The BSCPG Committee – going from strength to strength

Susie Atherton, Keele University

If you have been keeping up with our blog over the course of the BSC conference, you will see that Susie has offered some brilliant posts to update us with the key themes and messages from the conference proceedings. Here is another fantastic post from her, if you want to catch up with her previous posts you can find them here and here. Thank you Susie!

 

As an ex-chair of the committee, 2010-2012 (ish), I am so pleased to see the fine work which has gone on since my departure. When I took over, previous chairs had raised the profile of the BSC post-graduate group over the years, to have their own conference and website, and it was a valued voice for new PG students like me. To be part of it so early on in my PhD journey was exciting and at the time, developing the good work of my predecessors was helped by many others, on the journey with me and also established academics keen to pass on their wisdom and experiences.

 

Last year, in Plymouth, Professor Joe Sims was inspiring, celebrating the work of post-graduate students, telling them how valuable they are and how very important to criminology and social science. Having been out of loop since stepping down in 2012, I was so pleased to see how Rachel Morris and Anna Sergi had kept up the ethos and purpose of the BSCPG committee. Way back when I set up the Facebook and Twitter accounts, we just had a plan on how to best manage it and a hope that some members would find it useful. Since then, it has come on in leaps and bounds, now at 1,520 members and growing every week.

 

Now a new generation are taking things even further and ensuring that post-graduates in criminology (and related disciplines!) are part of the blogosphere, and seeing the opportunities of new technologies to generate debates, raise the profile of research and share experiences. I am certain for many students it is a lifeline – doing a PhD can be a lonely existence, even with the best efforts of university departments, and I hope students continue to value the work of the BSCPG committee. It is really heartening to see tweets from members such as Joe Payne (with a video!) thanking Clare Davis and her team for another great event, and I have to mention Nicola Harding for her excellent work on developing the blog and keeping it going. There is a bright future ahead for postgraduate students, and while sitting in my study and blogging away during #BSCConf2016 has been nice, I am excited to attend next year, hopefully as ‘Dr’, but that’s a blog for another day….

 

 

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#BSCconf16 – Living up to the title

Susie Atherton, Teaching Fellow in Criminology, Keele University

Susie has been blogging brilliantly about the BSC conference in Nottingham. You can read her first post here

Another day of scrutinising tweets has shown how well this year’s conference is examining ‘Inequality in a Diverse World.’ As Prof. Neil Chakraborti said, ‘British Criminology is in good health’, which is demonstrated for me by the themes from this year’s conference showing a distinct shift towards applying what we criminologists know, getting it out there and not shying away from the difficult issues. Presentations on the experiences of trans-gender prisoners (Mia Harris) show academics engaged with these debates and delegates responding to this through their tweets, keen to understand and share knowledge about the detrimental practices in prisons for this group. There is a clearly a need to understand their experiences and how current legal provisions manages this. Karen Heimer and Stacy de Coster presented work on the narratives of women in prison and their perceptions of mothering, a theme recently examined in a text edited by Lucy Baldwin (‘Mothering Justice’) examining the treatment of mothers in criminal justice and broader social policies, from a range of practitioners and academic researchers. The announcement of a new journal on Gender Based Violence is welcome, given the wealth of research and scope of issues this can cover.

 

The rights of animals were also examined by academics from the University of South Wales (Dr. Harriet Pierpoint and Dr. Jennifer Maher), Middlesex (Angus Nurse) and Brighton (Prof. Peter Squires). Abuse and neglect of animals was discussed as ‘worthy of moral consideration and legal protections’, given the disturbing statistic that ‘97% of animal species receive little or no protection from legislation and those charged [with] their welfare are often abusers.’ Squires discussed the killing of animals in the name of sport, a campaign picked up by twitter in recent times, with the images of trophy killing, the outpouring of grief and outrage over Cecil the Lion. It is good to see that criminology, as a social science, is examining these issues I hope current and prospective PG students continue this trend, to perhaps consider zemiological perspectives beyond what is legally defined as criminal. If I had my PhD to do again, I would definitely design a therapeutic programme for ex-offenders which involved kittens in some way, to demonstrate their effect on reducing re-offending – I am certain it would work!

 

As Nick Howe and Mary Corcoran discussed, to examine social problems in the context of what the criminal justice system can do is needed, as it highlights the important role of the third sector, along with concerns about how agencies such as the police can adequately respond to issues generated by current social policies. Referring to domestic abuse cases, a report out today begs the question, how can the state protect victims if there is nowhere suitable to house them? Housing in communities seems to be at the very heart of social problems and also solutions, and yet, for many achieving this goal is out of reach, and for others, the focus is to see a house as an investment, not a home. This brings to mind again the theme of the impact of inequality, in that different approaches in policing and the courts, and the inclusion of the third sector are always going to be constrained in demonstrating their effectiveness, where social exclusion thrives and were the disadvantaged are misled and mis-represented.

 

I was really struck by the range of methodologies present in papers, from ethnography getting the attention it deserved, from papers and most importantly, giving Professor Dick Hobbs the Lifetime Award – a lot of crimtweeters were very pleased about that one! But there were also some exciting new forms of studying crime, through examining essays written by women who have committed serious crimes (Heimer and de Coster) and lyrical criminology (Steve Wakeman) which is something I want to know more about. Finally, the use of social networking data as a predictor of crime – computational criminology (Prof. Matthew Williams). Accessing data from social networking sites was something I used in my own research in a much less sophisticated way, but for me it was a useful resource by which to examine community life and experiences as well as responses to agencies using social networking to promote their work, such as charities and also Neighbourhood Policing teams. To use it as a form of ‘big data’ is an exciting new frontier and will no doubt generate plenty of new research opportunities. This was also demonstrated by Kelly Hannah Moffat in her paper on big data and social injustice.

 

So, I heartily agree with Prof. Chakraborti, that British Criminology is in good health – these ramblings are from just some of the #BSCConf2016 tweets and surely the tip of the iceberg, but they do show how criminologists are engaging with new forms of data, contemporary challenges and understanding and embracing what a truly diverse world we live in.

SPECIAL CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS : Chilcot Inquiry

Special Call for Contributions: Chilcot Inquiry

We are putting out a special call for contributions to a blog piece, written by criminology postgraduates. This is an opinion piece, and we are only after a small paragraph 150-300 words, that discusses the potential implications of the report from a criminological perspective.

You can address any area of  the report or talk more generally about the impact upon wider criminal justice issues.

If this relates to your research, or would like to make a longer contribution (500-800 words) this would also be welcomed. (Please indicate in your email if you would like to offer an extended piece and I will send you the details back before you write your contribution).

Please email nicola.harding@stu.mmu.ac.uk with your contribution by Wednesday 13th July.

iraq inquiry call.png

 

BSCConf2016 – Plenary review

BSCConf2016 – Plenary on ‘criminology’ by Professor Peter Squires and the ‘near perfect storm’ by Will Hutton.

By Susie Atherton

Susie Atherton is a Teaching Fellow in Criminology at Keele University. She has recently submitted her PhD on ‘Communities, Crime and Justice: Exploring community justice and community life’ which is a case study of community justice initiatives in the North East. It examines different ways in which the police, courts and restorative justice practitioners work with volunteers and local citizens to solve the problem of crime and anti-social behaviour.

As an observer in the comfort of my study and soft leather (effect) chair it is interesting to watch how the conference this year is represented through twitter, and so I decided to collate some observations and thoughts.

image

Professor Peter Squires began with asking ‘What is Criminology?’ A very important question and one which we all still need to grapple with, in order to consider its role in determining the future of criminal justice policy, the political and economic contexts in which this occurs and to critique the pervasive notion of justice as punishment. It resonated with me given my own PhD research on problem solving justice, which requires practitioners, journalists and local citizens to accept different forms of ‘doing justice.’ Any number of evaluations into such approaches, (e.g. Wolf 2007, Mair and Millings, 2011; Bowen and Whitehead 2013) demonstrate the value of problem solving approaches, innovation in courts and restorative justice. However, they also emphasize the challenges in engaging citizens to work with the state to prevent crime and re-offending, whether this is seen solely as the responsibility of the state, or a problem they wish to see removed, rather than resolved. Donoghue (2014) suggests court processes can do something which is more ‘socially meaningful’ than being part of the punishment production line and others see courts as a place for ‘therapeutic jurisprudence’ (e.g. Ward, 2014) in which the adversarial contest gives way to dialogue with defendants and partnership working with a range of other agencies to prevent re-offending.

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In his plenary, Professor Squires suggests the discipline of criminology needs to contribute to policy which is evidence led, asks more practical questions, looks forward and seeks to solve problems. In restorative justice and problem solving approaches in courts and in policing, there are examples of a response to crime which is more forward thinking. Perhaps then challenge for criminologists is to get this message out to those who still view justice as punishment to deter others, taking retributive glances back to the harms caused and justifying the rhetoric of control as a means to solve the problem of crime.

 

The theme of the political and economic contexts in which crime and the response to it occurs was then picked up by Will Hutton. He outlined the ‘near perfect storm’ of the political and social disaster of the new right project, which has seen pervasive and long term inequalities leading to what Dr Mary Corcoran described as  ‘weakening civil society.’ The acceptance of contemporary forms capitalism across the board of policy makers, politicians, the media and citizens, which Dr James Treadwell described as ‘capitalism on steroids’ has now demanded attention by criminologists. Recent events have seen high profile political figures retreat from their responsibilities, even in the face of a victorious (in the eyes of Gove, Johnson, Farage et al) referendum vote to leave the European Union (EU), in a campaign which dismissed the word of ‘experts’ and which has gambled with social and economic policy. The divisive reactions from citizens focusing their frustration and anger on immigration and the role of the EU is disturbing, but not surprising. Given that it is the experts, the researchers and academics across the country who can provide evidence on what works, for whom and why, criminology has its place in using research to examine the details of how crime and justice affects individuals and communities, whilst also understanding how social structures and political ideologies inform policy, practice and perceptions of crime and justice.

 

Both plenaries have provided some interesting themes for the conference, so, if anyone at the conference is reading this, do keep tweeting!

 

References

BOWEN, P. and WHITEHEAD, S. (2013) Better courts: Cutting crime through court innovation, New Economics Foundation and Centre for Justice Innovation.

DONOGHUE, J. (2014). Transforming Criminal Justice?: Problem-Solving and Court Specialisation. Routledge.

MAIR, G. and MILLINGS, M. (2011) Doing Justice Locally: The North Liverpool Community Justice Centre, Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, London.

WARD, J. (2014) Are problem-solving courts the way forward for justice? London: Howard League for Penal Reform.

WOLF, R.V. (2007) Principles of Problem Solving Justice, Center for Court Innovation, New York: Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Picture credit to Claire Davis BSC PG Chair @ClaireDavisPHD.

Tweet Susie your thoughts @SusieAtherton and follow the conference hash-tag #BSCConf16.

 

 

BSC Conference 2016 – Inequalities in a diverse world

Today is the first day of the British Society of Criminology conference for 2016 ‘Inequalities in a diverse world’. This year the conference is being held in Nottingham, and postgraduates are part of the main conference, with a dedicated morning for postgraduates starting today at 9am with a free breakfast!

Claire and the postgraduate committee have organised a brilliant morning today which will be very useful for postgraduates attending the conference. This includes:

Postgraduate Plenary:Peter Squires, University of Brighton
‘Criminology on a Mission: Difficult Issues and Awkward Questions’

 

Postgraduate Panel sessions:

Mark Simpson, Teesside University and David Best, Sheffield Hallam University -Networking and Conference Skills
Peter Squires, University of Brighton and Helen Jones, British Society of Criminology
– Dissemination, Media and Impact
Steve Tong, Canterbury Christ Church University and Victoria Silverwood,
Birmingham City University
-Building your Academic CV
Thomas Sutton, Routledge Books
Getting published: An introduction for early career academics
and
Jacquelyn Fernholz, Routledge, Taylor and Francis
Publishing in academic journals.

You can look through the conference proceedings here.

Today at least two of our postgrad’s are giving oral presentations, and they have both also contributed to our blog.

Jayne Price, University of Liverpool, is in today’s first session A.1 ‘Perspectives on youth justice’ 15:15-16:45 (LT4, Level 1 and 0 access). You can read her blog post here.

‘Exploring pathways and transitions between juvenile and adult penal institutions’
And

Charlene Crossley, Manchester Metropolitan University, is in today’s last session B.15 ‘Young people, Violence and Homicide’ 17:00-18:30 (LT9 Level 0). Read her blog post here.

‘Here. Me. Now.: The goals and aspirations of young people living in communities labelled as gang affected’

If you are at the conference and are able to, please go along to show them some support and ask some questions/ give feedback. Don’t forget, we have some brilliant poster submissions from postgraduates, please do make sure you get a chance to check them out.

** Are you a postgraduate presenting at the conference this year? email me your details nicola.harading@stu.mmu.ac.uk, and I will also feature you on the blog **

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.

 

Join the BSC PG mailing list

Hello everyone

We’re trying to help facilitate regular and meaningful communication within the postgraduate criminology community, but understand social media may not be everyone’s preferred choice.  If you would like to receive information from our new Jiscmail account, please use the following link: www.jiscmail.ac.uk/BSC-POSTGRADUATES

If you haven’t used it before or are unsure about what it is, Jiscmail is a place where you can subscribe to mailing lists from different organisations.  To subscribe to our list you can either use your existing Jiscmail account (if you have one), set up a new account (if you don’t), or use your institutional log in.

With best wishes

Claire, Nicola and Sarah

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)