The Cyprus Rape Case – A Sad Example of Victim Blaming

You might have seen the unfolding of the ‘Cyprus gang rape case‘ over recent months.

This seems to be a good example of how the courts in Cyprus engage in ‘victim blaming’ when it comes to rape, and seems to illustrate many of the ideas of radical feminism – about how patriarchal institutions punish women for the violence men do against them. It’s of obvious relevance to Feminist theory applied to Crime and Deviance.

The Cyprus Rape Case…

On 17th July 2019 a British woman filed a report in a police station in Ayia Napa claiming she had been gang raped by 12 Israeli men. The men were detained, and various examinations carried out, linking 7 of them to the alleged victim through DNA evidence and or shared scratches/ bruises. The incident was also filmed.

On 27th July the victim visited the police station again, to give a statement, but after 8 hours of questioning without a lawyer retracted her original report saying she had consented to having sex with all 12 men.

The alleged rapists were then released and allowed to go home to Israel while the British woman was charged by the Cypriot authorities with making a false statement – and had to spend the next 6 months on bail why she waited for her trial to take place.

On the fourth of January, the woman was found guilty of misleading the police, but the judge refused to take into account certain crucial pieces of evidence – he didn’t even look at the video footage which was taken, for example.

As punishment she received a four month sentence, and was allowed to return home to the UK, and she is now going to appeal her conviction.

If you want to find out more, from a Feminist perspective, then this Huffington Post article is a useful source.

IMO this is a grim case which clearly shows the lengths the police and the courts will go to in Cyprus to protect men by blaming women who get gang raped.

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Keeping Women out of Prison

Why do women offend, reoffend and how do we break the cycle?

This recent Positive Thinking Podcast on radio 4 (30 December 2019) explores why women offend, reoffend and how to break the cycle.

It has obvious relevance to the Crime and Deviance module and this is also an excellent example of a Feminist inspired programme, with the focus on stories rather than stats and solutions rather than causes.

Women make up a tiny proportion of the overall prison population and are twice as likely as men to be given a short sentence (of two years or less). However, the reoffending rates for women given short sentences is around 70% compared to men’s which is 20%.

It’s suggested that short prison sentences hit women a lot harder than men, especially the 50% of them who have children. A short sentence is just enough to mess up their lives and break down their social and emotional support networks, but not enough time for them to receive the structured support/ therapy that might help them break out bad habits such as substance abuse, for example.

The programme is co-presented by an ex-offender, Whitney, who has had 10 convictions for offences such as drugs and carrying weapons, and has spent time in jail. The programme focuses a lot on her story about why she started and continued offending ( rather than focusing on statistics) but its real focus is on solutions.

Whitney’s case is presented as ‘typical’ and it’s pretty bleak (well worth a listen first five mins of the podcast) – she was abused as a four year old by someone known to the family, and taken into foster care at 7 years of age along with here siblings, then spent the next several years in various foster homes, making 47 run-away attempts during that period. She was also excluded from multiple schools.

Eventually the authorities let the siblings go back and live with their mother, it seems because of their belligerence, but rows happened between Whitney and her mother, and that’s where her criminal record started. However, it was getting caught carrying a knife that led to her first jail sentence – she never used or drew the knife, just carried it for self defence, and she didn’t actually get a jail sentence for carrying it – she got sent down for failing to stick to the restrictions but on her as part of her remand-sentence – interfering with her tag and staying out clubbing after curfew.

She describes going to jail for 2 months as something which ‘broke her’ – she says she saw women going and coming back during that time, saw and learnt things that maybe she never should have.

Probably the most interesting section is when Whitney asks ‘could I as a four year old stopped myself from being abused? Could I as a 7 year old stopped my siblings being taken into care?’

The answer – ‘Probably not’ reminds us that Whitney is actually a victim of abuse, and that’s the root cause of her offending behaviour, so maybe being tough on such people by giving them prison sentences is not the right answer, especially when the stats show that prison does very little to break the cycle of offending.

Solutions – breaking the cycle of offending

The show looks at three projects working on solutions – one of the most interesting is a hair dressing salon in Dagenham, Essex, in which one enterprising woman trains ex offenders and drug users in level one hair dressing.

Part of the reason this works is that hairdressing is very social, and so it gives the students a connection to ‘normal’ life – and the feeling that ‘other people’ are interested in them – one student referred to didn’t have that as all she’d ever known was abusive relationships.

This project is really about going back to the very basics and just giving women the building blocks to structure their lives, and it seems to work – out of more than 40 people who took the course, only 3 didn’t complete it – 1 died and 2 went back to their own ways.

It’s worth mentioning that are some obvious links to left realist criminology here!

There are two other solutions mentioned, but I’ll let you listen to this excellent podcast to find out about them, it really is well worth a listen!

The Forced Labour behind Christmas Cards

A family recently found a plea for help in a ‘charity’ Christmas Card from Tesco. The message read “We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu prison China. Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organisation.”

The Christmas Card in which the plea for help was found!

According to this Sky News report, the message requested that whoever read it contact a British journalist, Peter Humphrey who had himself been incarcerated in the same prison (on false charges), and forced to make Christmas related products for various other big name high street companies. The family contacted Humphrey, who validated the message.

This is at least the third time that someone has found a similar message in products made in Chinese prisons.

Relevance to A-level sociology

  • Firstly, this is a good example of negative globalisation – where the most oppressed people in one of the most oppressive nations on earth suffer at the end of a global supply chain which delivers consumers in the UK cheap products, in this case Christmas cards.
  • Secondly, it’s a good example of Corporations engaging in what Matza might call the ‘denial of responsibility’ – even though they benefit from the cheap (/free) labour of Chinese prisoners, they can deny responsibility because the supply chain is so large they claim they can’t check every case of human rights abuses which goes on along it. It’s a case of out of site, out of mind.
  • Finally, it’s another reminder of the fact that that China is a human rights abuser and a state criminal actor.

Final thoughts

If you want an ethical Christmas, I recommend you don’t celebrate it – do what I do and just start your New Year’s detox early instead!

China’s Persecution of the Uighurs – A Horrible Example of a State Crime

The Chinese government is currently engaged in an ongoing act of cultural genocide against the Uighur Muslims, a minority population within North Western China.

As part of this cultural genocide, 15000 mosques have already been bulldozed and thousands of Uighur Muslims have been rounded up and forced into ‘re-education’ camps (which the Chinese government calls ‘job training’ centers.

In these camps they are forced to renounce their faith and their traditions, and to speak Mandarin Chinese.

The Chinese state has used surveillance technology including facial recognition, mandatory fingerprinting, Iris scans, and routine checks on phones, combined with AI based predictive software to flag up suspects who ‘refuse alcohol’ or who ‘discuss the Koran’.

The camps were constructed following a series of terror attacks in the region, leaked government documents have President Xi dictating his officials to show ‘no mercy’ in the battled against extremists, and that anyone ‘infected’ by extremism requires a painful ‘interventionary treatment’ where their ‘erroneous thinking’ can be eradicated.

Relevance of this to A-level sociology

Firstly, it’s a horrific example of a contemporary state crime – this is a flagrant abuse of the human rights (as ‘protected’ by the United Nations) by the Chinese State.

Secondly, it’s a good example of both the power of the Nation State (China) to abuse people, and the powerlessness other Nation States to do anything about it – pretty much every country on Earth is ignoring this, including Muslim majority countries.

Thirdly, it’s an interesting (and again horrific) example of how surveillance can be used to control people.

Source: The Week, 30 September 2019.

Find out More

This Al Jazeera news article is a useful starting point.

Can religion lead gang members away from crime?

The short answer is yes: ex gang members who join a religious ‘support’ programme as a way out of crime have lower re-offending rates. However, the re-offending rates of those who quit such programmes have higher reoffending rates than those who never took part at all!

This is according to some recent research summarized in this interesting Thinking Allowed podcast. The research summarized is clearly relevant to both the beliefs in society module and the crime and deviance module.

The podcast starts off with a discussion of what gangs are, focusing mainly on how uncritically the term is used.

There’s an especially interesting discussion on labelling as applied to gangs and how naming a gang can sometimes be enough to bring it into existence.

There is also commentary on how the gang label is typically applied to groups of young people, and how it has racial connotations, being applied more to black youth.

The podcast then moves onto routes into gangs, outlining how various ‘causal factors’ have been identified through research, such as poverty, deprivation, and childhood trauma.

However research on causes is a bit 1990s, and the focus today is more on routes out of crime, or what criminologists call desistance

Desistance: Routes out of Crime

This episode of Thinking Allowed finishes off with a summary of Professor Ross Deuchar‘s work on the routes out of gangs.

He has spent time with gang members who have served their time for gang related offenses and in a liminal phase, trying to transition away from gang life, and his research has a real global focus, he’s researched desistance in Scotland, the US and Asia.

Previous research of his highlighted the fact that traditional, or hegemonic masculinity played a big part in gang members criminality – much of the violence was about playing out a hyper masculine role.

His research shows that religious groups offering therapeutic support to ex gang members have a higher success rate than usual in helping ex gang members to desist from crime.

He suggests this might be because the focus on spirituality (rather than dogma) allows for a deepening awareness of self an others and it helps ex-gang members learn how to be men in different ways to previously.

There is a lot more to this podcast, and I suggest you check it out, click the link above to find out more!

Are police officers really 100 times less criminal than the general population?

189 police officers have been convicted across 12 police forces in England in Wales in five years since 2013 , according to a recent FOI request (source: The Telegraph). This equates to just 37.8 police officer convictions each year.

According to Full Fact, there were 126, 300 total police officers in England and Wales in March 2019.

This gives us a police officer conviction rate of 0.03% per year – that is to say that 0.03% of police officers are convicted of a crime each year.

1.38 million people in the general population were prosecuted in the year (CJS Stats, 2018)

A very rough estimate for the number of adults in England and Wales is around 50 million, so this gives us a rough adult conviction rate of 2.76 per year.

This means the Police officer conviction rate is 100 times less than that for the population as a whole.

How accurate are these statistics?

Personally I’m sceptical about the police officer conviction rate.

Despite the fact that the police probably are less likely to commit crime – I mean it kind of goes with the job, not committing crime, and then there’s the embarrassment of getting caught even if you are criminally inclined, which I imagine would be a further deterrent, I still think there’s a lot of criminal police officers whose crimes are just not getting detected.

I imagine you’d be less likely to be suspected of a crime – I mean the police themselves aren’t going to get stopped and searched are they?

Then there’s the fact that prosecutors might be more reluctant to prosecute police because it makes the system look flawed.

Then of course there’s all those things which won’t be defined as criminal because it’s the police doing them in the line of duty – such as speeding and violence, and drug possession come to think of it.

Sociological Perspectives on Hate Crime

What is Hate Crime?

The Home Office defines Hate Crime as ‘

‘Any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone based on a personal characteristic.’ (Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2018-19).

There are five main characteristics which the police monitor…..

  • race or ethnicity
  • religion or beliefs
  • sexual orientation
  • disability
  • transgender identity.

However this is not an exhaustive list and hate crimes can also be committed on the basis of age or gender, and there are calls to include misogyny (hatred of women) as a hate crime.

Hate crimes typically include any of the following acts motivated by ‘hatred’ against any of the above characteristics….

  • Assault with or without injury
  • Harassment
  • Causing fear, alarm or distress
  • Criminal Damage

All of these crimes can also be committed in general, but if a victim feels they were motivated by hatred of their religion or gender identity etc. then the police must record the act as a hate crime.

Trends in Hate Crime

Trends in hate crime vary significantly depending on where you get your data…

Police recorded Hate Crime reports that there were 103,379 Hate Crimes in England and Wales in 2018/19, an increase of 50% over the last five years:

However, the 2018-19 Crime Survey for England and Wales shows a decline in Hate Crime the estimated number of hate crime incidents experienced by adults aged 16 has fell by 40 percent from 307,000 in the combined 2007/08 and 2008/09 surveys to 184,000 in the combined 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18 surveys.

Thus it’s possibly best to reject the Police Recorded Crime Stats as being invalid as a measurement of the total amount of Hate Crime committed, given that around 50% of CSEW Hate Crimes are not picked up by the police.

Sociological Perspectives on Hate Crime

Many of the earlier perspectives seem pretty ineffective at explaining this type of crime. You’d probably have a hard time trying to apply Functionalism, for example: by definition these crimes are divisive, and a reflection of conflict in society, rather than social integration, and it’s hard to see how this particular type of crime could be regarded as functional for society or in any way positive.

Similarly with other consensus theories: there’s little evidence that a breakdown of social control, a strain in society, or of subcultures being significant causal factors (at least no more than with any other type of crime) of hate crime… many of these crimes are committed by lone individuals.

It’s possible to apply Interactionism to help understand religiously motivated crime motivated by Islamophobia, given the general negative press coverage of Islam, focussing mainly on infrequent terror attacks when they happen. However, this doesn’t explain hate-crimes agains other religions or minority groups. There’s hardly a moral panic against the LGBT community for example!

Rational Choice Theory (from Right Realism) could partially explain hate crime – possibly some of the perpetrators feel as if there’s little chance of them being caught harassing their victims because the ‘general public sentiment’ is on their side, so they won’t be reported.

This does seem to be a very postmodern crime – in that it’s a negative response to the increased visibility of minority groups and the increase in Diversity in British culture in recent years, although this is a very general level of theoretical explanation.

Possibly hate crime is a reaction to the increased relative deprivation and a feeling of marginalisation experienced by the perpetrators? Maybe they feel as if everything ‘diverse’ and ‘minority’ is being celebrated and has a place in British Culture but that more traditional British culture now has no place? So maybe there’s a possible application of Left Realism to be made here.

Conclusions>?

Hate Crime is a difficult crime to understand. It seems that many of the perspectives simply don’t apply to it, and those that do only seem to apply at the most general level.

So maybe this is a type of crime that defies sociological explanation?

NB – there may be quite a lot of it, but remember that if you take the CSEW stats, hate crime is actually going down, while the police seem to be getting better at reporting it, so whatever the causes, maybe it’s not all bad?!?

The social construction of crime

A key idea in the sociology of crime and deviance is that crime is socially constructed which means that whether an act is criminal or not is determined by social processes. In the case of crime, the introduction of new Acts of Parliament which change the law constantly change the nature of crime.

As a result, there are many things that were not illegal in the past which are criminal and thus illegal now.

A brief timeline of some recent changes to the law illustrate this…

1973 – Motorcycle helmets made compulsory

Before 1973 it was perfectly legal to ride a motorcycle without a helmet, not so from 1973.

(Source)

1991 – rape within marriage made illegal.

Previous to this it was held that men could not rape women within marriage, because the marriage union was equivalent to consensual sex at any time. The illegality of rape within marriage was not formalised until the 2003 sexual offenses act.

Source: The Week

1994 – informally organised Raves made illegal (sort of)

In 1994 The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 was aimed at clamping down on anti-social behaviour. It effectively gave the police new powers to break up raves, or any informally arranged gathering of 100 or more people listening to music involving a series of repetitive beats.

The 1992 Castlemorton rave, the biggest ever informally organised rave in British history, is one of the events that led to the establishment of the 1994 Criminal Justice and Anti-Social Behaviour Act…

NB the act didn’t technically make it illegal for you and your mates to organise a rave, it just makes it easier for the police to break them up, slap an injunction order on you, and then arrest you the next time for breaking the injunction order.

This notorious act also made it easier for the police to break up road protests, move on travellers and arrest hunt saboteurs.

Source:Wiki

2007 – the smoking ban

Made it illegal to smoke indoors in public places such as public transport and bars.

2016 – The Psychoactive Substance Act

In 2016 the selling of so called ‘legal high’s such as Spice was made illegal through the  the psychoactive substance act

Acts restricting (or allowing) the use of psychoactive substances are useful examples in themselves to illustrate how ‘crime’ is socially constructed. While the UK has been toughening up its drug laws increasing numbers of states in America have been making the growing and sale of cannabis legal.

2020 – parents to be banned from smacking children in Wales (probably )

Smacking your children isn’t illegal in England, at least as long as you don’t leave any physical signs of bruising on them, but there is currently an act going through the Welsh parliament that aims to ban the physical punishment of children by parents outright. It looks set to pass at some point in near future.

Putting it all together…

So in 1972 you could have drunk a couple of pints in the pub while smoking (in the pub), organised an attended a quick Rave with your mates with all of you high on Spice (or whatever so called ‘legal highs’ existed in 1972), ridden back home on your bike without your helmet on (assuming you were within the drink driving limits) and then forced yourself on your wife without her explicit consent, and non of that would have been illegal, thus you would have committed no crime.

At out the same scenario today and you’d be breaking multiple laws and looking at a lengthy jail term.

NB this post makes no judgement about the morality of any of the above acts or laws, it’s merely to highlight the extent to which crime is socially constructed.

Further info/ find out more…

Drug timeline UK https://www.theweek.co.uk/65464/when-was-cannabis-made-illegal-in-the-uk

Why has moped-enabled crime declined?

the decline of moped-enabled theft seems to support the view that right realist crime control techniques are effective

Moped-enabled crime was frequently headline news back in 2017: the typical story focussing on helmeted youths on stolen mopeds snatching mobile phones or doing smash and grab raids on jewellery shops.

In the summer of 2017 it seemed like no one was safe from this mobile-threat – even Michael Macintyre had his Range Rover window smashed and his watch stolen. But celebrities were just the tip of the victim iceberg: at its peak moped-criminals were targetting over 50 victims a day

However, Moped-enabled crime has more than halved since its peak in 2017, and so it would seem that the police and other agencies have responded effectively with appropriate policies and been successful in keeping this type of crime under control.

To my mind this seems to be a great example of the successful application of several right realist policies of crime control, a combination of target hardening and a more ‘Zero Tolerance’ approach to dealing with moped-criminals.

Statistics on Moped-Enabled Crime

The number of moped-enabled crimes rose rapidly

Police recorded crime stats are quite dramatic: with an approximate 5 times increase in moped-enable theft being recorded from the beginning of 2016 to the middle of 2017, from when we see a correspondingly rapid decline.

According to Full Fact, some of rapid increase in 20187 was due to improved recording practices, but

How do we Explain the (Rapid) Decline in Moped-Enabled Crime?

This seems to be a straightforward case of the police adopting tougher ‘right realist’ style control measures.

  • Firstly, and most dramatically, they have adopted the policy of ramming escaping moped thieves, apparently getting over their concern about being prosecuted for harming these criminals.
  • Secondly, they have introduced other, more sophisticated ‘chase’ technologies such as slimline bikes and remote control stinger devices to puncture tyres.
  • Thirdly, the courts are adopting tough measures to deal with some moped criminals, as evidenced here with the case of the moped gang who received a 67 year prison sentence between them.
  • Fourthly, there have been education/ awareness campaigns to encourage moped users to enhance their bike security, and the general public to be more aware when using their mobiles.

Limitations of right realist crime control techniques

Moped-enabled crime still remains at a relatively high level compared to 2016, which possible reflects one of main limitations of right realist techniques of crime control: they don’t address the underlying causes of crime.

IF left-leaning perspectives such as Left Realism are correct, then the stock of people who might engage in moped-enable theft are still out there – those who are marginalised and relatively deprived and who lack the means to earn ‘serious money’…..

It follows that police control tactics such as those outlined above will only work as long as the government funding is in place to pay for it!

Find out more…..

For further information follow the links embedded above, or use the sources below….

The Daily Mail2018Moped crime in London more than HALVES a year after police started ramming suspects off their bikes
ONS2018Fall in moped crime as multi-agency taskforce produces results
The Guardian2018Moped-enabled crimes: London police called to 430 a week in past year
gov.co.uk2017https://www.london.gov.uk/questions/2017/3845
MET2018https://www.met.police.uk/SysSiteAssets/foi-media/metropolitan-police/disclosure_2018/august_2018/information-rights-unit—crimes-involving-mopeds-and-motorbikes-in-london-from-2013-to-2017
Full Fact 2018Is Moped Crime Rising in London
Telegraph2019Moped Gang jaild for 67 years
Telegraph2019https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2cHjvt3ztU

Does Prison Work? The Stats suggest not!

What can prison population statistics tell us about Crime Control in the UK?  Is Prison an effective strategy for controlling crime?

These are questions that should be of interest to any student studying the Crime and Deviance option within A-level sociology.

Scotland, England and Wales have high prison populations 

Prison population england.PNG

In England and Wales we lock up 40% more people than in France and almost twice as many people as they do in Germany, which are broadly comparable countries.

Yet there is no link between the prison population and levels of crime 

prison population and crime rate.PNG

  • England and wales have seen a rising prison population and a rising then a rapidly falling crime rate
  • Finland has seen a declining prison population and a rising and then a gradually declining crime rate.
  • Canada has seen a broadly level prison population and yet a relatively stable crime rate.

Most people are serving short sentences for non-violent offences 

what people are sentenced for.PNG

Nearly 70% of the prison population are in for non-violent offences – which means that 30% are in for violent offences. In those prisons where the two populations are mixed, this must be awful for some of those non-violent offenders.

People are getting sentenced for longer 

long sentences for serious offences.PNG

I’m not sure what’s underlying this rise in more serious offences …. the most obvious long-sentence crime of murder has decreased in recent years, so maybe this is for violent gang related and terrorist related crimes which involve in harm rather than death ? Something to research further!

Does Prison work?

In short, if controlling crime is what you hope to achieve, then no it doesn’t because nearly 50% of those sent to prison are recalled within 1 year of being released.

reoffending rates England 2019.PNG

However, there are more reasons why you might want to lock people up other than just rehabilitating them and preventing future offending – there is an argument that they just deserve to be punished whether they reoffend or not.

How do community service orders and suspended sentences compare to prison?

it seems that both of these are more effective at preventing reoffending, but the difference isn’t that great:

  • 63% of people who serve sentences of less than 12 months reoffend compared to
  • 56% of those who receive community orders and compared to
  • 54% of those who receive suspended sentences.

reoffending community service compared prison.PNG

HOWEVER, this may be due to the fact that those avoiding jail have different circumstances and/ or different characters to those who do go to jail – they might just be the kinds of people less likely to reoffend already!

Conclusions 

Overall these prison statistics suggest that while we like to lock people up in England and Wales, there is little evidence that doing so prevents crime.

Maybe we should be looking for cheaper and more effective solutions – such as early intervention (initially expensive but cheaper than several years in and out of jail), or public shaming for example?

Sources 

This post is based on data taken from ‘Prison the facts, Summer 2019‘, published by the Prison Reform Trust.