Posts Tagged 'Criminal Justice'

Partners in crime? Understanding coercion and choice in co-offending



Charlotte Barlow

High-profile male and female co-offenders provide fascinating, yet disturbing, images of crime and deviancy; the likes of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady and Rose and Fred West being some of the most infamous offenders in UK history.

It is often questioned how two people can be as ‘evil’ as each other, but this approach is usually overly simplistic. Here, Charlotte Barlow, author of Coercion and women co-offenders examines the complexities inherent in such relationships.

Although many female co-offenders are ‘equal’ partners and make an autonomous decision to offend, other women may have a less autonomous offending role. There have been a number of high-profile cases in recent years involving women who co-offended with a male partner who suggested that their relationship, at least to some extent, influenced their motivations to offend. This raises interesting questions about the possibility of coercion.

What is coercion?

Coercion means persuading or encouraging someone to do something by using force, threats, abuse (including physical, psychological, economic and/ or emotional), manipulation (including love or obsession) and/or control. The possibility of being coerced or forced into crime, with a male partner/ co-offender influencing motivations to offend, is a lived reality for some co-offending women, particularly if this relationship is characterised by violence, abuse or control.

Shauna Hoare and Nathan Matthews

Continue reading ‘Partners in crime? Understanding coercion and choice in co-offending’

The complexity of convergence: criminal justice, mental health and risk

The World Mental Health Day earlier this month aimed to create awareness and mobilise efforts to support the mental health of individuals.  Editors of A companion to criminal justice, mental health and risk, Paul Taylor, Karen Corteen and Sharon Morley, which publishes today, have a particular interest in the point of ideological, legislative , practical and procedural convergence between mental healthcare and criminal justice.

In their blog post academics and Policy Press authors Paul Taylor, Karen Corteen and Sharon Morley begin to outline some of the intertwining issues surrounding criminal justice and mental health.

PT, SM, KCNational and international awareness days are just one example of the myriad of activities aimed at promoting mental health agendas. Indeed, here in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, those tasked with the mandate of support, educating about, and treating mental health issues are cross-disciplinary and multi-agency. One area, among many, of discussion and debate on the improvement of mental wellbeing and the support of mental health issues is in the criminal justice context.

Those in contact with the criminal justice system who experience poor mental health may be considered as exceptionally vulnerable. A system whose remit is to respond to a variety of crises – be that of a criminal or personal/social nature – is a system of complexity with a range of demands placed upon it.

Precarious system

Moreover, it is a precarious system whereby the expectations placed upon it are diverse, with innumerable competing aims. Allegations that aspects of the criminal justice process fail to support the needs of those with mental vulnerabilities are frequently expressed, and so too are those concerns that the system itself is implicit in creating and exacerbating mental health issues.

So then, the mobilisation of policies and services to address mental health in a criminal justice context have evolved, but at the same time has come under scrutiny. Indeed for some, the boundaries between healthcare and criminal justice have become blurred, and not always with positive outcomes.

This critical approach to the intersections of criminal justice and mental health legislation, policy and practice have grown gradually and have illuminated upon the ideological, legislative, practical and procedural convergence between mental healthcare and criminal justice (see for example, Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, 2010).

“A criminal justice system facing pressures to be efficient that at the same time is punishing more and more individuals finds itself riven with dilemmas”

Convergence continues to take place in many criminal justice and penal systems. It is complex to observe, sophisticated in form and influenced by a range of imperatives, agendas and discourses. The overlapping areas of criminal justice, mental healthcare and risk require a critical and balanced understanding, and along the way, require observers to ask the question “who benefits?”

Multiagency approaches and cross-discipline developments in the area of mental healthcare, risk management and criminal justice are becoming increasing normalised in the organising principles of those subject to sanctions and interventions.

The benefits of increased convergence are well documented, not least in the developing agendas to support mental health issues in areas such as court diversion and prisons. But at the same time, understanding the complexities of convergent practices provides a potential to be alerted to unintended consequences and less-than-positive outcomes.

A criminal justice system facing pressures to be efficient that at the same time is punishing more and more individuals finds itself riven with dilemmas, not least when thinking about the support and treatment of those subject to its controls.

The delivery of therapeutic interventions within an environment of sanctions is ideologically contradictory to say the least, and so the challenges facing those tasked with the planning and delivery of interventions are increasingly becoming more acute.

A companion to criminal justice mental health & riskA companion to criminal justice, mental health and risk by Paul Taylor, Karen Corteen and Sharon Morley is available at the discounted price of £22.39 (RRP £27.99) from Policy Press website, here.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost 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.

Margaret Thatcher and her legacy on criminology

Emma Wincup

Emma Wincup

by Emma Wincup, author of Understanding crime and social policy, publishing this month.

I have been reflecting since the death of Thatcher last month why there has been so little discussion of crime issues given the enormous amount of media coverage devoted to analysis of the impact of the policies she pursued. The run-up to her entry into Downing Street is widely cited by criminologists as one of the first General Elections in which law and order issues featured prominently alongside the usual suspects of health, education and the economy. Looking back, 1979 has become a watershed year; one in which the main political parties started to develop their distinctive crime agenda, which has too frequently ended up in a game of leapfrog with parties competing for who can be the toughest on crime.

We can easily look back and identify policies which might have contributed to rising crime rates throughout the 1980s, alongside increasing inequality: unemployment, and it’s devastating effects on communities; restrictions on eligibility for welfare, especially among young people; and reduced access to social housing. There is ample evidence to suggest that reduced welfare spending and unemployment are linked to crime, even though this has always been fiercely contested by the Conservative Party. There are always multiple explanations for rising crime rates, and increased expenditure on policing might be one of them, alongside actual increases in crime. Whilst reduced public expenditure was actively pursued across many areas of public policy throughout the 1980s, state investment in the police increased in the Thatcher years, and was coupled with the granting of greater police powers, most infamously and controversially demonstrated during the Miners’ Strike.

The real impact of her crime control policies were witnessed after she had left office. Widespread privatisation is the most obvious: criminal justice functions were put out to tender after the use of private sector companies had been tested elsewhere, most notably in health. If we take, for example, the current proposals to contract out probation supervision for all but the most risky offenders, or the widespread introduction of payment-by-results schemes through criminal justice, we can attribute much of this to the legacy of Thatcher. Radical changes in the financing and delivery of public services are, of course, not peculiar to the crime control functions of the state.

I still haven’t come up with an explanation for the neglect of crime issues in the media. It might be because much of the media coverage has been anti-Thatcher, and, whilst many of Margaret Thatcher’s policies are deeply troubling for those with academic interests in crime or who work within criminal justice, there were occasional glimpses of an alternative vision of criminal justice which many academics and professionals would support. Part of her legacy was to pave the way for the introduction of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, reserving custody for only the most serious offenders. The agenda which drove this was probably a desire to reduce state expenditure rather than a commitment to reduce the use of imprisonment in itself, but, had it been allowed time to bed down, we might not see almost 84,000 people locked up in custody in 2013.

Understanding crime and social policy is available with 20% discount from

The problem of adolescent-to-parent abuse

by Amanda Holt, author of Adolescent-to-parent abuse, publishing today

Adolescent-to-parent abuse coverThe ‘problem’ of teenagers is rarely off the news agenda. However, the focus of any problem behaviour is nearly always located outside the family home: on the streets, in the classroom, online. In such discussions, parents are frequently constructed as the root cause of the problem and the family home is rarely considered to be a site where adolescent problem behaviour towards parents is a concern.

However, it is becoming increasingly clear to practitioners who work with children and families that the problem of adolescents’ abusive behaviour towards parents is a very real one. Such abuse takes place mainly inside the family home, and it can take shape through physical, emotional and/or economic forms of abusive behaviour. Examples found in my own research include physical violence (and threats to cause physical harm), intimidation and undermining of the parent, and theft and damage to a parent’s property and possessions. Like other forms of family abuse (e.g. child abuse, interpersonal violence, elder abuse), adolescent-to-parent abuse can emerge very subtly and parents often feel a sense of disbelief, guilt and shame at what is happening. Such feelings may be particularly potent in cases of adolescent-to-parent abuse because many people are unaware that such abuse exists, making it hard for parents to talk about their experiences and for others to hear. Parents may also feel particularly silenced because we live in a culture where parents are routinely blamed for the problem behaviour of their children – often formally and publically through the use of criminal justice measures. And with few support services set up to deal with this form of family abuse, and with public policy failing to acknowledge it, it is unsurprising that this form of family abuse is so hidden.

This matters. As a human rights issue, no-one should be living in fear or, or under threat of, physical or emotional harm. As a health issue, the effects on families can be devastating, with long-lasting physical and emotional symptoms which can affect the life chances for parents and their children. As a criminal justice issue, there is evidence that adolescent-to-parent abuse can be part of a wider cycle of family abuse, and intervention here may stop subsequent abusive behaviours.

Fortunately, more people are now talking about it. Both in the UK and internationally, support agencies are developing intervention programmes to help them respond to the problem, although growth is slow because of limited resources and a failure in public policy to co-ordinate and fund a coherent response at national level. Alongside this has been an increase in research on this issue and we are learning more about which families are particularly at risk, how families respond, and how we might best conceptualise this problem at the psychological, social and cultural levels. Adolescent-to-parent abuse: current understandings in research, policy and practice therefore provides a timely overview of the current state of play in terms of what we know about parent abuse through research findings, how we are responding to it in the statutory, voluntary and community sectors, and what we are doing about it through established support programmes and resources. While this book is grounded in the UK political and cultural landscape, it draws on international research, policy and practices to highlight both similarities and differences, and identifies what we can learn from them and how we can go forward in tackling adolescent-to-parent abuse.

Dr. Amanda Holt is Senior Lecturer in Criminological Psychology at the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies, University of Portsmouth. She has published widely in the fields of parenting, youth justice and families and employs a multi-disciplinary approach to her research and analysis.

Adolescent-to-parent abuse is now available to buy from The Policy Press website with 20% discount.

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