Why has the Achievement Gap Between Private and State Schools Increased?

Possible explanations include less disruption to schooling, more parental pressure and higher prior attainment

Teachers in private schools awarded 70% of A-level entries A or A* grades in 2021, compared to just 45% for all exam entries across both state and private schools.

And the proportion of top grades awarded to candidates from private schools increased at a faster rate than for state schools – the A/ A* rate rose by 9% in 2021 compared to 2020 in private schools, but only by 6% elsewhere.

Why have private school candidates improved at a faster rate than state school candidates?

This article from The Guardian suggests that there are three possible reasons for the rapid improvement of private school pupils.

  • Private school students’ learning may have been less disrupted by school closures and forced isolation for individual students than was the case with state schools – private schools generally have smaller class sizes than state schools and so it would be easier for teachers to manage online learning and classroom learning at the same time.
  • Middle class parents may have been better able to home-school their children during school closures due to their higher levels of cultural capital.
  • Teachers in private schools may have been under more pressure from paying parents to inflate their children’s grades – this may not even be conscious, but parents are paying for a service, and if the teachers don’t deliver when they have the opportunity to do so (when THEY determine the grades, not the examiners), this could make the parents question what they are spending their money on?!?
  • The difference might also be due to the higher prior levels of learning among privately schooled students – state school students simply may have got further behind because of year 1 of disruption the year before, and this is an accumulative affect.

Relevance to A-Level Sociology

This update has clear links to the sociology of education, especially the topic on social class and educational achievement, fitting in quite nicely as supporting evidence for how material and cultural capital advantages students from wealthier backgrounds.

It should also be of interest to any state school student who generally likes to feel enraged by social injustice.

The 2021 A-Level ‘Teacher Awarded Grades’ – Incomparable with 2019’s but more Valid?

Nearly double the amount of students received top grades in 2021 compared to 2019:

While a politician might try to convince you these two sets of results are measuring the same thing, it’s obvious to anyone that they are not.

The 2021 results are ‘Teacher Awarded Grades’, they are not the same thing as the 2019 exam results (NB this doesn’t necessarily mean the 2021 results are ‘worse’ or ‘less valid’ than 2019s, it might be the the former and all previous years’ results which lacked validity).

The 2019 results measured the actual performance of students under exam conditions, we can call those ‘exam results’.

The 2021 results were ‘teacher awarded grades’ based on some kind of in-house assessment, and marked in-house.

And this difference in assessment and marking procedures seems to be the most likely candidate which can explain the huge increase in top grades.

NB – this means there is no reliability between the results in 2020 and 2021 and all previous results, there is a ‘reliability break’ if you like, no comparison can be made because of this.

This is quite a nice example of that key research methods concept of (lack of) reliability.

The 2019 exam procedure

The 2019 results measured what students actually achieved in standardised A-level examinations –

  1. ALL students sat the same set of exams prepared by an exam-board at the same time and under broadly similar conditions.
  2. It is guaranteed that students would have sat these exams blind.
  3. All exam work was assessed independently by professional examiners
  4. The work was moderated by ‘team leaders’.

What this means is that you’ve got students all over England and Wales being subjected to standardised procedures, everyone assessed in the same way.

The 2021 Teacher Awarded Grade procedure

  1. Schools and teachers set their own series of in-house assessments, no standardisation across centres.
  2. There is no guarantee about how blind these assessments were or any knowledge about the conditions, no standardisation across centres.
  3. Teachers marked their own in-house assessments themselves – in small centres (private schools) this may well have been literally by the same teacher as taught the students, in larger centres more likely the marking was shared across several teachers in the same department, but not necessarily, we don’t know.
  4. There was no external moderation of teacher assessed work, at least not in the case of regular exam based A-levels.

You have to be a politician to be able claim the above two procedures are in the remotest bit compatible!

They are clearly so different that you can’t compare 2019’s results with 2021s, there’s been a radical shift in the means of the assessment, this is a socially constructed process of grade-inflation.

So which is the more valid set of results – 2019s or 2021s?

IF the purpose of grades is to give an indication of student’s ability in a subject then maybe this years results are more valid than 2019s?

I’m no fan of formal examinations, and the one big advantage of 2021 is that there were none, allowing more time for teaching and learning, and less time worrying about exam technique, and probably a lot less stress all round. (the later not the case in 2020).

This year’s assessment procedures would probably have been more natural (had more ecological validity) than a formal examination – it’s hard to get more artificial than an exam after all.

And of course the students are the big winners, more of them have higher grades, and no doubt those that have them are chuffed – and Ive nothing against more young people having something good happen to them, lord knows they have enough problems in their lives now and going forwards as it is!

The problem with the 2021 model is the lack of objectivity and standardisation – we simply don’t know which of those students would have actually got an A or A* under standardised conditions – certainly not all of them, so possibly we don’t know who is the best at exams.

But does the later matter? Do we really need to know who is marginally better at performing under the artificiality of exams anyway?

When it comes the job market further down the line, it’s unlikely that A-level exam performance will have that much baring on someone’s ability to do a job, so maybe it’s better that more students won’t have a string of Cs held against them as would have been the case for the 2019 and previous cohorts.

And someone’s ability to do a job can be determined with a rigorous interview procedure, after all.

The difficult decision is going to be what we do with next year’s results, assuming that exams are re-instated – IF the class of 2022 come out with a spread of results similar to 2019 rather than 2021, that doesn’t seem like a fair outcome to me.

Find out More

The Education Policy Institute has an objective analysis of the 2021 A-level results.

Sensationalisation of Crime in the Media

This should be a useful update for students studying both the Crime and Deviance and Media options as part of A-level sociology.

If we include fictional crime programmes, the Media tends to sensationalise crime: Many programmes almost revel in crime and especially deviance, sometimes even glorifying it. Consider the way that deviant celebrities are treated or consider the hyperreal, idealistic representations of war in games such as Call of Duty.

Fictional crime dramas tend to normalise police violence and erase the issue of Racism according to this Guardian article.

The researchers suggest that the main cop or detective characters are depicted as inherently ‘good’ even though are frequently doing ‘bad things’ – like ‘roughing up’ suspected criminals, or much worse. In fact, the vast majority of the central characters do things which are in breach of police-conduct standards and often illegal, and yet they are not portrayed as bad for doing so.  Police illegality is seen as normal and acceptable.

The researchers further suggest that crime dramas ignore the central issues of Racism in the police force, in reality they say, everything is about Race when it comes to policing (think of the skewed stop and search rates) and yet this issue is barely even mentioned in fictional crime dramas.

This blog post by a final year university student at the University of Bournemouth contrasts how the right wing press and left wing press cover the recent increase in Knife Crime in the UK – the Telegraph and Daily Mail take a ‘moral panic’ approach using the phrase ‘Wild West’ Britain to describe the increase, while the left wing press are more objective and make more of an effort to understand the causes.

The author also looks at the issue of Drill Musicians getting negative press for ‘inciting violence’, another example of a moral panic, maybe?

What is Cybercrime?

Cybercrime refers to illegal activities carried out with a computer over a network such as the internet.

Some of the most common types of cybercrime include:

  • Identity and data theft
  • internet fraud (online scams)
  • hacking (unauthorised access to networks)
  • Infecting devices with viruses
  • Denial of Service attacks (DOS attacks)
  • file sharing in breach of copyright
  • 3D Printing of illegal products
  • Cyberwarfare
  • child pornography

The key characteristics of cybercrime include:

  • The use of digital technologies – either a desktop or laptop computer, but also mobile phones and games consoles.
  • Cyber crime takes place over networked devices. (NB this means one of the main strategies for protecting yourself is to DISCONNECT OR SWITCH OFF your devices whenever you can!)
  • Most cyber crime is informational – it involves an attempt to access and steal personal or corporate/ government information or an attack on online identities.Cyber crime is non-local in nature – it takes place in ‘cyberspace’, not in a real physical location.
  • Having said that, there are physical locations where ‘attacks’ originate from, and these are often in different countries to the victims, making cyber crime very global in nature.
  • There is a considerable ‘data gap’ when it comes to what we know about cyber criminals – more than 80% of victims of online fraud can say NOTHING about the person that committed a crime against them for example.

Cyber dependent and cyber enabled crime

This is a common distinction in criminology (and a very useful analysis tool for A-level sociology students!).

Cyber-dependent crime refers to crimes which can only take place over computer networks – such as Hacking, virus and Denial of Service attacks. These are relatively new crimes, as they have only been possible since the emergence of the internent.

Cyber-enabled crime refers to pretty much ALL cyber crime and includes OLD types of crime that have been made easier with internet – this is MOST cyber-crime and includes identify theft, fraud, file sharing, counterfeiting and child pornography.

There maybe some types of Fraud which you think aren’t possible in the offline world, such as attempting to steal money from people through catfish type romance scams, but technically this would have been possible before the internet through newspaper dating ads and sending photos via letters, but as you can imagine, this would have been A LOT more difficult back in the day before the internet!

Contemporary Examples of Cybercrime

Below I provide some examples of famous historical cybercrimes and more recent cybercrimes to illustrate the nature and extent of some of the different types listed above.

(I’ve omitted the last type in the bullet point list, it’s a bit sensitive).

Identity and data theft

Only around 5% of the internet is visible (searchable by Google), 95% is the Deep Web (which includes the Dark Web) which is where people’s and corporations’ private data is stored, invisible to Google and encrypted, so that most people can’t gain access to it.

HOWEVER, data breaches are VERY common – where a company’s private records are either hacked or security weaknesses are exploited by other means.

This infographic shows you the extent of data breaches, and there are some BIG companies that have had been victims – Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Experian and many, many others.

Wikipedia shows you the same data in a list format , citing research estimating that the annual cost of data breaches to companies currently stands at over $2 trillion annually.

If people’s personal data is breached it can make its way onto the internet so other people can access it. Sometimes this data might be made available for free (just for lolz), other times it might be up for sale on the Dark Web – the later being more likely if the data has financial value, like people’s financial information.

Depending on the type of stolen data made available this can be used against people in the following ways:

  • email lists can be used in personalised phishing attempts (so if a criminal has a list of Barclay’s customers’ emails and other details, he can put together a more authentic looking Barclays phishing scam email).
  • Some personal data may be used to set up bank accounts and apply for credit cards which can then lead to financial crime being committed in other people’s names, this is essentially IDENTITY THEFT.
  • some data might be damaging to people’s reputations – like the Adult Friend Finder data breach – many people on that site were married.
  • If passwords are hacked they can be used to take over people’s social media and other accounts and then used against them – ever received an email from a friend you haven’t heard from in years directing you to click on a link? They were probably a victim of a data breach!

If you want to find out whether your email has been in a data breach, or ‘pawnd’ – the click here (NB not a scam!) – HaveIBeenPawnd.com.

Pawnd shows us that data in over 11 billion private accounts have been ‘breached’ and it further reports that the details of over 200 million of these accounts have been ‘pasted’ online – or made available so other people can access them.

NB – data breaches are not always the result of the obvious criminal organisations or lone individuals – the recent Pegasus SpyWare scandal is an example of a corporate enabled state crime in which people’s data was accessed illegally by various governments around the world.

Internet fraud (online scams)

The number of internet frauds, or internet scams out there are, unfortunately, many and varied. They include, but are by no means limited to…..

  • Covid-19 scams – A VERY unfortunate response to pandemic has been the emergence of lots of fake websites and emails (a form of phishing) offering people everything from ‘quality’ (in reality crap) Facemasks to rapid tests for travel to fake vaccines.
  • Get rich quick investment scams – there must be thousands of fake profiles on Instagram and other sites where users claim to be making LOTS of money trading stocks, crypto, currencies, property, and if you invest with them, you get a cut of their profits – you invest a little, get some returns, then you invest more, then your buddy stops contacting you and runs off with your money.
  • Instagram influencer scams – Influencers can get scammed too – especially the up and coming ones – with bogus offers to ‘come to this amazing location or event sponsored by Cosmo and take photos, but oh you’ve got to pay some money upfront for the hotels/ drivers/ flights and so on – they arrive to find the first night paid for, and then nothing else, and no sponsors of course!
  • Phishing scams – ”You’ve won a prize’ – please click here and enter ALL your personal and bank details so we can transfer it into your account.

A common type of phishing scam – don’t click any links!
  • False shopping scams – bargain web sites with ‘too good to be true’ prices – you pay for some goods at a crazy 70% discount and then, err, never receive them!
  • The ‘Nigerian Romance’ (419) scam – this is THE classic scam, 419 refers to the penal code in Nigeria which outlaws it – basically someone sets up a fake profile on a dating site, worms their way into the confidence of the unsuspecting victim they message, this could take months, and eventually they require a substantial sum of money to help with their sister’s or mother’s (or whoever’s) medical expenses following an accident. In the USA alone in 2019 there were 146 00 victims who reported losing an average of $6000 each in these scams. (Further evidence that Americans are VERY stupid, maybe?)
  • Scareware – ‘Your computer is infected please call this number to get it sorted’, which may mean you end up being a victim of the following….
  • The ‘Microsoft Windows has been infected’ (‘Indian Call Centre’) scam – in which either someone from India (probably claiming to be in America or the UK if you push them) calls you (or you may have well called them following their Scareware attack) and helps you get rid of the virus infecting your Microsoft Windows software – accept in the process you give them access to your PC and they download all your data stored on that PC which may include bank details and passwords which they can use to get your money or set up fake accounts in your name, and get money that way, linking to Fraud above.

A recent example of one of these get rich quick scams is outlined in this BBC article – the victim explains how someone he followed on Instagram claimed he was making a lot of money trading currencies and that if people invested with him, he would carry on trading in the same way and deposit their share of the earnings back into their accounts.

The victim said he started off with a small amount of money – £1000, started see returns and gradually invested more and more, until the returns stopped and he’d lost a total of £17 000 to what was a scammer who’d set up a fake account on Instagram.

NB – watch out for instagram: according to one estimate almost HALF of accounts are fake.

Hacking (unauthorised access to networks)

Kevin Poulson is one of the world’s most famous hackers – in 1983 at the age of 17 he hacked into ARPANET, The Pentagon’s computer system. He was quickly caught but not prosecuted as he was a minor at that time.

He ignored the warning he received and carried on hacking, he gained some fame by hacking into Radio station’s servers when they ran competitions guaranteeing the 100th caller would win a prize – he made sure he was that caller and won and Porsche and $20 000.

He’s served five years in jail for his crimes but is now reformed and is a ‘white hat’ hacker who works for Wired magazine. You can read more about his story here. NB this is a great example of a biography providing us insight into criminal behaviour!

Kevin Poulson’s profile picture on Wired.

Another interesting type of hacking is ‘hactivism’ – most commonly associated with the group Anonymous (‘We are Legion’) – they were most active a decade ago around 2010, when they famously took issue with Scientology, hacking their systems and making them less visible on Google.

According to this article Hactivism has had something of a resurge with Covid-19. If you’re interested in finding out what Anonymous are up to, there’s a collection of articles from Wired here.

3D Printing of illegal products

3D printers bring an interesting twist to cybercrime – a good example of cyber enabled crime – it is now possible to print very robust, very powerful guns using a 3D printer, and (I imagine) you can pick up the specifications somewhere from the Dark Web.

It’s not just guns – printers can also be used to print access cards (swipe cards), and even drugs depending on the type of printer you have.

Read this article to find out more.

Cyberwarfare

This is where a nation state engages in attacking government or Corporate systems in an attempt to bring down those systems. Russia has been accused of doing this recently by the U.S President Joe Biden.

NB – it may be difficult to pin the blame on the Russian State as they allegedly get criminal organisations to do this on their behalf and then make no effort to prosecute them.

Numerous countries have accused Russia of committing cyberwarfare agains them.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This should be a useful update for students studying both the Crime and Deviance and Media options as part of A-level sociology.

The Exaggeration of Violent and Sexual Crimes in the Media

Content analysis shows that the media exaggerate the extent of violent and sexual crimes, with over-reporting of such crimes giving us the impression that there is 10 times more of it than is actually the case according to sources such as the Crime Survey of England and Wales.

This blog post summarises some recent evidence demonstrating how the media exaggerate the extent of violent crimes and the extent to which they do this.

This should be a useful update for students studying both the Crime and Deviance and Media options as part of A-level sociology.

Violent Crime is exaggerated 10 times

Harper & Hogue (2016) found that in the UK sex offenses made up 20% of all crime reported by the media, but only 2% of all crimes were sex offences. So that’s an exaggeration by the media of 10 times the actual rate of crime. (Source.)

Twitter exaggerates the extent of violent Crime just as much as the mainstream media

An analysis of 32 million tweets in 17 countries in Latin America over 70 days in 2017 revealed that 15 out of 1000 were crime related.

The number of tweets about crime were then compared to the murder rates in those countries and the fear of crime as measured by surveys.

There was no correlation between the number of tweets about crime and the underlying crime rate.

Moreover, just like the mainstream media, tweets showed a ‘strong bias’ towards sharing information about violent and sexual crimes.

The study also found that 62% of accounts were linked to mainstream media accounts, meaning that only 38% of tweets were from regular users, many of which linked articles from mainstream media.

This suggests that Twitter is just an echo chamber for the exaggeration of violent crime in the media.

Latin America – people tweet a lot about Violent Crime, they are doing it to themselves!

One BIG STORY makes it worse…

One ‘big story’ can trigger an increase in similar stories. For example, Harper (2018) found that there was 300% increase in reporting of sex crimes against children when the news about prolific paedophile (and friend of Prince Andrew) Jimmy Saville broke in YEAR. (Source.)

Related Posts

Please click here to return to the Media and crime Hub Post.

Fraud and Computer Misuse – The Most Common Crimes in the UK

Fraud and computer misuse now account for half of all crimes in England and Wales, but 80% of victims no NOTHING about the criminals who acted against them!

Fraud and Computer Misuse now Account for Half of all Crime in England and Wales (1) , this means that in order to fully understand crime today, students of A-level Sociology REALLY need to know something about these two types of crime.

This is not only an important update relevant to the crime and deviance aspect of the AQA A-level sociology specification, it’s also VERY IMPORTANT that students educate themselves about the risks of being a victim of fraud and computer misuse and take appropriate measures to protect themselves and stay safe online.

Defining Fraud and Computer Misuse

The Office for National Statistics defines these crimes as below:

Fraud

Fraud involves a person dishonestly and deliberately deceiving a victim for personal gain of property or money or causing loss or risk of loss to another.

While Fraud can happen offline, most fraud today occurs online and the most common types known to include:

  • banking and payment card frauds
  • consumer and retail frauds
  • advance fee payment frauds

Computer misuse

Computer misuse covers computer viruses and any unauthorised access to computer material, as set out in the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

This can include any device using software accessible online, for example: computers smartphones, games consoles and even smart TVs. It includes offences such as:

  • the spreading of viruses.
  • hacking – gaining unauthorised access to information
  • denial-of-service (DoS) attacks – the flooding of internet servers to disrupt or take down a network or website.

Both of these types of crime are types of Cyber Crime (most fraud and all computer misuse).

How much Fraud and Computer Misuse are there in England and Wales?

The latest data from the TCSEW show that Fraud and Computer misuse have been increasing rapidly in recent years, and now account for more than half of all crime in England and Wales.

Fraud and Computer Misuse were only added to the Crime Survey of England and Wales recently, and there are so many incidents that the Office for National Statistics records records two totals – one with these crimes and one without, so we can make a fair comparison of all other crimes over a longer time scale.

This bar chart gives you an idea of just how much Fraud and Computer misuse there is compared to all other types of crime:

The above chart shows incidents, and the ONS estimates there were nearly 10 million adult victims of fraud and computer misuse in the 12 month period to December 2020, that’s more than 1 in 5 adults.

The increase has been so rapid that the UK government has recently declared that there is a ‘new battle front‘ against these types of crimes.

Fraud and Computer Misuse – Key statistics

To get a more in-depth analysis of Fraud and Computer Misuse we need to go back to this 2019 report: The Nature of Fraud and Computer Misuse (March 2019). This report notes the following:

Fraud

  • The amount of Fraud has increased in the last two years.
  • 76% of victims lost money, but around half lost less than £250.
  • Only 15% of fraud crimes were reported to the police
  • The likelihood of being a victim was generally lower in older age groups and greater in higher income households, there was little variation across gender and ethnicity.
  • In 63% of fraud incidents, there had been no contact between the victim and the offender.
  • Less than 15% of people could say ‘anything’ about the person who committed the Fraud against them – it’s a very ‘anonymous’ crime where the criminals are concerned!

Computer Misuse

  • Computer Misuse incidents have actually decreased in the last two years overall – especially crimes involving viruses being put on devices.
  • 21% of computer virus incidents resulted in data being accessed or lost.
  • As with fraud, older people aged over 75 were less likely to be victims of computer misuse
  • Over 90% of people reported taking security measures to keep themselves safe online, which could explain the decrease in this type of crime.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

Students really need to pay attention to Fraud especially as it is the crime with the highest VICTIM count in England and Wales, so very relevant to victimology – and there is little variation by class, gender and ethnicity, only age it seems.

This material is also relevant to the media and crime topic, because more than half of all fraud is committed online, as are ALL crimes of computer misuse.

From a methods perspective, it’s worth noting that around 80% of victims of these crimes can say NOTHING about the people who committed crimes against them – these are truly faceless crimes, very possibly committed by criminals outside of the UK, so this is also relevant to the topic of globalisation and crime.

Find out More….

This Power Point Presentation from the Office for National Statistics outlines some of the problems with measuring these crimes.

If you want to find out more about how to stay safe online and protect yourself from these types of crime – there is a section at the end of The Nature of Fraud and Computer Misuse.

Students might like to do independent research on these types of cyber crime in Scotland and Northern Ireland to get a fuller picture covering the whole of the United Kingdom!

Qualifications

(1) Please forgive the slightly misleading title! The data on fraud and computer misuse are from England and Wales only, but for the sake of having a short, visible and digestible title I shortened this to the UK.

Are the Police Racist?

This post is an update of some of the evidence that might suggest the police in England and Wales are Racist.

This is a key topic within the sociology of Crime and Deviance. You can view a summary of the latest statistics on ethnicity and crime here.

This 2018 Video from News Night is worth a watch: in which black people speak about their experiences of being stop and search, many as young as 11-14 when they were first stopped and searched.

Many of the young men say they have been stopped over a dozen time, one says he can’t remember how many times he has been stopped and searched!

Liberty have released an analysis of Stop and Search stats pointing out that policing become much more discriminatory during Lockdown in England and Wales.

The government relaxed the restrictions on police stop and search during Lockdown and gave the police more freedom to stop and search at their discretion. The result: the number of black people stopped and searched (under section 60) increased dramatically.

They also report that black people were up to seven times more likely to receive a fine during Lockdown compared to white people.

Black, People, Racism and Human Rights is a recent report published in November 2020 which has a whole section summarising the over representation of black people in the Criminal Justice System – from stop and search through to deaths in custody.

One interesting point to note is that families of people who have been through the CJS think that black men in particular are stereotyped by the CJS as being troublesome and violent.

This blog post summarises some interesting research published in 2016 that found ethnic minorities, especially black youths, featured heavily in ‘gang databases’ held by the London and Manchester police, even though such gang members had no formal history of violence. In fact the stats show that white people have higher rates of convictions for violent crime, but the police databases had disproprotionate amounts of black people on them simply for their being members of gangs.

This suggests an element of stereotyping the way policing was conducted.

The blog further summarises research of Prosecution teams who were more likely to draw on gang stereotypes (Rap music for example) when trying to convict black people compared to white people, and black defendants were also more likely to have their text messages used as evidence against them when undergoing trial compared to white people.

Who are the Victims of Crime?

How do patterns of Victimisation vary by social class, gender, ethnicity and age?

Are some people more likely to be victims of crime than others? And how do the characteristics of victims vary by different types of crime?

This post has been written for students of A-level sociology studying the crime and deviance module, it is an introduction to the topic of victimisation, which is explicitly on the AQA’s specification.

NB some of the latest up to date information in this post may well contradict the very probably dated information in your sociology text books!

The statistics below focus mainly on the victims of crime in the United Kingdom?

Characteristics of victims of any crime by ethnicity, social class and age (TCSEW)

The Telephone Crime Survey of England and Wales is based on a telephone survey of 30 000 respondents, making it the largest sample which addresses the question of who the victims of crime are.

(NB it’s currently a telephone survey because of Covid-19 restrictions, before that it was a face to face interview survey, to which it may return at some point!)

The TCSEW reports the following variations in patterns of victimisation for the year ending March 2020:

People of mixed ethnicity were more likely to have been victims of crime than other ethnic groups

20% of people from mixed ethnic backgrounds reported being victims, but the victimisation rates were very similar across all other ethnic groups (varying from 14-17%)

Gender seems to have very little affected on reported levels of victimisation

There were very similar reporting levels for both males and females in all ethnic groups.

The chart below demonstrates the remarkably similar patterns in victimisation by both ethnicity and gender (the only ‘significant’ difference being the higher reported rates for mixed ethnicity).

Younger people are more likely to victims of crime than older people

The chart below shows percentage of people reporting having been a victim of crime by age group – you’ll notice it generally declines as people get older, and there is a marked difference if you compare the 55s and overs with youngest three categories:

There is no obvious correlation between social class background and being a victim of crime.

In fact the picture is complex – there is no variation by class for white people, for black people, the unemployed report much lower levels of victimisation compared to professionals and for Asian people there is a slightly lower chance of being a victim the higher your social class background!

Repeat Victimisation

Data from the 2018 CSEW shows that 74% of victims of violent crime were victims once, whereas 26% were victims twice or more (7% three times or more) in the previous year.

Limitations with victimisation data from the TCSEW

  • These data look at ALL crimes, and the most common types of crime (which have INCREASED MASSIVELY in recent years) are fraud and computer misuse – which are quite likely to be ‘gender/ class/ ethnicity neutral’.
  • and it may be the case that for more serious crimes there are still significant variations by class/ gender and ethnicity – such as violent crimes including domestic violence and hate crimes.
  • These data may be invalid because the reporting rates might vary by social class, gender, age and ethnicity – a recent report on the victims of violent crime (see section below) for example found that children were twice as likely to NOT report a crime compared to adults. Also where being a victims of Domestic Violence is concerned, with women more likely to be victims than men, this isn’t the kind of thing you can easily report over the phone, during Lockdown.
  • And let’s not forget the crimes the TSCEW doesn’t cover victims of State Crime.

Who are The Victims of Violent Crime?

It’s worth looking at who the victims of violent crime are as the impacts are likely to be felt more severely than other types of crime, such being a victim or fraud or burglary.

Victims of Serious Violence England and Wales 2011-2017 pooled data from several years of the Crime Survey for England and Wales and extracted data on over 10 000 incidents.

Extremely low numbers of people are victims of violent crime each year. The report estimates that 2-3% of adults are victims of violence each year, and only 1 in 250 require some kind of medical treatment for their injuries.

  • Males were at greater risk of violence – both for adults and children
  • Younger people were more at risk than older people
  • People from deprived areas were were more likely to be victims – adults from the 10% most deprived areas were almost twice as likely to be victims of violent crime compared to adults from the 10% most affluent areas.
  • ethnic minorities in general were less likely to be victims of violent crime

The report states that 36% of violence experienced by adults, and 70% by children does not come to the attention of police or a medical professional

Who are the Victims of Domestic Abuse?

One type of violent, interpersonal crime probably not covered in a representative way in the above research is Domestic Abuse, because of its very low reporting rates.

Safe Lives reports the following patterns of victimisation for this type of crime:

  • 90% of victims are women, only 10% are men.
  • Women from low income households (less than £10 000) were 3.5 times more likely to be victims compared to women from households earning more than £20 000.
  • The majority of victims are in their 20s and 30s, so as with crime in general, young people are more likely to be victims of domestic abuse than older people.

NB the above stats are based on people seeking help and advice about domestic abuse, so many of these won’t show up on the TCSEW.

If these domestic abuse stats are valid, then women are actually at greater risk of violent crime overall than men. Safe Lives reports that 100 000 women are currently at risk of severe violence at home. (This assumes there isn’t just as many male victims of any violent crime NOT coming forward and reporting their victimisation!).

REPEAT VICTIMISATION is also a horrible feature of Domestic Abuse – SafeLives reports that the average victim is a victim of abuse 50 times over, something which you generally don’t find to anywhere near this extent with being a victim of other types of crime.

Who are Victims of Hate Crime?

Hate crimes recorded by the police have been increasing in recent years according to a recent Home Office Briefing (from 2020).

The vast majority of hate crimes are due to someone’s ethnic background (so basically racist abuse) followed by religion, and around 50% of religiously motivated hate crimes are against Muslims. Anti-semitic crimes have also been increasing steadily.

Crimes against LGBT and Trans people are also higher than you might think – the report notes (based on data from a 2017 survey) that 54% of Trans people have reported experiencing a negative incident outside their home, as have 40% of LGBT people).

The vast majority of victims said they did not report the hate crime against them.

46 million Victims of UK State Crime?

And counting….

At time of writing 46 million people have received at least one dose of one of the Covid-19 vaccinations. The live count is here.

It is possible to interpret these people as having been victims of one of the largest ongoing State Crime of modern times.

The UK governments has consistently declared the vaccines to be safe, whereas the simple and objective truth is, that by regular medical-trial standards scientists simply don’t yet have sufficient data to comment on the safety of these vaccines.

The fact that the UK government has not been clear about this means that they have misled the British public into taking part in a country-level medical trial without their full and informed consent.

This is in breach of people’s human rights as UN conventions clearly state that citizens have a right to not take part in medical trials.

Now it’s a stretch to make the case for this being a State Crime, as people have the choice to not get vaccinated, but there is pressure there – and the government is a leading voice in this, which could be interpreted as coercion, which opens up the door to defining this scenario as a state crime with 46 million victims and counting.

Corporate Enabled State Crime 2021 – Pegasus Spyware

Pegasus Spyware – an example of corporate enabled state crime breaching the human right of privacy in 2021

Pegasus Spyware is software which is able to bypass your phone’s security and gain access to data on your device, such as:

  • emails
  • Whatsapp messages
  • photos
  • Your GPS location

It can also switch on your microphone and camera and record what you are doing without you being aware.

Pegasus is the most sophisticated piece of Spyware ever developed and it takes surveillance to its most intense and intrusive level ever.

How Pegasus hacks your phone

Pegasus Spyware is the main product of the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group who sells its surveillance software to governments around the world.

The company says it ‘vet’s governments and only sells software to clients involved in combatting terrorism and other serious crimes – by infecting suspected terrorists’ phones and subjecting them to intense surveillance.

However, according to a recent Guardian investigation, a recent leak of NSO files has revealed that some of government’s clients have been using their Spyware to target journalists and other dissidents who are perceived to be critical of their regimes. Some of the countries who use the software with bad records of human rights abuses include:

  • India
  • Morocco
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Hungary
Countries using Pegasus Spyware in breach of citizens’ human rights

The leaked records include 50 000 phone numbers of people whose phones may have been hacked – The Guardian recently investigated hundreds of these numbers and found that in dozens of cases the software was indeed on their phones and in some cases the people who have been under surveillance, or people close to them have been murdered, possibly by agents of the state in an attempt to silence them.

(NB the company denies these allegations and says its software is only used legitimately by ‘vetted’ governments.)

The most serious consequence of this level of surveillance used in this way is that it poses a threat to democracy. Dictatorial states are obsessive about surveillance in order to crack down on opposition and this software increases hugely their capacity to do just this.

It also reveals as a ‘fantasy narrative’ the idea that surveillance companies and states work together to only surveil ‘criminals’ in order to keep ordinary citizens safe. In these examples it is the citizens who are being kept under surveillance and having their right to privacy undermined as a result, without their consent.

A Corporate-State Crime

This seems to be a good example of a corporate enabled state crime, with the governments identified above being the criminals and the victims being anyone who has had their phone hacked.

Privacy is a fundamental human right defined under the United Nation’s Human Rights Convention, and in the above examples there are 5000 potential cases of individuals having their right to privacy denied by governments, in breach of their human rights.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This material is relevant to both the crime and deviance module and the media module, especially the topics of state crime and surveillance.

Find out More

This video provides a good overview of the Pegasus Surveillance Project.

This link to The Guardian provides an excellent way into exploring all aspects of this issue.

Examples of State Crimes 2020-2021

Some examples of State Crimes committed by developed and developing countries and an analysis of the problems of researching the nature and extent of state crime

This post provides several examples of Contemporary State Crimes and links to sources of information students can use to explore State Crimes further.

Before reading this post, you might like to read these two posts:

Studying State Crime is an explicit requirement for students studying A-level Sociology, as part of the compulsory Crime and Deviance Module.

Below I have highlighted five countries who are responsible for some of the worst state crimes in recent years….

I’ve tried to select examples of mainly developed countries committing state crimes, to demonstrate that it’s not all impoverished, war torn countries or ‘rogue states’ who are state-criminal actors.

It is, however, important to realise that I have been selective (so there is some selection bias here and these examples will lack representativeness) but I think it has to be this way to make this topic manageable. I have included links below where you can search for further examples of State Crimes.

NB – this post is a work in progress!

Countries Committing State Crimes in 2020-2021

I’ve listed these in rough order of the number of victims. The United Nations and Israel deserve their places at the top given the fact that, following Noam Chomsky, they are the two worst terrorist organisations/ rogue states of modern times, even if in the last couple of years their crimes against humanity may have been out of the spotlight!

1. The United States of America

Historically, there’s only one real contender for the the worst state criminal in all of all of human history – the USA.

Below is a useful summary video which takes a trip through some of the War Crimes committed by the United States of America since the end of World War Two.

2. The State of Israel

Israel has been committing crimes against Palestinians in the occupied territories for several decades now – there are presently almost 7 million Palestinian victims of Israeli apartheid policies which forbids Palestinians from having equal access to regions across Israel. This 2021 report from Human Rights watch explores this. A more accessible report might be this one from Amnesty international .

Some of the crimes the state of Israel commits against Palestinian civilians include:

  • Unlawful killing
  • Prevention of freedom of movement
  • Forced displacement
  • Discrimination

3. China

The Human Right’s Watch Global Report 2020 singles out China has being increasingly repressive in recent years. It notes that ‘….the detention of more than one million Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang to pressure them to abandon Islam and their culture, the crushing of Hong Kong’s freedoms, ongoing repression in Tibet and Inner Mongolia, and the crackdown on independent voices throughout the country. This has been the darkest period for human rights in China since the 1989 massacre that ended the Tiananmen Square democracy movement.’

4. The Russian Federation

Amnesty International outlines the criminal case against the state of Russia here.

Even in its post-communist years the Russian State has a long history of not allowing freedom of assembly to protest, and the censoring of journalists who criticise the state, and even the murdering of those who oppose the State.

5. Syria and Turkey

War Crimes are still being committed by Syria and Turkey in Syria – including the arbitrary killing of civilians, forced detention, which can lead to the death penalty, looting of property and displacement of peoples – there are now 6 million refugees from the region.

Interestingly the report also labels neighbouring countries as committing crimes by blocking access to these refugees!

6. War Crimes in War Torn Countries (Special Note)

NB – you will find plenty of examples of many state crimes in war torn countries such as Yemen for example, but it seemed a little bit too easy to focus on those, I’m trying to be critical here!

Three organisations which monitor state crimes:

  • Amnesty International has a useful hub page here which will allow you to explore contemporary case studies of States involved in various crimes – such as disappearances, political violence, torture and states denying citizens freedom of expression.
  • Human Rights Watch – monitors all sorts of State crimes – they cover some of the same ground as Amnesty but also focus more extensively on issues such as women’s’ rights, and reproductive rights and lots more. Their reports page is well worth a browse!
  • Transparency International – monitors global political corruption – they’ve developed an index based on surveys which asks people questions such as ‘have you paid a bribe to access a public service in the last year’ – they rank countries according to how corrupt they are and do research into corruption in several countries. You can access the latest world corruption report here.
  • You might also be interested in this rare academic source – The State Crime Journal .