product of modern society, with its increased affluence and its changed standards of morality, rather than being merely the result of such happenings as the closing of the brothels or the coming of television. Not that these factors necessarily had no effect.
Special, separate attention was paid to the presently popular argument that the system of sentencing convicted offenders in Queensland (i.e. by the trial judge) is inadequate, irrational and inconsistent. None of the factors on which considerations as to the severity of sentences appeared (after statistical analysis of the cases examined) to be based, however, could be classed as irrelevant to such a decision. And, although the sentences given in this period by the various Supreme Court Judges were closely examined, few, if any, unexplained variations or inconsistencies between individual judges or between judges of different religions or educational environments were found. Nothing, then, emerged from this investigation which in any way provided support for this particular "theory".