Archive for the 'Criminal Justice' Category

50 Facts Everyone Should Know About Crime and Punishment in Britain

50 facts everyone should know about crime and punishment in Britain_FC

Did you know that, contrary to public belief, in the UK a life sentence does last for life? And that capital punishment in the UK was abolished for murder in 1965 but the Death Penalty was a legally defined punishment as late as 1998?

50 Facts Everyone Should Know About Crime and Punishment in Britain, written by leading experts, presents 50 key facts related to crime and criminal justice policy in Britain.

The editors James Treadwell and Adam Lynes talk about the inception of the book and what inspired them to write it in this excerpt from the introduction:

“Upon embarking on this journey of compiling facts about crime-related matters from contemporary issues in prisons to crime and its victims, a quote from one of the earliest pioneers in academic populism, Carl Sagan came to mind:

We wish to find the truth, no matter where it lies. But to find the truth we need imagination and skepticism both. We will not be afraid to speculate, but we will be careful to distinguish speculation from fact. (Carl Sagan (1980) Cosmos: a Personal Voyage, Episode 1).

Clearly, Sagan was framing this eloquent statement around the scientific pursuit for knowledge about the Universe and our place within it, and not about crime per se. This book is indeed focused on the topic of crime and criminal justice, yet Sagan’s words provide an important reminder that this assortment of ‘facts’ consists of countless voices – each trying to influence and shape how we perceive crime, criminals and its victims, while attempting not to drown and be silenced by all the others.

‘Facts’ can be myth busting or truth revealing. The term ‘fact’ can, of course, have different meanings in different contexts: a fact may sometimes have been presented as an absolute fact (a truth that is uncontested) or as a relative fact, and yet, what constitutes the parameters of truth or fact can be contested in all realms. The language of criminology and academia necessarily often deals in caveats, where estimates, approximates, averages and suggestions are cautiously preferred to grand and sweeping claims that might be proven falsehoods.

Crime is also an emotive subject, where values, morals, ethics, beliefs, views and opinions sit alongside fact. What constitutes a fact in criminology is rightly often contested. Hence we have used the term ‘facts’ here not to introduce the readers to absolute or uncontested topics, but rather to attempt to frame a broad discussion that involves 50 academics, some well established, some earlier in their careers, writing accessibly on issues on which they are knowledgeable.

The text is in many ways a provocation. It was conceived as an attempt to give readers an accessible introduction to the topics of crime and punishment in Britain today. What appears here are several discussions around crime and the criminal justice system, where the term ‘fact’ is broadly used to take accepted wisdom and then discuss that critically in a bid to get readers to think more deeply about issues. Yet how to structure this is, in and of itself, not unproblematic.

The Ministry of Justice is a ministerial department of the British government, and while historically people may have asserted that ‘British justice is the finest in the world’, the organisation of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland into separate legal systems already means that to talk of crime in Britain is problematic. That does not stop the term being used. For example, Former Lord Chancellor Charles Falconer lamented in February 2018 in the Guardian that ‘British justice is in flames. The MoJ’s fiddling is criminal’ (Falconer, 2018).

Yet perhaps our first fact ought to be that British justice is problematic.

We have attempted to be accurate, presenting material so as to be clear, but the spirit of this text is one that encourages critical engagement, and to encourage the reader not to simply accept at face value what is claimed as fact. In particular, the social sciences are often presented as dealing with facts, when in reality they are a framework for interpreting, systemising and predicting future outcomes based on empirical observations…

What we do know is that, in basing the contributions here on research and data, the 50 contributing authors present facts that will give the reader a better knowledge of the contemporary place of crime and control in Britain. It will better equip you reader with imagination and scepticism, and a basic knowledge that will aid you to appraise and critically evaluate the claims you hear being made about crime. We hope you enjoy it.”

 

50 facts everyone should know about crime and punishment in Britain_FC50 Facts Everyone Should Know about Crime and Punishment in Britain, edited by James Treadwell and Adam Lynes is available on the Bristol University Press website. Order here for £10.39.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

#MeToo and the underlying contradictions of patriarchy

jgbv_cover2_dw-1-smallBy Emma Williamson, Co-Editor of the Journal of Gender-Based Violence

Recent weeks have seen a deluge of allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, with the media scrambling to print stories from A-List celebrities: allegations, what they knew (or didn’t), or whether Harvey Weinstein’s behaviour is the tip of a toxic iceberg.

The original story discloses allegations stretching back three decades. What is clear from the subsequent coverage is that people knew: his company, his family, his colleagues and the media. In fact, the New York Times itself, has been accused of suppressing an article written by one of its own journalists, Sharon Waxman, in 2004.

weinstein

The account above is not new. If you replace Harvey Weinstein with Bill Cosby or Jimmy Savile (had he been identified before his death), the sense of entitlement and power is exactly the same. It is also the same in those everyday cases where neither the victim nor perpetrator is famous, and which the media rarely report. What unites all of these perpetrators/abusers is that, as Herman (1992) states, “It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain”. [Herman, Trauma and Recovery, 1992].

Following the allegations, there has been critique and soul searching from a range of sources. Donna Karan was roundly lambasted for suggesting that women in the movie industry who act in a certain way are probably ‘asking for it’.

“You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they are asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble.” 

We have also seen more subtle forms of victim blaming-shaming. The Daily Mail’s double page spread of female stars being snapped with Weinstein failed to recognise the power he had in the industry, and that it was that power to make or break an individual’s career which protected him.

Following the increasing number of allegations, Alyssa Milano initiated a #MeToo campaign. Her intention was for women who had experienced abuse to show solidarity with those who had come forward, and to show just how widespread such abuse is. The Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow applauded the movement. “The democratization of the spread of information can finally move faster than a powerful media mogul’s attempts to bury it,” she said by email.

It is important to recognise that #MeToo was originally a campaign launched by Tarana Burke, a Black American Women, in response to a lack of services for this group of victims of abuse. Identifying oneself in this way was intended to offer direct support to others in their network when statutory and other support was non-existent . This was framed as ‘empowerment through empathy’.

“It was a catchphrase to be used from survivor to survivor to let folks know that they were not alone and that a movement for radical healing was happening and possible.”

The current #MeToo campaign arose from a desire for victims to show solidarity with those who, for a variety of reasons, didn’t feel able to come forward. The debates about this campaign however, illustrate the debates about misogyny itself. Some accuse the campaign of targeting women as responsible for naming the abuse.

Making the point that for many victims this in itself is harmful and distressing. Others, like Heather Jo Flores have stated that men need to do more .

“It shouldn’t fall to the victims, again, to have to keep speaking out. I’m not saying anybody should stop speaking out, just that I wish more people would start listening, because we are f*cking exhausted…… Until men speak out against men who abuse, this will never stop. How about y’all post “I ignored it and I won’t anymore” instead? Because #hearyou doesn’t cut it. Just hearing us doesn’t cut it. Taking action, speaking out, and showing zero tolerance for abuse is the only way through. Silence enables. Be the change.”

And here we come to the underlying contradictions of patriarchy. Perpetrators seek our silence by manipulation, threat, harm. Yet even when we break our silence, we still make them invisible by turning the focus yet again on the victims. Perhaps the most important thing we can remember, when the new scandal breaks, which it inevitably will, is captured by that sense of exhaustion Flores talks about.

“Men, it’s not our job to keep reminding you. Remind each other, and stop abusing. It’s as simple as that.”

 

jgbv_cover2_dw-1-smallDr Emma Williamson is a Reader in Gender-Based Violence at the University of Bristol and a Co-Editor of the Journal of Gender-Based Violence. The first issue of the Journal is now available online, and the editorial is free to read.

You may also be interested in the special issue of Families Relationships and Societies on Violence Against Women and Children in Diverse Contexts.

 

 

Image: Image credit: “Harvey Weinstein, Chairman, The Weinstein Company” is copyright (c) 2015 Thomas Hawk and made available under a Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 license

The importance of the advice sector in the context of legal aid cuts

Originally published by PolicyBristol on the 19th June 2017.

Dr. Sarah Moore

The PolicyBristol blog has the pleasure of welcoming this guest post by Dr Sarah Moore, who was one of the participants in the recent book launch of Advising in Austerity. Reflections on challenging times for advice agencies (Policy Press, 2017). Dr Moore is also the co-author of Legal aid in crisis. Assessing the impact of reform (Policy Press, 2017) and offers here her insightful views on the need to boost the activities and funding of the legal advice sector.

Anyone familiar with legal aid reform will know that the Legal Aid and Sentencing of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) has dramatically altered the meaning and nature of legal aid. It has meant, amongst other things, a significant reduction in funding, largely achieved by taking a large number of areas of civil law out of scope, including private family law cases, and almost all cases involving social welfare, housing, medical negligence, immigration, debt, and employment.

The most strenuous critics of LASPO have pointed out that the recent funding cuts restrict people’s access to justice. In answering to these problems, LASPO incorporated a set of exceptions. Those who could provide evidence that they had been victims of domestic violence, for example, were to be given access to legal aid to pursue family law cases. And an Exceptional Case Funding caveat was incorporated in the Act for those who could successfully make a case that their human rights would be breached without publicly-funded legal assistance. Both have been woefully inadequate.

Research led by Rights of Women indicates that, even after the government relaxed the rules on domestic violence evidence and legal aid eligibility, a significant proportion of female victims (38% in their 2014 survey) did not have the mandatory evidence to receive publically-funded support. And the Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) scheme has been a disaster by anyone’s standards. In the first year post-LASPO, the Legal Aid Agency received only 1,520 applications for ECF. According to the Public Accounts Committee, only 69 were granted funding. That is far, far fewer than the Ministry of Justice and Legal Aid Agency had predicted in the post-LASPO period. Applications have picked up in the last year, as has the acceptance rate, but the fact remains that this safety net is sorely under-used.

Assessing the impact of LASPO

In assessing the impact of LASPO, academics and policy-makers have tended to focus on the impact of reform on the courtroom and litigation. There is certainly much to talk about here. Funding for civil representation and litigation now stands at about two-thirds of its pre-LASPO level, and this has led, amongst other things, to a steep rise in people representing themselves in the courtroom, so-called litigants in person.

All this has been well-documented, not least of all by Trinder et al’s (2014) excellent review of the difficulties faced by litigants in person in family law courts. What has received less attention is the steep decrease in funding for legal advice, with government funding for this form of support now at around one third of its pre-LASPO level. That is a staggeringly sharp decline in a four year period, one that even took the Legal Aid Agency and Ministry of Justice by surprise. This cut to funding has led to a radical change in the landscape of legal advice by prompting the closure of Law Centres, solicitors’ firms where legal aid was previously bread-and-butter work, and, of course, organisations in the advice sector.

The role of the advice sector post-LASPO

What does all this mean for the advice sector, and how might we start to think about the distinctive value of these organisations in a post-LASPO world? For one thing, the steep decline in state funding for legal advice has had the dual-effect of decreasing advice agencies’ budgets and increasing the unmet need for sources of support. And, as mentioned earlier, legal advice has been particularly hit by the cuts, making need for this support especially acute. It is therefore no surprise that, post-LASPO, the advice sector has played a crucial role in plugging the gap in legal support, even whilst it has undergone its own funding struggles.

The value of the advice sector post-LASPO also lies in its role in signposting people to exceptional case funding and, where capacity allows, supporting people in making applications. If LASPO’s exceptions and special provisions are to work, there needs to be support for people to make an application — people, it bears repeating, who are particularly vulnerable and ill-equipped for legal dispute. This lack of support is the principle reason for the failure of the Exceptional Case Funding caveat, and, as a set of organisations that tend already to have contact with the most vulnerable members of our society, the advice sector is potentially key to improving the take-up of this funding and thereby providing access to justice.

Lastly, the advice sector has a valuable role to play in improving public knowledge about eligibility rules for legal aid. Year on year post-LASPO, there has been a drop in casework for civil legal aid work. That downward spiral is not due to a decline in need. It reflects, amongst other things, the public’s understandable confusion about eligibility, and the presumption that legal aid no longer exists — that, at least, is the explanation offered by the House of Commons Justice Committee. And, again, as the advice sector necessarily plays a key role here in informing the public about what is available.

Advice as access to justice

The advice sector can play a really important role, then, in mitigating the effect of LASPO and making real its promise to offer a safety net. It can only do that with proper funding and support, and that requires a major shift in public debate so that the role of advice in ensuring access to justice is recognised. Herein lies a major challenge for the advice sector. Advising people on legal matters (or matters that have a legal dimension) is crucial work; it is also poorly-understood (in academic and policy terms) and relatively neglected in mainstream media coverage of legal aid cuts. This is despite the fact that public need for advice is growing as we enter a seventh year of ‘austerity’.

As we restrict people’s access to state services and welfare, people’s legal needs become more multifaceted and interwoven with social and psychological problems, as the accounts in Advising in Austerity (Kirwan, 2017) so neatly illustrate. The young woman seeking advice on an illegal eviction may also be managing a cut to her benefits, her employment may have become more erratic, and the public services in her local area may have deteriorated. This is what austerity means ‘in the round’, and it is just such a holistic conception of need that the advice sector is well-able to attend to, with its distinctive ability to provide advice on legal matters and information about broader social services. And, of course, in doing this important work, advice agencies do more than simply fill an information gap; they help explain official rules and decisions, often to people who are especially prone to feeling like they’ve been left behind and let down by social authorities. This, too, is what access to justice looks like. Making this case is all the more important in a post-LASPO era.

This blog post was first published in the Bristol Law School blog.

Legal aid in crisis [FC]Legal aid in crisis by Sarah Moore and Alex Newbury is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for £10.39

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Introducing the new Journal of Gender-Based Violence

Co-Editor Emma Williamson introduces the new Journal of Gender-Based Violence, an international journal committed to social justice and to lending a voice to those who work in or have experienced gender-based violence in their lives. 

Emma Williamson

As a co-editor of the journal and currently the Head of the Centre for Gender and Violence Research, where the Journal is based, it is an honour to launch the first issue of Journal of Gender-Based Violence and share what it means to us, and to our international colleagues – activists, policy-makers, front line staff, and academics. We have made the first issue free to access online until 30 June and hope it will be widely shared and read.

The driving force behind the journal is Professor Marianne Hester, who has contemplated what this journal might look like for some time. As she highlights in the editorial of the first issue, the launch begs the question ‘why now?’. Increasingly over recent years those working in this field have had the opportunity to reflect on both progress and success. But we are also aware of threats to the legal and social advances which have been hard won, and concerned about how protections can be rolled back – under the guise of ideology or economics.

Continue reading ‘Introducing the new Journal of Gender-Based Violence’

Telling the truth about Baby P: Ray Jones on the impact of his book

Ray

Ray Jones

As part of our focus on impact for Academic Book Week, author Ray Jones talks about the terrible and tragic death of Peter Connelly, the devastating fallout for the social work profession, and how his book, The Story of Baby P, has made a difference.

The terrible and tragic death of 17 month old Peter Connelly in Haringey, North London, in August 2007 became a major media story in November 2008 when his mother and two men were found guilty of ‘causing or allowing’ Peter’s death.

To avoid prejudicing a further trial, when one of the men was convicted of raping a little girl, the media was not allowed to publish Peter’s real name so he became known as ‘Baby P’. The press, politicians and police worked together on shaping the ‘Baby P story’ so that it targeted social workers and their managers who were described by The Sun newspaper as having ‘blood on their hands’.

The police and health services faded unseen and uncriticised to the margins of the media coverage, although it is now known that there were significant failings and omissions in their contacts with the Connelly family.

‘A campaign for justice’

It was The Sun newspaper and its editor, Rebekah Brooks, who had full page ‘Baby P’ stories day-after-day as she ran ‘a campaign for justice’ demanding the sackings of the social workers, their managers and, in particular, Sharon Shoesmith, Haringey Council’s director of children’s services.

“A shameful and sordid bullying use of Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid power.”

Continue reading ‘Telling the truth about Baby P: Ray Jones on the impact of his book’

Moving into policing – as a leader and a learner

maggie-blyth

Maggie Blyth

Maggie Blyth, author of some of our best-selling texts on children at risk has recently taken her extensive experience working in local and national government to a Direct Entry Superintendent role in the police. In this blog post, originally posted on Maggie’s own blog on 7 January, she talks about the experience so far. 

“A few weeks ago, after a lengthy application process, I became a police officer.

Not just a new job but a sweeping career change following 30 years immersed in another sector – formerly education, then youth justice, most latterly child protection. I feel deeply honoured to be entering a new career at the latter stage of my working life and to be joining a progressive police force, in such an important role, but I don’t underestimate the challenge ahead – for me it’s a two way process.

“I don’t underestimate the challenge ahead – for me it’s a two way process.”

Continue reading ‘Moving into policing – as a leader and a learner’


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