AQA A-level sociology exam advice 2018: how to answer 4 and 6 mark ‘outline questions’ (crime and deviance)

Examples of actual student responses marked by the AQA, showing you the standards expected to get certain marks!

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Below is an example of an actual marked response to a 4 mark ‘outline question’, marked by AQA examiners.

The example is taken from the 2017 Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods Paper (paper and mark schemes available from the AQA website) and the specific question is:

Outline two reasons for ethnic differences in criminal conviction rates (4)

The mark scheme for this question is as below:

Two marks for each of two appropriate reasons clearly outlined or one mark for each appropriate reason partially outlined, such as:

  • The police are racist (1 mark); they are less likely to stop and search white people and so they are less likely to detect their offences (+1 mark).
  • Some minority ethnic groups are relatively deprived (1 mark); and so they commit more utilitarian crime (+1 mark).
  • Ethnic minorities have a younger average age profile (1 mark); and offenders in general are disproportionately young (+1 mark).
  • Some ethnic groups are more likely to commit crimes against the person (1 mark); and so they are more likely to be witnessed by victims, identified and caught (+1 mark).
    Other relevant material should be credited.
    No marks for no relevant points.

While this example is taken from 4 mark outline question from the education paper, the general advice below on how to answer such questions applies equally both the 4 and 6 mark outline questions on both A level sociology papers 3 and 1.

For general advice on how to answer 4 and 6 mark outline questions please see this post here.

Marked exemplar of a 4 mark question:

AQA Sociology marked question

KT’s commentary

  • The first candidate’s response above is an excellent example of a classic ‘1+1’ strategy…. give a reason and explain HOW this leads to differences.
  • Obviously the second response is a good example of ‘how not to do it!’. You need to get yer answers right!
  • The candidate could have selected any of the other ‘identifiers’ in the mark scheme above to pick up an additional two marks.

 

Sources:

  • A-level SOCIOLOGY Feedback on the Examinations Student responses and commentaries: Paper 3 7192/3 Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods
    (Published: Autumn 2017)
  • The AQA’s 2017 Paper 3 Sociology (7192/3) Mark Scheme.

NB – the first document is NOT available on the AQA website, but any teacher should have access to it via eaqa. I’m sharing it here in order to make the exam standards more accessible, and to support the AQA in their equality and meritocratic agendas, because there will be some poor students somewhere whose teachers aren’t organised enough to access this material for them. 

 

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Contemporary Sociology: The Parsons Green Tube Bomber

The Tube Bomber: A “Duty” to Hate Britain?

The case of Ahmed Hassan, the 18 year old Iraqi asylum seeker who planted a homemade bomb onto a London tube train in September 2017, injuring 51 people is a good candidate for the most serious crime of 2017. Had his device worked properly (it ‘only’ created a fireball rather than actually exploding) dozens of people would have died.

Hassan was sentenced to life in March 2018, and ordered to serve a minimum of 34 years.

Hassan claimed that he never wanted to kill anyone, he said he was depressed and seeking attention and thrills, having watched Mission Impossible films and developed the fantasy of being a fugitive pursued by Interpol across Europe.

However, there was also the fact that he seemed to have harboured intense loathing of the UK, which he blamed for his death in an explosion in Iraq a decade ago. When he arrived in the UK in 2015 (illegally in the back of a lorry) he told immigration officials that he’d been seized by Islamic State and ‘trained to kill’ (although he claimed to have made this up in court); and he had previously been seen watching extremist videos and apparently sending money to Isis. He’d also told one of his teachers that he had a ‘duty to hate Britain’.

What’s interesting about this case, is how all of the ‘standard’ preventive measures just failed to work….he had been given a foster couple who ‘showered him with love’ and was getting on well with his education – in fact, he seemed to be flourishing, having been made student of the year in 2017 in his college in Surrey: although he actually used his £20 Amazon voucher prize to buy chemicals for his bomb, which he then packed with knives, screwdrivers and nails.

Hassan had also been referred to the ‘Prevent’ deradicalisation programme, but this clearly didn’t work, and social services didn’t even warn his foster parents about his extremist leanings.

Relevance to A-level sociology…

At first glance, this seems to be a good case study which illustrates the necessity the take a stronger line on illegal immigration…if someone can commit a crime of this magnitude with all of the Preventative measure we already have in place, surely it’s impossible to prevent something like this happening again? Maybe a tougher line on immigration would have prevented this?

However, what we’re not seeing with just one dramatic case study is the bigger picture – all of the other cases that the authorities are preventing with their various crime control techniques… and let’s not forget that in complex risk society it is practically impossible to eradicate all ‘bad things’ from happening, so perhaps we just have to need to learn to live with this without panicking unduly.

This could also possibly show us the failings of ‘categorical suspicion’ as a means of crime control – possibly the fact that Hassan had ‘good foster parents’ and he was doing well at college were enough for the authorities to disregard all the other warning signs?

Why has Police Recorded Crime Doubled in Three Years?

The number of violent crimes and sex offences recorded by police in England and Wales have more than doubled in the last four years.

violent_crime_statistics

This is an excellent article by the BBC summarising this trend, with a pretty shocking embedded video in which reporters witness two serious crimes: one ‘moped mugging’ and another just ‘regular’ attempted mugging in a park.

The latest police figures for the 12 months to September from 44 forces show:

  • 68,968 robbery offences, up 29%
  • 138,045 sex offences, up 23%
  • 37,443 knife crime offences, up 21%
  • 1,291,405 violent crime offences, up 20%

However the ONS says higher-harm violent offences, such as knife crime occur in relatively low volumes, and also tend to be concentrated in cities and are therefore not “well-measured” by the Crime Survey.

Analysis (from the BBC)

Although there’s likely to be a dispute about the accuracy of the police crime figures because they hinge, to some extent, on the way forces log offences, how pro-active they are and the willingness of victims to come forward, they clearly demonstrate a rapidly rising caseload.

At the same time, the number of police officers has continued to fall: in the 12 months to last September, down 930 to 121,929. That combination – rising crime, declining police numbers – is creating enormous strain for forces.

Applying Perspectives to explain this increase in crime:

From Right Realist perspective, this increase crime will be a direct result of the declining police numbers, although the decline is so small, it probably doesn’t explain that much of the decrease.

From a Left Realist perspective, it could be due to increasing levels of marginalisation and relative deprivation (more likely?)

I think we can rule out postmodernism in the above cases – I don’t think (I might be wrong) that serious violent and sexual offences are done for the ‘thrill of the act’ – I’m fairly sure criminals don’t enjoy mugging people, for example.

From an Interactionist point of view, this increase in Police Recorded Crime (NB not reflected in the CSEW) is just an artefact of more people reporting crime – so there’s not necessarily a corresponding underlying increase.

What do you think the reasons are for the increase in the amount of violent crime recorded by the police in recent years?

 

 

Contemporary sociology: how should we tackle the increase in knife crime?

knife crime in London seems to be increasing rapidly, but how would left and right realists tackle this? Or is this all just a moral panic?

According to a recent BBC news article, London’s murder rate is increasing rapidly, so rapidly in fact that it’s just overtaken the murder in New York’s, a city historically notorious for its problems with violent crime.

Murder London

So is this just a moral panic, or is this recent increase in violent crime something we should be taking seriously?

What are the recent statistics?

So far in 2018 the MET police have investigated 46 murders, and the rate seems to be increasing alarmingly:

    • 8  murders were investigated in January
    • 15 murders were investigated in February
    • 22 murders were investigated in March.

Of the 44 murder investigations so far launched by the MET in 2018, 31 have been the results of stabbings.

So is this just a moral panic?

Focusing just on knife crime here, because this is the implement used in nearly 3/4s of all murders, the short answer is, probably not….

This recent increase seems to be in the context of a longer term increase in knife crime…

knife crime statistics

Although London’s knife crime rate is twice the national average…

Knife crime London

So while there does seem to be an issue with London’s knife crime rate increasing (rapidly!) this may not be representative of the country as a whole!

What’s causing this increase in Knife crime and murder?

A lot of the debate has focused on the fact that the police are stopping and searching fewer people. Police have become more withdrawn and are less pro-active in preventing crime through the use of stop and search:

stop search
Source: Ministry of Justice/ BBC

There is anecdotal evidence from the police that this has led to an increase in knife crime because young people are now more inclined to carry knives because they know they are less likely to be stopped and searched.

(Ironically it was Theresa May who oversaw this reduction as home secretary, partly responding to fears that the disproportionate use of stop and search against young black men was alienating huge numbers of people.)

Interestingly, knife crime is increasing despite a stiffening of penalties for possessing an offensive weapon:

Knife crime punisment
Source: Ministry of Justice/ BBC

You’re significantly more likely to get a custodial sentence today than compared to 2009, but this doesn’t seem to be putting people off carrying or using knives. I guess the ‘less likely to get caught’ outweighs the ‘likeliness of a stiff penalty’ or the ‘risk of being a victim if I don’t carry one’ factors in the cost-benefit calculation.

Right realists would agree with this approach – of increasing stop and search, of going back to a more random stop and search strategy.

Do we need a public health approach to reducing knife crime?

Labour MPs Sarah Jones (chair of the all-party parliamentary group on knife crime) and Dianne Abbott (both speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme), have both suggested that London needs to adopting a public health approach to reducing Knife crime – which means, for example:

  • engaging in major intervention work with youth workers
  • going into schools, changing the social norms, educating kids, teaching them what it is to be a man, teaching them how they don’t need to carry knives.
  • Working with mental health charities

Both point to case studies of New York and Glasgow, where such interventions have been adopted with both seeing significant reductions in violent crime (while at the same time also having a lighter touch approach to stop and search.

These policies are very left realist in nature – and both of the above MPs are skeptical about the usefulness of increasing the role of random stop and search – pointing out the toxic legacy it leaves in terms of police-community relations.

Selected sources 

Crime in England and Wales: Year Ending 2017

London murder rate overtakes New York’s (BBC)

Nine charts on the rise of knife crime in England and Wales (BBC)

Relevance to A-level sociology

Knife crime and other violent crimes seem to be increasing recently in England and Wales, so this topic is of continued relevance within the crime and deviance module.

Good resources for researching the nature and extent of Domestic Abuse

The topic of domestic abuse is relevant to the families and households and crime and deviance modules within A-level sociology, as well as providing some of the strongest supporting evidence for the continued relevance of Feminism more generally in contemporary society.

It’s also one of those topics that’s good to teach (sensitively) for more ‘humanistic reasons’ – raising awareness of the nature and extent, and underlying dynamics of domestic abuse could play a role in helping prevent today’s teenagers being victims (or even perpetrators!) of this crime.

Below I provide some ‘starting point’ resources which students can use to research the nature and extent of domestic abuse in England and Wales.

Office for National Statistics: Domestic Abuse in England and Wales (to year ending March 2017) – This ONS summary of CSEW and Police Recorded Crime data focuses on extent of domestic abuse, broken down over time, by gender, age and different types : the ‘headline stats’ are included in the infographic below:

Domestic Abuse Statistics 2018.png

Victim SupportVictim Support is an independent charity which supports victims of crime. Their section on domestic abuse is a a very accessible guide to the basic definition and different types of domestic abuse, as well as containing information about how to get support if your a Victim, or you think someone else is.

Women’s Aidmost of their research publications focus on the state of domestic abuse services (e.g. refuges) provided by the state and what happens to the survivors of domestic abuse. 

The NSPCC –  focusing on children and domestic abuse (which the ONS stats above do not cover). 1 in 5 children have been exposed to domestic abuse – either as victims themselves, or witnessing it.

The Femicide Census – profiles of women killed by men – 113 women were killed by men in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2016 – 69% of them by their intimate partners, and only 8% by strangers. This 2017 publication by Women’s Aid outlines some of the grim facts of this crime. 

The above are really just some useful ‘starting point’ links…. Further Sources to Follow!

 

Mexican government still struggling to control drugs cartels

There were 29,168 recorded murders in Mexico in 2017, or 20 murders for every 100, 000 of the population, more than at the height of the country’s drug war in 2011. (Source: The Guardian).

This dismal new record is being blamed on intense drug-related violence and turf wars – owing in particular to the rise and spread of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.

Jalisco Cartel

Analysts also believe the spike could be related to a number of autonomous groups emerging in the vacuum created by the capture of several major cartel bosses.

This is of obvious relevance to the Crime and Deviance aspect of A-level sociology – it demonstrates the continued power of organised (or dis-organised?) crime in countries through which drugs travel and the relative powerlessness of nation states to get this problem under control!

To put Mexico’s homicide rate in context, it’s more than 20* higher than the UKs, and yet smaller than Brazil’s and Colombia’s (27/ 100, 000) and El Salvador’s, which stands at 60.8 per hundred thousand.

Further sources used: 

The Week, 27 January 2017.

 

The legalisation of Pot in California

Sociological perspectives on the legalization of marijuana in California and other states

California has become (in January 2018) the 6th state in America to legalize the sale of marijuana for recreational use, following a 2016 referendum of Californian residents.

legalisation pot

This has clearly been a popular change in the law for some: In Berkeley, queues of people snaked around the block from 6 a.m. (odd time to be buying weed?) to late into the evening as one the first dispensaries to open struggled to cope with demand, suggesting that there are eventually going to be many licensed venues selling legal weed.

However, there are those that are opposed to the legalization of marijuana movement, the most powerful being the entire Trump administration, who are looking for ways to derail those 6 states which have legalized the drug.

Comments/m relevance to A level Sociology

This whole issue is a great example of how ‘crime is socially constructed‘ – you can quite literally hope over from California into the state of Arizona while smoking a joint and tada: you’re a criminal!

From a Functionalist point of view, it might be worth thinking about whether this is happening as a sort of ‘safety valve’ mechanism – there’s so much strain in America, and so many people already using drugs to cope with it, we may as well legalize it because it’s easier for the system to cope with it, and focus more on the ‘real criminals’.

 

 

 

Tax avoidance – supporting evidence for the Marxist Perspective on Crime

One of they key ideas of Marxist criminologists is that the Law is made by the property owning Capitalist class and  serves their interests.

(NB You might like to review the perspective by reading this long-form post on the Marxist theory of crime more generally before continuing…)

The issue of tax avoidance, which means legally bending the rules to avoid paying tax, is one of the best examples of how the legal system surrounding tax is structured in such a way that allows the wealthy to set up ‘shell companies’ in tax-havens to avoid paying tax on their income and investments….

Such methods can only ever benefit the rich as you need to be quite wealthy to be able to afford the legal and accountancy fees associated with doing this, so these methods are not really available to average, or even moderately high income individuals.

Lewis Hamilton Tax Avoidance.png

To my mind, the most notorious example of a tax avoider from 2017 was Lewis Hamilton, who used the ‘off shore’ method to get a £3 million VAT rebate on his £16 million private jet.

The Lewis Hamilton story was revealed as part of the ‘Paradise Papers’ leak – which consists of 13.4 million documents from offshore legal service providers such as Appleby covering seven decades, from 1950 to 2016. Tax-dodging is a very common practice by the wealthy!

Focussing on Corporate Tax Dodgers rather than individuals…

Corporate Tax Dodgers: the UK’s Worst Offenders – This article lists Google and Gary Barlow (or rather the Corporate entity ‘Take That’ as among the UK’s worst tax-dodgers, although it doesn’t distinguish between tax evasion (which is illegal) and tax avoidance (which isn’t)… I especially love the fact that it was put together (as basically an advert) by an accountancy firm in the North East of England – one of England’s poorest regions and thus the most likely to suffer from lower government revenue to tax dodging.

On a similar theme this Daily Mail article outlines with more clarity the Corporations avoiding Tax – including some very big names such as Café Nero and Vodafone, and LOTS more!

 

 

 

 

 

Good Sociology Movies #1: Minority Report

Thought I’d start bashing out the occasional Friday post on good sociology movies… starting with Minority Report – which is a great intro to the ‘surveillance and crime control‘ aspect of the AQA’s 7192 sociology syllabus, crime and deviance topic,

It’s the opening scene in Minority Report which is really the relevant bit here: the arrest of Howard Marks:

In the above scene, John Anderton (played by Tom Cruise) is the chief of police of a special Washington D.C. ‘pre-crime’ unit – in which predictions are so accurate that people are arrested before they have committed a crime.

In the movie, predictions are actually made on the basis of some ‘psychic’ beings who are biogenically networked into the police’s systems, but this aside, the above movie acts as a great starting point for the topic of surveillance and pre-crime.

You can simply show the clip, and then get students to think about where in society authorities restrain or restrict people based on ‘big data’ which is a form of surveillance.

Students should be able to think of a few examples at least, tied into the topic of ‘actuarial crime control‘.

Maybe I’ll blog about the answers another time…

Is the Surge in Hate Crime just due to an Increase in Reporting?

Has there been an increase in hate crime since Brexit?

The Number of hate crimes reported to the police in England and Wales between 2012-13 and 2016-17 jumped by 90%, but is this because of an actual, underlying increase in hate crime incidents (or the seriousness of incidents that would warrant reporting), or is it just because people are now more likely to report ‘hate crimes’, maybe having interpreted something as a hate crime when, in fact, it wasn’t.

There is some evidence that suggests ‘misinterpreting’ or ‘over-reporting might be the case – court convictions in 2016 were lower than in 2010.

Possible increases for the increase in reporting are as follows:

  • The authorities actively encourage it
  • incidents can be registered anonymously
  • The victim or witness to a crime only has to interpret a crime as being racially motivated (for example) for it to be classed as a hate crime.
  • No evidence is needed to back up the reporting of the hate crime to get it recorded.

So it might just be, that there has not been an increase in hate crime at all, this could just be a complete social construction.

In fact, this ‘increase’ might be harmful – in that it suggests that we are more divided than we actually are!

Sources

The Week, 16 December 2017.

BBC Article