Thinking Differently in Youth Justice: changing and challenging the youth justice system

Roxanna is a Lecturer at Leicester Law School, University of Leicester and has recently defended her PhD thesis. Roxanna’s research, funded by the University of Leicester, examines the implementation of the appropriate adult safeguard in police custody for vulnerable adult suspects. Roxanna’s research has involved qualitative research methods (non-participant observation in custody and semi-structured interviews with custody officers). As the appropriate adult safeguard is also required for young people, Roxanna has also developed a keen interest in youth justice. She has written a paper on the vulnerability of children and young people in police custody to be published in the Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law in November 2017.


The following blog post gives a brief overview of some of the themes arising from the ‘Thinking Differently in Youth Justice’ conference held at the University of Leicester on 25 April 2017. Roxanna was responsible for organising the conference, alongside Sarah Brooks-Wilson. If you would like to contact Roxanna, you can email her roxanna.dehaghani@le.ac.uk or tweet her @roxanna_law.

http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/law/people/roxanna-fatemi-dehaghani 

The ‘Thinking Differently’ series was established so as to create a space for postgraduates to challenging taken-for-granted thinking in criminology and criminal justice. This second event – on the area of youth justice – brought together practitioners, established academics, and PhD candidates at various stages of their studies. The day began with a talk by Prof Hannah Smithson (who has been labeled a ‘pracademic’) who spoke about ‘Knowledge Transfer and Youth Justice’. In her talk, Hannah highlighted that many young people are neglected in discussions surrounding youth justice. She urged that inclusion, whilst vital, must ensure representativeness: central in this should be the voice of young people (and not just one, but many). The youth-centred focus must exist, not simply in policy and practice circles, but too in academic fora. The youth-focused approach continued through Anne-Marie Day’s talk, which teased-out the various concerns of looked-after children (as part of her PhD, Anne-Marie interviewed looked-after children). These concerns included not being heard, and being labelled, dehumanized, bullied, and separated from their birth families. Anne-Marie also raised the issue of the ‘paper self’: young people felt that what was written in their risk assessment took over their identity and they became the ‘bad’ child or the ‘mad’ child. Both of these talks drew attention to how important the child’s voice is within the youth justice arean.

Dr Kate Gooch and Piers von Berg then examined some legal aspects pertaining to the detention of young suspects in police custody. Highlighting that the police custody suite is the ‘gateway’ to the criminal process and that it is ‘out of sight, out of mind’, Kate and Piers urged that we reconsider how young suspects are treated within police custody. In particular, they drew attention to the lack of a complete policy agenda and the absence of national guidance on how to interview a child. Within this context, they urged for the maxim ‘Child First, Suspect Second’, although they recognized that currently the opposite is very much true. The ‘child first’ approach seems to be more closely adhered to in Scotland, as explored in Fern Gillon’s talk on Early and Effective Investigation (EEI). The Scottish approach may, particularly for a criminologist hailing from England, Wales or Northern Ireland, seem wonderful. Yet, as Fern highlighted, it was far from perfect: although there were claims that the system was free from power relations, the reality is such that the police act as gatekeepers and it is they who decide which cases go through to EEI. The main question raised by Fern was whether the Scottish system of EEI is effective and working or whether it is simply better than the alternative.

Power relations and the silencing of young people are not the only problems within the youth justice landscape: as the panel (comprised of Jayne Louise Price, Shantey Francis and Sarah Brooks-Wilson) highlighted, other problems exist such as: what happens to those transitioning from the youth to the adult justice system? What type of environment is required for children and young people to flourish? Are children and young people being adequately supported? Do they face social exclusion and a lack of mobility? And how does this exclusion and lack of mobility impact upon their treatment within the justice system? Prof Jo Phoenix’s highlighted some further worrying trends in her talk on the death of youth justice: not only have YOTs staff declined sharply, the decline has been more deeply felt for sessional and casual staff and volunteers, i.e. those who spend more time with young people. Jo urged the audience to consider whether falling numbers of children and young people entering the system really equated to a more just system and highlighted the unachievable goal of ‘justice’ in a society marked by social inequality. Her talk also served as a call for youth justice researchers to start thinking more radically and to see past the current systems of youth governance and youth justice.

In all, the day contained two pertinent lessons. The first was that we need to consider the voice of the child and the second was that we need to think of new ways of providing justice for children and young people. The day also highlighted the massive appetite amongst youth justice researchers for future networking, discussion, and collaboration. With this in mind we are thinking of ways to facilitate this through the British Society of Criminology and/or the BSC Postgraduate Committee. Watch this space!

PHD BLOG – COMPLEXITIES AND CHALLENGES IN RESEARCH WITH CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE

Happy New Year from the BSC postgraduate committee! The first of our PhD blogs for 2017 is from Claire Paterson-Young. Claire is a PhD candidate a the University of Northampton in the Institute for Social innovation and Impact. Her research is focused on social impact measurement as a form of organisation performance management in enhancing the outcomes for young offenders.

me-1-1

Claire completed her undergraduate degree in Criminology and has a Master’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice. She has worked as a Restorative Justice Practitioner and Youth Intensive Support Co-ordinator, which forded her the opportunity to develop her practical skills and knowledge in the criminal and youth justice field. This led in to her managing the Youth and Restorative Services within the Whole System Approach agenda. Here she led the Restorative Justice Workstream for developing and updating the Restorative Justice processes and procedures in Scotland. In addition, Claire was central in developing the organisations Safeguarding and Getting It Right For Every Child agenda.

 After relocating to England, Claire managed a specialised semi-independent provision for children and young people at risk of child sexual exploitation. Developing a special interest in child sexual exploitation, she moved to a Child Sexual Exploitation Coordinator role in the West Midlands. Claire currently lectures at the University of Northampton and University of Bedfordshire in Law and Youth Justice. She also delivers specialised Child Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking Training nationally for a charity.

Contact: clcpaterson@gmail.com                             Twitter: @clcpaterson

The complexities and challenges in conducting research with children and young people in custody.

Youth crime and offending continues to receive considerable political, academic and media attention. The attention on young people in the United Kingdom is categorised by ‘respectable fears’, which Pearson (1983) described as the growing anxiety with regards to rebellious and threatening young people (Pearson, 1983). These ‘respectable fears’ have contributed to the expansion of the youth justice system and resulted in developments to mainstream youth justice services. The expansion and development of services in the financial climate has resulted in emphasis on developing effective and sustainable youth offending interventions in custody to reduce youth offending (Nevill and Lumley, 2011). Developing effective and sustainable interventions that enhance outcomes for children and young people have generally relied on output or outcome data, with limited importance placed on the wider long-term impact (such as employability, relationships, independence and emotional resilience). To understand impact, the views of children and young people are central; therefore, conducting research with focus on facilitating the active participation of children and young people in custody is important. Conducting research with children and young people is complex and challenging in any environment; however, in a custodial environment, the researcher will encounter further challenges. This post will explore the complexities and challenges of conducting research in this environment and the importance of experience in engaging children and young people.
Ethical questions are integral to any research, with particular importance in research with children and young people. The central ethical considerations for research cover: confidentiality and anonymity; voluntary informed consent; data protection and storage; and the safeguarding of participants. For conducting research with children and young people, such ethical considerations receive significant attention. However, another area that requires attention surrounds the researcher’s experience. Has the researcher worked with vulnerable children and young people? Does the researcher understand that relationships can develop in seconds? Does the researcher understand the impact of new people on the lives of participants? Exploring the researcher’s experience and knowledge of working with children and young people demonstrates the researcher’s experience and knowledge of the vulnerabilities of children and young people in this environment. Another area for consideration was the process for accessing a secure custodial environment for research purposes is challenging, particularly for research concerning the views of children and young people. Before entering a custodial environment, the researcher was required to complete training and a stringent vetting process and complete training. This process ensured the continued safety and security of children, young people and staff members.

Exploring the effectiveness and wider impact of services from the perception of children and young people are important for identifying “what works?” Collecting information on the perceptions of children and young people relies on the researcher developing appropriate data collection methods (e.g. interviews, questionnaire or observation). Before collecting data, the researcher must consider the power dynamics of conducting research with children and young people in custody. The researcher must ensure children and young people have a clear understanding of the research aims and objectives before consenting. To conduct research with children and young people, the researcher must consider the literacy age and level of understanding. This requires the researcher to understand the cohort of children and young people in the population to adapt the research material appropriately in order to ensure a clear understanding. Another issue the researcher must consider in conducting research with children and young people is the power dynamic. One method of addressing this power dynamic is by implementing child centred research methods based on the preferred communication methods of young people. Child-centred research methods may include the use of photographs, activities, diaries and worksheets (Barker and Weller, 2003). Considering child-centred research methods was important for research, however, recognising the age and position of young people participating in research was equally important. In conducting research with children and young people in custody, the researcher used traditional research methods (questionnaires, interviews and observation) with adjustments recognising the age and position of young people. This allowed the researcher to accurately capture the narratives of children and young people in custody.

Entering a custodial environment for the first time is daunting, but, entering a custodial environment with children and young people is an entirely different world.

References
1. Barker, J. and Weller, S. (2003) “Is it fun?” Developing children centred research methods. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 23(1/2), 33-58.
2. Hendrick, H., (2006) Histories of Youth Crime and Justice in Goldson, B. and Muncie, J. (2006) Youth Crime and Justice. London: Sage Publications.
3. Nevill, C. and Lumley, T. (2011) Impact measurement in the youth justice sector. [online] Available at: file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/99904661/My%20Documents/Downloads/Youth-justice-measurement-FINAL2%20(2).pdf. Accessed on: 9 September 2015.
4. Pearson, G. (1983) Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears. London: Macmillan.

PhD Blog – The police and domestic abuse crime: positive steps but much more to be done

larissaThis weeks PhD Blog is from Larissa Povey, final-year PhD Candidate within the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research and Associate Lecturer in Criminal Justice at Sheffield Hallam University. Larissa’s PhD explores the impact of changes in UK criminal justice and welfare policies on the everyday lives of women at the social margins. Using a mixture of qualitative interviews, visual and ethnographic methods her study examines the lived experiences, perceptions and sense-making narratives of women who have been subject to multiple interventions from state agencies spanning both welfare and penal systems. Larissa hopes to make a contribution through using a feminist lens to explore the gendered character of social control and disciplining, texturing theoretical debates which often focus on men.

Larissa’s broad research interests lie in the areas of women and criminal justice, punishment beyond the prison, welfare policy, labour markets and social control.

PhD funding: Sheffield Hallam University Vice-Chancellor’s PhD Scholarship. This PhD is linked to the ESRC-funded “Welfare Conditionality: Sanctions, Support and Behaviour Change” project (http://www.welfareconditionality.ac.uk/).

Contact: larissa.j.povey@student.shu.ac.uk

The police and domestic abuse crime: positive steps but much more to be done

As a PhD candidate researching women’s experiences of the criminal justice system and welfare reform, I was recently invited to take part in a Domestic Abuse Crime Scrutiny Panel for a national police agency. This got me thinking about the way we deal with this type of crime in England and Wales; alongside small steps in the right direction there are contradictory developments which thwart such advances, particularly broader shifts in social policy under austerity.

Based on efforts by the Crown Prosecution Service to show transparency and engage the local community in examining police work, the earlier scrutiny panels focused on hate crime; the first, piloted in West Yorkshire in 2004 focused specifically on race hate crime. The development of domestic abuse crime scrutiny panels followed and more recently we have seen panels focusing on cases of violence against women and girls.

Efforts such as these indicate that across the criminal justice system agencies are attempting to take domestic abuse (DA) crimes and violence against women and girls more seriously. Indeed, statistics from a recent Crown Prosecution Service report (2016: 1) show that it is “prosecuting and convicting more defendants of domestic abuse, rape, sexual offences and child sexual abuse than ever before”. Importantly, there has been an 11% rise in convictions for Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) crimes, a trend that has been seen over the past three years. Prosecutions of this nature currently account for almost 20% of the Crown Prosecution Service’ total case load.

While new panels provide encouraging indicators that the police want to improve the way that they handle DA and VAWG crime, things are not entirely rosy. For example, the Home Office does not gather official statistics on the number of women and girls killed through domestic violence, a vast oversight. We do know the number of women killed by men in the UK because of the work of one individual Karen Ingala Smith, CEO of nia (a domestic violence charity) who began Counting Dead Women in 2012, her efforts are now supported by Women’s Aid and has developed into the Femicide Census to record all cases of ‘the murder of women because they are women’ (Women’s Aid, 2016). These efforts show a year on year increase in the number of women dying, averaging two women per week, at the hands of a partner, ex-partner or family member.

On the one hand we have the highest recorded reporting and prosecutions for DA and VAWG crimes. On the other, we have an increasing number of women dying from this type of crime. So what are some of the reasons that might be contributing to this? Since 2010, we have seen swinging cuts to services under austerity. This includes large cuts to women’s refuges resulting in the loss of 17% of specialist refuges and a third of referrals being turned away. Police guidelines outline refuges as a key intervention in the effective protection of victims, so with fewer refuges and places for vulnerable women and children it is a no brainer that this may have a detrimental effect on victims’ ability to get themselves to safety.

Though prosecutions are up, these cases reflect a small proportion of the overall number of incidences reported. And there are new ways of committing these offences as seen in the proliferation of online abuse specifically using social media as a tool for stalking, harassment and control. Policing these new mechanisms of abuse take investment and resources, there is much work to be done and things are likely to get worse as we see continued cuts to police budgets meaning fewer specialist police.

Other reforms such as changes to legal aid have been felt particularly acutely by women, who will have little recourse to free legal aid. According to this report such changes “raise disturbing questions about the state’s failure to protect women, especially those at risk of – and those who have already experienced – domestic violence” (Mayo and Koessl, 2015: 9).

There are deeper, enduring structural inequalities which place women in a position of less power in relation to men, this legacy can be seen in the persistence of devaluing of social reproductive work, the gender pay gap, gendered labour, maternity leave policy to name just a few. It is this power imbalance that creates a breeding ground for domestic abuse which is about power and control. These inequalities will be made worse by ongoing reforms to both in-work and out-of-work benefits. Upcoming reforms are likely to worsen the financial situation of vulnerable women, particularly lone parents. These factors explain some of the reasons behind the statistics and we may see further increases in DA and VAWG crimes and dead women.

BSC Talking Points – David Honeywell, The purpose of prison.

On the first Monday of each month the BSC postgraduate community hold a talking points session on Facebook. Here we or a guest contributor pick a topic to discuss live on-line, in our facebook group, for an hour.

The BSC talking points series resumes this Monday 3rd October with a discussion led by David Honeywell. David is a convict criminologist and lecturer from University of York. David is nearing completion of his PhD that is about ex prisoners in higher education in relation to changing identities and desistance. 

Read David’s latest article in the conversation – ‘No wonder prisons are getting more violent, they’re full to the brim’ by David Honeywell – then join us on the facebook page , Monday 8-9pm for the next BSC Talking Points #getinvolved

 

Image credit: Peter Davidson

 

#BSCConf16 Poster Round-up UPDATED

Here is a selection of the posters presented at the conference today. Well done to Sian Lewis, PhD student at Loughborough University who is researching sexual harrasment on the London transport network. Her fabulous poster won the postgraduate poster prize. Many congratulations Sian!


@sianlewis89


H.williamson2@brighton.ac.uk

 20160707_141110-01(1)

 
@MatczakAnia

Damian.terrill@coventry.ac.uk

K1250368@kingston.ac.uk

@Jessicae13Eaton

@HippoMoom

@jamie_ferrill

@RealJoePayne

@northern_wonder

@charrrr_xx


@NicolaAHarding
Pictures courtesy of Charlene Crossley @Charrrr_xx

Don’t see yours? Tweet me @NicolaAHarding or Email Nicola.harding@stu.mmu.ac.uk and I will update the post, we would love to see them!

EU Referendum Results Special

A Letter from the BSC Postgraduate Committee

1st July 2016

So here we are. The UK has decided and voted out. We are part of a generation that has never known a Britain not part of the European Union. This is unprecedented change, unsettling times.

Our job as criminology postgraduates is research; learning, challenge, discovery. And there is certainly much to learn about the process and outcome of the EU referendum.

These are uncertain times. But let’s be clear. To all postgraduate students of criminology, whoever you are, wherever you are from, however you voted – the postgraduate committee is your space, your community. Our focus remains inspirational criminological scholarship, and we will continue to support, encourage and celebrate the very best of postgraduate research.

A selection of criminology postgraduate students share their opinions of the implications of the Brexit vote on criminal justice in the UK.


Dominic Willmott, Doctoral Student from the University of Huddersfield, searches for optimism beyond the EU referendum and offers a researchers guide to the impact of leaving the EU on Criminal Justice in England.

Despite voting to remain amid fears of what leaving might mean for the national security of this country and the possibility of tarnished relationships with other EU states in the event of such threats, I can’t help but search for any positives for our criminal justice system. Is there anything that may actually lead to change for the better I ask myself? Maybe greater internal governance may make for more favourable human rights laws akin to UK value systems. Maybe the redistribution of EU financial contributions may provide a greater source of money to ensure more police officers on the street or order within overcrowded prisons. Maybe a refocusing of efforts and resources locally will actually mean the research advancements we postgraduate researchers make surrounding our criminal justice issues will begin to be noticed. Optimistic though it may seem, perhaps the change our research argues for and scientifically evidences may start to become a reality. Implemented in ways that lead to not only greater social justice but a fairer due process where treatment of those accused, convicted, released and even victimised is higher up the political agenda. Without the benefit of hindsight these ‘maybe’s’ are perhaps nothing more than just that. A list of possibilities in a sea of uncertainty. One thing that is however certain, is the need now more than ever for home grown scientific research surrounding how our criminal justice processes will cope with such monumental changes to the future of our country. They wanted a Brexit – they got it – now we as a community of researchers must raise to the challenge of sustaining UK independence and growth.

Teaching fellow Susie Atherton from Keele University questions what will happen to the reinvestment in justice following the result of the EU referendum.

In 2010, the cross party House of Commons Justice Committee (HOCJC) recommended a re-investment in justice to tackle high re-offending rates, mis-informed perceptions of community sentences and the complexity of the criminal justice system, with competing goals and priorities. Since then, new approaches in problem solving and restorative justice have been embraced, celebrated and then disregarded in favour of a new way to ‘transform rehabilitation.’ Whilst these reforms have been widely criticised, from with the conservative government and beyond, they have occurred alongside cuts in public spending, shifting the priorities of many police services away from neighbourhood policing, and a sense of the criminal justice system returning to its function to punish, deter and symbolise the authority of the law. The HoCJC recommend ‘pre-habilitation’ as a more ‘prudent, rational, effective and humane use of resources’ (2010:6), which also needed a greater commitment to tackling social exclusion, disadvantage, substance misuse and investing more in education and mental health services.

But, today 52% of the UK voted to leave the EU, and if we do indeed continue with this, the call for re-investment in justice and public services, already being overridden by austerity measures, could be ignored once again. There is another lost opportunity, in what we can and should learn from our European neighbours who manage their justice system without overcrowding and increasing levels of violence in prisons, and who are able to demonstrate significantly lower re-offending rates. Today, we can only say at best the status quo will continue, at worst, staff, prisoners, victims and citizens will be at further risk from a system simply unable to cope with the pressure, let alone offering anything meaningful to take place in reforming offenders, repairing harms and keeping communities safe.

PhD student Anita de Klerk from the University of Salford discusses the role of the media in the rising levels of violence since the EU referendum.

Since the EU referendum there have been a shocking number of incidences of violent, hateful ‘anti-immigrant’ crimes and stories being told in both the media and on social media networks. Reports have detailed how British citizens, and non-British citizens alike, have been told to go back from where they came from based on the colour of their skin or ancestral decent. The Brexit campaign was labelled as a “campaign of hate” by Sadiq Khan during the final televised debate before the referendum, but it is not Brexit that has created the platform from which the racists and xenophobes are now expressing their vile positions. The racists and the xenophobes existed long before the debate even started. It is the printed media that have given rise to the hate fuelled attacks on people and it is they who need to take responsibility and repair the damage they have caused.

No matter what side of the debate you were on, you cannot argue against the fact that both sides only offered uncertainty and misinformation and the media ran with whatever line they could to sell their papers. So far have the printed press fallen from the reality of what is acceptable and responsible to inciting violence to the point that now even murder is tolerable. In Dan Hodges’ column in the Daily Mail on Sunday the headline reads “Labour MUST Kill vampire Jezza”.

Nobody expects a member of the Labour or Conservative Party to take this seriously and organise to assassinate Jeremy Corbyn. However, there are lone ‘would be attackers’ who may just see this as an opportunity or believe that this is their duty. Ideologically motivated attacks are not new and are on the rise. It is not even 5 years ago that Anders Breivik murdered 77 people in Norway in support of fascism. Since then there have been numerous attacks throughout the ‘civilised’ West, the last of which was the Orlando Massacre where Omar Mateen opened fire and killed 49 people and injured many more, just over two weeks ago.

We need to start recognising and talking about the rise in ideologically motivated attacks by capitalism’s disaffected; individuals who are estranged from society by various capitalist channels like racism, Islamophobia, class and every other form of discrimination who turn to revenge their disaffection on those around them. Their revenge is then justified by the ideology that offers promises of an alternative to their disaffection. Our heritage under capitalism is poverty, suffering, racism, homophobia and disaffection, etc. We choose the ideology that best offers us hope, regardless of how ridiculous or hurtful it may seem to the next person. Murder is not a solution it is a crime as is hate inspired violence. It is time to investigate the inciters of violence and hold them accountable.

Gabriella Simak, PhD candidate from Bangor University, considers the impact on human rights in the context of criminal justice.

First, the UK will no longer be bound by the European Commission of Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The Human Rights Act 1998 was based on the European Convention of Human Rights and enshrined basic human rights and freedoms such as the right to life. So the question then becomes: will the HRA be repealed completely? Technically then, the death penalty could be brought back as a form of punishment as the UK has no other legislation which protects people’s right to life and fundamental freedoms that the ECHR protects.

The UK will no longer be signatory of any of the EU treaties upon a full exit from the EU, which means the UK will not have the right to issue a European Arrest Warrant, which means the UK will not be able to request extradition of offenders from EU member states. As for minors, EU member states will no longer be able to refuse the extradition of minors to the UK under the Mandatory Grounds for Refusal and the UK will not be able to request extradition of minors from EU member states, as England and Wales (10) and Scotland (8) have the lowest age of criminal responsibility in the EU.

Finally, the UK will no longer have to protection and benefits of the Europol, which means it will no longer benefit from joint law enforcement services, combating terrorism, trafficking in human beings, sexual exploitation of women and children, cybercrime and organised crime, including sharing of intelligence and evidence Article 88 of The Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union. As well, UK nationals will no longer be able to take their cases to the European Court of Justice, which oversees and regulates the legality of the acts of the EU member states.

Masters Student Madeleine Hughes, University of Kent, also reflects upon the impact leaving the European Union will have upon human rights legislation, appealing for humanity in political decision-making.

As I attempt to make sense of the countries decision to leave the European Union I cannot help but reflect on the impact that ‘Brexit’ will have on our human rights. Will our exit from the EU result in the Conservatives pressing ahead with their plan to repeal the Human Rights Act and to introduce their UK Bill of Rights? And if they do what impact will this have on the rights of our prisoner population?

My research focuses on problems faced by our imprisoned population, so I am keenly aware that prisoners’ rights are not a subject that elicits sympathy. It appears to me that, in some part, the impetus for many to leave the EU is borne from a desire to prevent rights being given to those who are deemed to be ‘undeserving’ and to protest against perceived dictates from the European Court of Human Rights. Human Rights are often seen as something that only benefits ‘others’; an argument postulated by the Leave campaign when claiming that the UK is inundated with foreign criminals who are ‘protected under EU human rights laws’ . But those who denounce human rights in this way are missing the point, for them to be human rights they must apply to all citizens not just those deemed worthy of them.

For Winston Churchill, ‘…the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country’. I would implore the politicians before they repeal the Human Rights Act to consider these words, because by failing to consider the rights of all of our citizens, including those who are imprisoned, politicians endanger the rights of us all.

Finally, PhD Candidate Adam Westall from Manchester Metropolitan University, appeals for us to ‘just do right’ – reminding us that, during times of change and uncertainty, it is the way we treat each other on a day to day basis that promotes security and social justice.

‘Great’ Britain, as we are officially titled is not looking so ‘great’ at the moment.  In the immediate aftermath following the decision to leave the EU, we appear to be more divided and less ‘great’ than we have ever been.  We are split politically in terms of our political parties being at war with each other, without (in my opinion any of them being able to run the country), we are divided in terms of class with significant differences in opinion between the less wealthy communities and those in the ‘middle and upper’ classes; and we are divided geographically with Scotland and Northern Ireland expressing wishes to leave the not so ‘United’ Kingdom.

So what does this mean for our security and maybe our safety?  Nationally and politically only time will tell, but individually, well the answer to this question lies in the streets and towns of the United Kingdom, it starts with us and our communities.  Over the next few years there will be change, both good and bad.  There may be racism and hurt along with lies and mistruths, which will affect how secure we feel.  There may also be bias and upset towards politicians, political parties or even our neighbours.  There doesn’t have to be.  This after all should never have just been about law making, immigration or the NHS.  Let us use this opportunity to look at things a bit different.  Start by doing right, saying hello or helping each other out a little, don’t let what happens on the world stage affect what happens on our streets.  This starts in the street, driving the car or popping to the shops, this is what matters.  We do not need to be a divided Britain despite leaving ‘the club’, we just need to simply ‘do right’ by each other.

 

PhD Blog – Vulnerability in Police Custody: Implementing the Appropriate Adult Safeguard

This weeks contribution to the PhD blog is from Roxanna Dehaghani.

photo rox

Roxanna is a third year PhD candidate and Graduate Teaching Assistant at Leicester Law School, University of Leicester. She is also currently  a Visiting Scholar at the School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast. Roxanna’s research, funded by the University of Leicester, focuses on the implementation of the appropriate adult safeguard in police custody, namely how an adult suspect comes to be recognised as vulnerable. This includes an examination of how custody officers define and identify vulnerability. Roxanna’s research has involved qualitative research methods, namely non-participant observation in custody and semi-structured interviews with custody officers.

The following blog post gives a brief overview of one of the elements of Roxanna’s doctoral work. If you would like to contact her you can email her roxanna.dehaghani@le.ac.uk or tweet her @roxanna_law.

Vulnerability in Police Custody: Implementing the Appropriate Adult Safeguard

 Vulnerable suspects – that is those who are under 18, or above 18 and with a ‘mental disorder’ or ‘mental vulnerability’ – should be provided with an appropriate adult when in police custody (see Code C to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE)). See also Codes D and H). The appropriate adult safeguard is required to facilitate communication, support, assist and advise the suspect and ensure that the police are acting fairly (Code C 2014, para 11.17. See also Home Office Guide for Appropriate Adults 2011). In short, it is designed to protect the vulnerable suspect from providing false or misleading information – information that could lead to false conviction. However, as previous research has established, there are issues with its implementation in practice (Bean and Nemitz 1995; Bradley 2009; Brown, Ellis, and Larcombe 1992; Bucke and Brown 1997; Gudjonsson et al 1993; Irving and McKenzie, 1989; Medford, Gudjonsson and Pearse 2000; National Appropriate Adult Network 2015; Palmer and Hart 1996; Phillips and Brown 1998. See also Bradley 2009; Cummins 2007; McKinnon and Grubin 2010). In 2003, a study indicated that 600 vulnerable adults brought into custody within a month were not provided with an appropriate adult (Medford, Gudjonsson and Pearse 2003: 253). In relation to those with mental illness, an analysis of custody records in the East Midlands illustrated that an appropriate adult was only used in 38 instances (0.016%) rather than the estimated 14% (Bradley 2009: 43). The recent National Appropriate Adult Network report (2015: Paper A: 4) suggested that the issue is manifold – identification rates are low because of:

A lack of effective and systematic screening, a lack of training for the police, …no visual or behaviour clues…, the influence of alcohol or drugs complicating the assessment, a disregard of self-reporting, the failure to use historical information… to identify learning disabilities, [suspect reluctance to disclose], [the use of standardised questions].

Previous studies have, therefore, established that there are impediments to the identification of vulnerability and the implementation of the appropriate adult safeguard. On the whole they suggested that the issues lay with identification practices. Of course, failure to identify vulnerability or implement the appropriate adult safeguard may not necessarily lead to erroneous conviction – section 76 of PACE requires that the court exclude confessions which could be considered unreliable, and section 78 of PACE permits that the court exclude evidence where the fairness of the proceedings demand it. Early identification of vulnerability can, however, ensure that justice is delivered (or at least not delayed), thus protecting the integrity of the individual and the process. Considering that many cases fail to reach the courts due to the propensity with the English criminal justice system for plea-bargaining (see Criminal Justice Act (CJA 2003) 2003, s 144 (1)) and out-of-court disposals (CJA 2003 s 23) non-implementation has the potential for being costly as the failure to safeguard will remain undetected.

Identification is not the only factor in the implementation of the safeguard. For example, as Bean and Nemitz indicated, the issue lies not necessarily with how vulnerability is identified; rather it arises as a result of how custody officers make sense of the information provided to them (1995). The identification of vulnerability is subject to the custody officer’s construction of vulnerability (see Dehaghani, forthcoming). This construction may not necessarily marry with the Code C definition – it certainly did not align with my own interpretation of vulnerability. It is through unpacking and exploring how vulnerability is defined, in addition to how vulnerability is identified and why certain decisions are made, that we can arrive at a better understanding of the implementation of the appropriate adult safeguard in police custody.

References

Bean, P., and Nemitz, T. (1995), Out of depth and out of sight. Loughborough: University of Loughborough.

Bradley, K.J.C (2009), Review of People with Mental Health Problems or Learning Disabilities in the Criminal Justice System. London: Department of Health.

Brown, D., Ellis, T., and Larcombe, K. (1992), Changing the Code: Police Detention Under the Revised PACE codes of Practice (Home Office Research Study No 129). London: Home Office.

Bucke, T., and Brown, D. (1997), In Police Custody: Police Powers and Suspects’ Rights under the Revised PACE codes of practice (Home Office Research Study No 174). London: Home Office.

Cummins, I. (2007), ‘A Path Not Taken? Mentally Disordered Offenders and the Criminal Justice System’ Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 28 (3-4), 267-281.

Dehaghani, R. (forthcoming), ‘He’s just not that vulnerable: Exploring the Implementation of the Appropriate Adult Safeguard in Police Custody’ Howard Journal of Crime and Justice.

Gudjonsson, G., Clare, I., Rutter, S. and Pearse, J. (1993), Persons at Risk During Interviews in Police Custody: The Identification of Vulnerabilities (Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure Research Study No 12). London: Home Office.

Home Office (2014), Revised Code of Practice for the Detention, Treatment and Questioning of Persons by Police Officers. Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984, Code C. London: Crown.

Home Office (2014), Revised code of practice in connection with detention, treatment and questioning by police officers under the Terrorism Act 2000. Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984. Code H. London: Crown.

Home Office (2010), Code of Practice for the Identification of Persons by Police Officers. Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984. Code D. London: Crown.

Irving, B., and Mckenzie, I. (1989), Police Interrogation: The Effects of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. London: Police Foundation.

Medford, S., Gudjonsson, G.H. and Pearse, J. (2003), ‘The efficacy of the appropriate adult safeguard during police interviewing’ Legal and Criminological Psychology, 8(2), 253-266.

McKinnon, I. and Grubin, D. (2010) ‘Health screening in police custody’ Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine 17, 209–212.

National Appropriate Adult Network (2015), There to help: Ensuring provision of appropriate adults for mentally vulnerable adults detained or interviewed by police. National Appropriate Adult Network.

Palmer, C. and Hart, M. (1996), A PACE in the right direction?: The effectiveness of safeguards in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 for mentally disordered and mentally handicapped suspects – A South Yorkshire Study. Sheffield: University of Sheffield.

Phillips, C. and Brown, D. (1998), Entry into the Criminal Justice System: A Survey of Police Arrests and their Outcomes (Home Office Research Study No 185). London: Home Office.

Legislation

Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984

Criminal Justice Act 2003

PHD BLOG- Here.Me.Now: the voicing of aspiration by youths living in ‘gang’ labelled communities

img_5618This weeks PhD blog is by Charlene Crossley.

Charlene is a 2nd year PhD student at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is undertaking a PhD that examines the aspirations of young people in areas labelled as ‘gang’ effected. She does this using interesting and innovative methods. Here  she offers a short summary of her PhD work to date.

If you would like to hear more from Charlene you can tweet her @Charrrr_xx or email C.crossley@mmu.ac.uk. Charlene is also presenting a poster and an oral presentation at the BSC conference on the 6th July 2016.

 

Here.Me.Now: The voicing of aspiration by youths living in ‘gang’ labelled communities

Do we know what youth transition means? The young people in my research certainly don’t. They know they want a good job, to live in a decent area and have a family. Does it matter how they get there? Is there a clear path? Here.Me.Now looks at the goals and aspirations of young people living in communities labelled as gang effected. Questioning if it is the application of labels like this this that allow the path to become fragmented?

I’m challenging the idea that young people have clear transitions journeys and that they lack aspiration. Aspiration IS important; it dictates where we will aim to be as an adult. Within gang affected communities it is often assumed that young people’s aspirations are to simply join a gang. Therefore, aspiration is not a value that is nurtured or prioritised within these communities; particularly by institutions of social control. The implication is that already disadvantaged communities are expected to support young people’s transitions to adulthood without resources to encourage those young people to aim higher. This research will update the literature with a contemporary account that looks at diverse lives by moving away from a focus of traditional England and with it the school to work transitions and a move into contemporary England where young people are living in very different societies.

The methodology for this research is rather large, but what a great way it has been to engage young people. All too often as researchers we assume we are the experts. Well, here’s a thought – why not situate the young people as experts of their OWN lives. After all, they’re the ones living it. That’s what I decided to do in adopting participatory action research (PAR) as my methodology. At two diverse youth centres in areas of Manchester, completing ethnographic research over a period of eight months, the young people would often talk about the lack of opportunities and how those were limited further by the ‘gang’ label that was attached to their community. It was only through the identification of these issues that I developed a number of research tools to use with the young people. They wrote letters, engaged in mapping, participated in a blog, discussed local media and did activities with flash cards. This has allowed the young people to tell me what the issues are for THEM, in ways that they have chosen. This has allowed young people to be heard, giving them a VOICE. At the end of the research, it is envisaged that the young people will disseminate the research findings from their own experiences to individuals within the wider community.

Researchers all too often assume that individuals want to participate in the research. Even with the development of participant led tools, there is an expectation that they want to be involved and at all stages, which is not always the case. What this process has allowed is for young people to discuss as much or as little as they want. To generate discussion on issues that are important to them. To listen to them and not make assumptions about what we fell is important to us in order to answer what WE want. The methodology hasn’t been without its challenges. From the building of trust to weeks of no engagement. However, what this has allowed further is for the process has been truly participant led.

So, who then gets to decide successful transition is? Is it just school to work? Yes, the literature has extended to cover leisure and home life, but isn’t transition different for different people? Is it, for example, that a successful transition can be that they haven’t got involved in crime or have completed high school? Aspiration is ultimately crucial in guiding YP through their journey, towards what the government would categorise as a ‘successful transition’. However, the labels attached to the particular neighbourhoods in my study do not support this linear transition. This means that these young people are automatically written off as having no aspiration. In fact, certainly for the young people in my research, they have high aspirations, but they have difficulty in achieving their goals. As one young person has said to me, ‘I want to be a PE teacher but I know I ain’t getting there’.

PhD Blog: The Disproportionate Increase of Female Prisoners within a Penal System Structured on Proportional Punishment

IMAG0937_c3The second submission in our PhD Blog series is  by Sharon Walker.

Sharon is in her fourth year of her PhD at the National University of Ireland Galway. Today she is writing about her PhD subject, which focuses upon the increasing number of females in the Irish criminal justice system.

If you are interested in hearing more from Sharon about her interesting research, you can email her  s.walker3@nuigalway.ie or follow her on  twitter@sharonjanie.

The Disproportionate Increase of Female Prisoners within a Penal System Structured on Proportional Punishment

The Irish criminal justice system is conflicted with the irony of a disproportionate growth within a jurisdiction which bases its sentencing practices on the principle of proportionality.  Whilst the number of female prisoners remains a minority within the entire prison population, the exponential growth of female offenders being committed under sentence is alarming.  Irish Prison Service statistics show that the proportion of female offenders sentenced to committal in 2007 was one to every twelve male offenders, rising to one in four by 2014[1].  Although sentencing in Ireland remains unstructured by formal guidelines, ‘proportional punishment’ is measured by the gravity of the offence committed and the particular circumstances of the offender.

This research began with investigating whether a change in female offence types and offender demographics were responsible for the enhanced punishment.  Improved crime data and recording techniques[2] showed that this was not the case. Committals have grown, despite offending remaining predominantly non-violent and acquisitive[3].  The research focus then shifted to examine the sentencing practices employed by the sentencers.    Was this the result of an attitudinal change, where judges were adopting a harsher stance within their wide discretion?

The difficulty with testing this particular hypothesis stems from the type of crime traditionally committed by the female offender.  Females generally commit lower level crime than their male counterparts and cases are often dealt with summarily.  This means that the majority of cases are heard in the District Court, where ‘conveyor-belt’ style proceedings makes decision analysis difficult.  Recent studies have used random sampling techniques[4] or judicial interviews using vignette studies[5] to gain insight into judicial attitudes. These appear to show that judges have not altered their sentencing practices but rather tend to adhere to their own ‘rule of thumb’.  While slight judicial variation has been detected in different District Court locations, for example between urban and rural locations[6], any wild fluctuation in sentencing practices would attract media attention and appeals would increase.  District Court proceedings might be hurried and noisy, but they are still public and subject to scrutiny.

Committal rates can be disguised behind very short term prison sentences combined with the use of full temporary release.  This has a deceptive effect on daily prison population statistics[7].  Closer inspection reveals a high turnover of both new and recidivist offenders. Where less crisis is felt at the front line by staff and inmates in relation to over-crowding issues, the growing problem requiring attention at policy level may be shelved in favour of ‘louder’ complaints.

Most females who are committed to prison are not sent directly from the District Court dock to the prison.  Instead, the majority of committals are the result of non-payment of a court-ordered fine.  The irony of a custodial sentence resulting from fine default is that the judge will have considered the original offence to be not serious enough to come within the custodial ambit in the first place.

Should the judge decide that the offence does fall within the custodial sphere, the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Act 2011 are designed to compel the judge to reconsider a sentence of twelve months or less and to check for the suitability of a Community Service Order (CSO).  However, given that the majority of offences committed by Irish women do not even warrant a prison sentence of more than three months, the legislation in fact only serves to protect a minority of female offenders whose crimes are more serious.

Where the crime is considered serious enough, the judge will usually assess the suitability of the offender for a CSO or refer the matter to the Probation Service for evaluation.  If the assessment is positive, the offender must then consent to the alternative.  The corresponding jail sentence in lieu of community service has been shown to have forceful ‘punitive bite’ in an attempt to minimise risk.  This could lead to up-tariffing, placing the offender higher on the penal scale should she consent and subsequently breach[8].  Studies have shown that the typical female offender is more likely to suffer with addiction, poverty or abusive backgrounds than her male counterpart [9].  Where the matter is handed over to the Probation Service for assessment, the female offender might be considered ‘unsuitable’ for community service, especially if her profile is plagued with such vulnerabilities.  The female offender might even acquiesce in this opinion.  Where she is living a chaotic lifestyle, a short term prison sentence might appear to offer respite.

Whilst the female offender rarely commits the type of serious offence that requires incarceration for public safety, more are finding themselves with prison records than ever before.  The rate of recidivism has been shown to be higher after custodial punishment and further offending will have harsher consequences.  Increased focus on prevention should target unnecessary prosecutions and more proactive diversions from custody.  The cyclical nature of women’s offending and its multi-generational impact is obvious.  The growth of female offenders within the penal system is obscured.

Bibliography

Corston BJ, The Corston Report: A Report of a Review of Women with Particular Vulnerabilities in the Criminal Justice System (Home Office 2007)

O’Nolan C, The Irish District Court: A Social Portrait (Cork University Press 2013)

Maguire N, ‘Consistency in Sentencing’ 2 Judicial Studies Institute Journal 14-54

O’Hara K and Rogan M, ‘Examining the Use of Community Service Orders as Alternatives to Short Prison Sentences in Ireland’ 12 Irish Probation Journal 22- 45

Annual Report Irish Prison Service (2007)

Annual Report Irish Prison Service (2014)

2016 JPS-IPSS-, An Effective Response to Women Who Offend (2014)

 [1] Annual Report Irish Prison Service (2007) & Annual Report Irish Prison Service (2014): All committals, including fine defaults.  The percentage of female committals for fine defaults more than doubled from 12% to 26% of the total from 2007 to 2014.

[2] The introduction of the Irish Crime Classification System by the Central Statistics Office in 2008 improved the recording of crime statistics and facilitates comparative research within the criminal justice system.

[3] Joint Probation Service – Irish Prison Service Strategy 2014 – 2016, An Effective Response to Women Who Offend (2014)

[4] Caroline O’Nolan, The Irish District Court: A Social Portrait (Cork University Press 2013)

[5] Niamh Maguire, Consistency in Sentencing’ 2 Judicial Studies Institute Journal 14-54

[6] Kate O’Hara and Mary Rogan, Examining the Use of Community Service Orders as Alternatives to Short Prison Sentences in Ireland’ 12 Irish Probation Journal 22- 45 at p25

[7] The number of committals to prison for both male and females as a consequence of the non-payment of a court-ordered fine has been increasing (8,121 in 2013 – 8,979 in 2014 – 9,892 in 2015), but the Strategic Review of Penal Policy report noted that the number of persons in prison on any given day for the non-payment of fine is low: ‘on 30 November 2013, of the 4,099 persons in custody, only 8 were committed for the non-payment of a fine’.  Final Report July 2014

[8] O’Hara and Rogan, Examining the Use of Community Service Orders as Alternatives to Short Prison Sentences in Ireland at p41

[9] Baroness Jean Corston, The Corston Report: A Report of a Review of Women with Particular Vulnerabilities in the Criminal Justice System (Home Office 2007)