Official crime statistics show that there were 33 000 shoplifting offences recorded in March, 31% more than last year.
This is in line with crime data reported by the Co-op, which reported a 35% increase year on year. In the six months to June, the group recorded 1000 incidents of crime every day across all its outlets.
The seriousness of these retail offences also seem to be getting worse. A higher proportion of crimes involve violence and some have involved gangs entering shops and looting.
This is reflective of an increase in retail crime more broadly. The 2022 crime report by the British Retail Consortium reported a more than doubling of violent crimes and abusive behaviour towards staff in 2020-21 compared to 2019-22.
Explaining the increase in retail crime
There are three possible explanations for the above crime trends:
Firstly the cost of living crisis will explain some of the increase in shoplifting. With more people dropping below the poverty line, some will turn to shoplifting. There are more people facing a choice of heating or eating, after all.
Secondly the police have been putting less focus on less serious offences. They have been screening out low-level offences so they can focus on more serious crimes.
When criminals know they are less likely to get caught, they are more likely to commit crime.
Finally, the increase in violent and anti-social offences during lockdown may be explained through increased stress when shopping. It is likely that many of these cases were caused by people getting upset by shortages and lockdown measures in shops.
Relevance to A-level sociology
This material seems to support rational choice theory and right realism which are part of the crime and deviance module.
The criminals in the house of commons passed the UK government’s illegal migration bill last week.
The bill will prevent most migrants who enter the UK by small boats from claiming asylum in the UK. Instead they will be detained and some of them deported to Rwanda to claim asylum there instead. Rwanda agreed to a five year trial of this plan recently.
British courts ruled the Rwanda Plan illegal because it breaches article three of the European Convention on Human Rights (1).
Rwanda’s asylum policy is not as strict as the UKs. There is a higher chance some genuine claims for asylum will result in deportations back to countries of origin.
This means more people will be returned to countries where they risk death, imprisonment or other inhumane treatment.
The UK has not deported any migrants to date because the bill is currently not legal. However the government is appealing this decision.
Relevance to A-level sociology
This material is relevant to the crime and deviance module. It is an example of a state crime, by virtue of the British state going against international human rights.
It is also an example of the limits of globalisation. Here we have a nation state restricting the free movement of people. This is globalisation in reverse.
It is also possible to apply critical victimology to this case study. Asylum seekers are the most vulnerable people on the planet. The government is targeting them by putting in place this barrier.
Note that the government isn’t worried about 150 000 wealthy Chinese students studying in the UK. It is only poor migrants it is seeking to stop.
It is also an example of a government responding to a moral panic generated by the media.
The bill is nominally in response to the thousands of migrants entering the UK in small boats in recent years. Britain actually needs migrants, it is just the media who demonizes them, and here the government responds.
The BBC recently uncovered over 100 cases of sexual and racial harassment and bullying in McDonald’s Restaurants in the UK. (1)
Examples included older men groping younger women, aged as young as 16 and talking to them inappropriately sexual ways. Some workers were also the victims of racial and homophobic language.
In one case a manager simply told the victim to ignore the man harassing with her and get on with her job. In other other cases McDonald’s moved managers accused of harassing people to other restaurants.
In some cases it was the victims who felt their harassment claims had not been dealt with quit their jobs.
Personally I thought sacking the people doing the harassing would be the most effective way to make a victim feel comfortable at work again. It would also send out a strong message to other workers NOT to engage in such behaviour.
The law obliges McDonald’s to protect workers from such harassment in the workplace. However the law protecting victims of work based harassment is rather weaker than you might think!
Weak protections for victims of workplace harassment?
If you look at legal advice sites for employers it is clear that sacking the people doing the harassing is a last resort. In fact I get the impression that even in severe cases the harassers will be encouraged to quit rather than sacked.
Most of the advice focuses on suggesting employers provided adequate training for staff in equality and providing a clear code of conduct.
I guess there are so many sexist, racist and homophobic employees that if employees took every case of harassment seriously they’d be sacking a lot of people.
I imagine companies are also reluctant to sack harassers because of the investment they have made in them and the costs of rehiring.
This might also explain why there is so much focus on covering the employers’ in case a victim claims compensation against them.
It seems the legal advice surrounding dealing with harassment is more about saving companies money rather than protecting victims.
This material is relevant to the Crime and Deviance module in the second year of A-level sociology.
A 44 year old mother of three was sentenced to 24 months in jail on Monday for using abortion pills to abort a foetus at just over 30 weeks, whereas the legal limit for abortions is currently 24 weeks.
She obtained the pills in March 2020 during Lockdown through the ‘pills by post scheme’ and lied to the authorities, saying she was under the 24 week limit. She got found out because she had to call emergency services having taken the pills, and the police were called by medical staff after she arrived in hospital.
She was prosecuted under the 1861 ‘Offences against the person act‘ which outlines a maximum possible life-sentence, but the judge residing stated she’d received the sentence for lying rather than the actual abortion, had she not lied he probably would have given her a non-custodial sentence.
Relevance to A-level sociology
You can apply victimology here. It seems to me that this woman is a victim of unfortunate circumstances and an outdated criminal justice system.
She got pregnant during lockdown, when access to abortion services would have been restricted, and came to a late decision to abort, by which time the only way she could do what she thought was right was to lie to the authorities.
She basically did this under extreme stress in the middle of lockdown with a lack of support, and apparently has suffered huge emotional trauma as a result.
I mean let’s face it: there are no legitimate arguments against this so this isn’t surprising. (Religious arguments aren’t rational thus not legitimate, because if they’re not rational they aren’t arguments, just faith-based opinions.)
There will obviously be a strong Feminist argument for changing the law here so such women can’t be prosecuted, I mean theoretically women can still go to jail for a life sentence for aborting a foetus at 25 weeks, and this is just overt state control over pregnant women’s bodies in modern Britain.
The fact that this law hasn’t been changed is a criticism of Liberal Feminism: clearly here social policy hasn’t been updated in so long that it’s not sufficient to protect such women when they need it!
Hopefully there will be an appeal very soon and this woman will get out of jail much earlier than 12 months (she’s serving half in jail), because her being in jail doesn’t serve any positive functions: not for society, not for her children and not for her.
Possibly the fact that this law hasn’t been updated for so long is because Parliament is still largely a patriarchal institution which is failing to adequately keep up to date with issues of gender justice.
I guess this also a test case for the Functionalist view that media reactions to laws will result in them changing, hopefully this will be the case here sooner rather than later!
The media can portray role models with glamorous lifestyles and exaggerate the reporting of events, according to the item in the AQA’s Crime and Deviance SCLY2/3 exam paper from November 2021 (1)
In these 10 mark ‘applying material from the item questions you need to use the two ways (in this case) as hooks and elaborate how these may contribute to an increase in crime, applying sociological concepts and theories.
According to the mark scheme you also get some marks for evaluation.
A key hint here is to remember that this is a Crime and Deviance paper, not a media paper, so don’t get too carried away with media concepts, although you should be credited for them, it’s always safer to use core crime and deviance material.
Another thing to be careful of is to include theories and concepts rather than relying on popular examples from the media. You can use examples, and you should do, but make sure you link them to theory.
The rest of this post considers how you might go about expanding on the two points mentioned in item A:
The media portraying glamorous lifestyles
The media exaggerating events.
How glamorous lifestyles in the media might contribute to an increase in crime
Examples of the media portraying glamorous lifestyles include cribs, many music videos and also lifestyle vloggers on YouTube, which tend to celebrate wealth, conspicuous consumption and people generally having a good time.
Such portrayals give the impression that being wealthy is the norm in a society, and, following Robert Merton’s strain theory this might increase the level of anomie, which can lead to different types of crime depending on how people respond.
Merton theorised that if people don’t have the opportunties to reach what they perceive to be the ordinary success goals in society some of them will turn to utilitarian crime to get what they think they should have, which means economic crimes such as burglary, robbery and theft.
This might explain the prevalence of crimes such as moped snatch-thefts in London recently, and also drug related crimes: those who can’t get jobs might believe the only way they can earn enough money to achieve ‘glamourous lifestyles’ is to deal drugs, maybe as part of a gang, which is something Venkatesh found in Gang Leader for a day.
The media, at least some aspects of it also glamorises gang, gun and drug culture: with many films showing crime as glamorous itself, which might encourage people into gangs and crime more generally.
Other people may look at glamorous western lifestyles in the media and react against it, seeing it as shallow and anti-religious and this might inspire anti-western sentiment and increase conflict in the form of fundamentalist terrorist attacks, this would be a rebellious response in Merton’s theory.
However most people don’t turn to crime because of media portrayals, they just give up on achieving and settle for ordinary jobs and average lifestyles or develop retreatist subcultures, which aren’t necessarily criminal, so it isn’t as simple as the media causing criminal behaviour, people aren’t that passive.
Finally, the portrayal of glamorous lifestyles might themselves be criminal – such as with people on social media boasting about their sports cars and wealth in order to encourage people into investing into get rich quick schemes, such as dodgy crypto DEFI schemes, whereas in reality these are just rug pull scams.
How media exaggeration might contribute to an increase in crime
You could apply moral panic theory here: when the media exaggerate the deviance of youth subcultures , according to Stan Cohen, this attracts more violent people to the subculture so the subculture becomes more violent in reality.
The problem with this is that it relies on the passive audience theory, but audiences are more active today.
There are theories which suggest violence in the media can cause people to be violent, such as Bandura’s Copy Cat theory, but there are many flaws with his original experiment which tried to prove a direct link between media violence and real life violence, and little evidence that there is a link.
Violence in the media may, however, desensitise people to violence in real life and make them less likely to react when they see violent acts.
Similarly with increasing fear causes by the exaggeration of violence. Ordinary people are less likely to go out in public meaning there are less people around to informally police the streets if crime is happening.
The news often exaggerates the extent of violent street crime compared to property crime, and working class street crime compared to middle class white collar crime, and both of these might cause an increase in particular types of crime.
One thing the media exaggerates is the extent of stranger sexual assault and child abduction by strangers, which keeps domestic abuse cases hidden, and may make it easier for partners and friends to keep on abusing because no-one is looking out for these criminals, who are the usual perpetrators.
Similarly with focusing on violent street crime: the lack of focus in the media agenda on high level fraud allows governments and corporations to carry on their criminal operations as usual, according to a Marxist perspective.
Signposting and sources
The main material to draw on to answer the above questions comes from the Crime and Deviance module.
Donald Trump was finally arrested and charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records, one of which will include the ‘hush money’ he allegedly paid to the Porn Star Stormy Daniels to cover up an alleged affair during his last Presidential campaign.
On the surface this seems to criticise the Marxist Perspective’s theory of selective law enforcement: where the system mainly focuses on prosecuting the marginalised and the poor, and ignores the crimes of the elite. This is very much a case of a member of the global elite being prosecuted.
Although given the amount of time it has taken for this all to get to the prosecution phase, and given that this is happening AFTER Donald Trump has been president, it does seem like an injustice is being done. Can you imagine a working class crack-dealer or burglar getting half a decade of freedom before their case gets processed? (No!)
And probably what will happen next is that Donald Trump’s team of lawyers will pick holes in every sentence of the evidence and find technicalities on which they can delay proceedings until eventually this never comes to trial, which is one of the tactics the elite use to avoid being found guilty of financial crimes, which are notoriously difficult to prosecute because of their complexity.
A porn star claiming she was paid hush money is one thing, finding the paper trail that proves it is quite another, after all!
Beyond Marxism, this is also a very Postmodern media event. This is as much about entertainment and spectacle as it is about justice, and TBH it seems like the justice issue has already got lost in the media spectacle.
I mean this is a serious issue of corruption at the highest level of the American government, but all the public is focused on is the procession of Donald Trump to and from the court room. The visible appearance of the man is someone that is unchanged in many years, and still wealthy, respected, belligerent, and well, entertaining.
I can’t imagine that justice is going to be served here, and I similarly can’t imagine that the public is going to care, this event is already on the level of Love Island!
Something else that is COMPLETELY lost in the media narrative is the gender dimension in all of this. Here we have a powerful man paying off a woman he (allegedly) had an affair with. The misogyny at the heart of this is hardly mentioned while the mainly male prosecutors and defence go about their business!
But then again, one knows not to expect any level of depth from the mainstream media!
He even went as far to suggest that this shows how investment in policies such as drug rehabilitation and employment for offenders programmes are working.
However, these claims are misleading because if you dig a little deeper into the reoffending statistics you find it isn’t necessarily the case that ex offenders aren’t reoffending, it could just be that they aren’t getting prosecuted and thus not reappearing on the statistics.
This was the main point that Danny Shaw, previous Home Affairs correspondent for the BBC, made on a recent Radio 4 Analysis show which explored this issue (1).
What is the reoffending rate?
The reoffending rate is the proportion of people who have been released from prison or who have been given community sentence or a fine who within 12 months of that event commit another offence for which they are convicted or given a caution.
So it’s really more accurate to call it the reconviction or recautioning rate rather than the reoffending rate because some people may offend again but just not get caught and processed again.
So the decline in the reoffending rate above could be because the police and courts are getting less effective at getting convictions and giving cautions.
And we have to ask this because the government hasn’t presented any cause and effect evidence which shows that offending rates are going down because of any of their social policies.
A second set of data from the Home Office which shows the outcomes of offences (what happens to a crime after it is reported and recorded by the police in England and Wales) show that charge rates have plummeted, down by 10% from 2014-15 to the 12 months ending September 2022 to 5.5%, and the caution rate has gone from 4.6% to 1%.
Just to emphasis this: the trend in the charge rate for crimes is:
2014/15: 15.5% of crimes were formally charged, or 1/7 crimes resulted in a charge.
2022: 5.5% of crimes were formally charged. Or 1/20 crimes resulted in a charge.
That is a drastic change in just seven years suggesting there is something going very wrong with the Criminal Justice System: the numbers of known offences which are dealt with by the prosecution services has fallen by two thirds in seven years. Surely this must be having an impact on the numbers of ex offenders
Why are the charging and cautioning rates falling?
According to Shaw a combination of two factors explain this:
There has been a changing in the mix of offences, with an increase in the number of sexual offences which tend to be more complex and more difficult to process so less likely to result in a charge or caution.
Police officer numbers fell from almost 144 000 in 2010 to 123 000 in to 2019, a drop of around 21 000
This combination of increasingly complex offences and fewer police officers means that fewer crimes are getting processed and such low rates of charging and cautioning suggest that criminals have got a license to get away with crime.
Statistical analysis paints quite a different picture to Dominic Raab’s spin!
Signposting and sources
This material should be a useful update for anyone studying the Crime and Deviance topic as part of their A-level sociology course, or criminology more generally!
An independent report (1) into the culture of Metropolitan police has found that they are still institutionally racist, as well as misogynistic and homophobic.
The report was commissioned after one police officer abducted Sarah Everard who he raped and then murdered, and it is depressing reading that reveals a toxic culture which means casual sexism, racism and homophobia exist and frequently go unchallenged.
Sexism and homophobia in the MET
The MET is 72% male and so women are significantly under-represented still.
12% of women working for the MET reported being harassed or attacked and one third said they had experienced sexism.
One woman formally complained when she was the victim of sustained harassment and an indecent act by a male superior. He got away with everything and she was made out to be a liar.
One in five Lesbian, gay or bisexual officers said they had experienced homophobia and 30% of LGBTQ officers said they had been bullied.
Racism in the MET
The MET is 82% white and thus remains disproportionately white in a capital that is increasingly ethnically diverse
Stop and search rates against ethnic minorities are still proportionally higher than against whites.
Only 45% of the London population had confidence in the police to do their job effectively, with figures 5-10% lower for Black and Asian respondents.
Black and Asian officers are more likely to be disciplined and leave the force early. Black officers are 81% more likely than their white counterparts to go through misconduct processes.
There are some shocking individual cases of over racism. For example one Muslim officer found bacon stuffed in boots and one Sikh officer had is beard cut.
Why is the MET institutionally racist?
The recruitment process was poor: there was no effective screening in place which might prevent racists and sexists intent on abusing their power from entering the force.
The management of officers was poor: there were no effective processes for dealing with bad officers or encouraging and developing good officers.
Complaints against the conduct of officers are frequently not taken seriously, and often just dismissed – thus complaints about sexism and racism often go uninvestigated.
The report talks of a culture of not speaking up about discrimination among officers and a management culture that encouraged this because when people did complain they were met with defensiveness and denial and there could even be negative career consequences for those who raised complaints.
Some of the root causes of the failure of MET to tackle institutional discrimination lie in the Tory funding cuts over the last decade. The MET has relatively less money now compared to 10 years ago, and senior officers have to manage huge numbers of regular officers, meaning it is practically very difficult for them to monitor discrimination.
Also the nature of crime has changed over the last decade: there are a lot more domestic abuse cases which take more police resources to investigate: so the police have less money but a more complex work load.
The unfortunate irony is that while budgetary pressures mean less focus is being put on combatting discrimination within the MET, crime has changed so that there are more cases requiring reasonable officers who aren’t racist, sexist, homophobes to work on them.
Sir Mark Rowley, the MET commissioner since September 2022 accepted that the MET had racist, sexist and homophobic officers and a cultural problem, but refused to accept the use of the term ‘institutionally racist’, as does the Home Office.
Fixing the MET
The report agued that the Metropolitan police needed a ‘complete overhaul’ to fix its problems, highlighting the Specialist Firearms Unit as particularly dissimilatory.
Two specific recommendations included giving the (newly appointed) commissioner new powers to deal with complaints against officers and improving the recruitment process so that racist, sexist and homophobic people are prevented from joining the MET in the first place.
The legal age of marriage in the UK rose from 16 to 18 years of on Monday 27th February 2023.
The reason behind this was to protect vulnerable teenagers aged 16 to 17 being manipulated or coerced into marriage against their will.
There have been thousands of cases of forced marriage in recent years where children, many from Asian backgrounds, have been taken out the United Kingdom shortly after their 16th birthdays and made to perform marriage ceremonies to men they have never met before.
This is usually arranged by their elderly family members without the child’s prior knowledge and can sometimes result in the child returning home weeks or months later already pregnant and with her new husband.
Preventing forced marriage of children is one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and marrying off a child agains their will is a breach of international human rights.
With this change to the legislation, 16 and 17 year olds are now brought under similar levels of protection against harm as we find with the laws forbidding alcohol and cigarettes.
A recent BBC News article explored this issue from the experience from the point of view of two victims of arranged child marriage, one of whom pointed out that at age 16 she didn’t realise that she was being coerced and that it should have been the duty of every adult to safeguard her.
This new law should make teenagers much less likely to go through this as most parents will not be prepared to break U.K. law for the sake of tradition.
Relevance to A-level Sociology
this material is a useful update to the marriage and divorce topics and childhood topics within the families and household option, usually taught as part of the AQA’s A-Level sociology in the first year of study.
Nadhim Zahawi is the Conservative Party Chairman and previous Chancellor of the Exchequer who this month paid around £5 million in tax, which included a 30% penalty from the HMRC for underpayment of previous taxes.
To understand why Zahawi received this tax penalty we need to go back to the year 2000 when Zahawi co-founded the well known polling site YouGov.UK.
At that time Zahawi’s partner received 40% of the YouGov shares, while Zahawi received none but another 40% of the shares went to company called Balshore Investments which is located in Gibralter and has a history as a tax haven.
Later on it emerged that Balshore Investments was owned by Zahawi’s parents who don’t live in the U.K. and he claims he he gave them those shares to in exchange for advise on how to set up YouGov.
Balshore, or Zahawi’s parents, eventually went on to sell said shares for a capital gain of around £27 million, which, had this been based in the U.K. would have been taxed at around £3. 7 million.
There are YouGov documents showing that one dividend cheque for £99 000 was redirected to Zahawi,
YouGov financial documents reveal that a share dividend of £99 000 was redirected from Balshore to Zahawi, suggesting that he was benefiting financially from these shares.
Analysis by Dan Neidle, a tax lawyer, suggests that Zahawi has basically just been made to pay ALL of the tax due on the sale of those shares (£3.7 million) plus a 30% fine by the HMRC because he was ‘careless’ in reporting his capital gains from the sale of these shares.
Carelessness or Tax Evasion?
The fact that HMRC charged Zahawi a 30% penalty means they classified his omission of information from his tax return as ‘moderately serious’, it was a result of ‘carelessness’ rather than it being a deliberate omission.
‘Careless mistakes’ on a tax return are penalised by 30% penalties whereas deliberate withholding of information for financial gain is regarded as tax evasion which carries a prison sentence of up to 7 years.
Now technically this investigation into Zahawi is over and legally his failure to report his tax affairs accurately in the past have been constructed as ‘carelessness’.
And I am sure that technically he has done nothing wrong in the eyes of international law or British Laws: using your parents’ company in a tax haven stash shares which then grow in value and then sell as a profit technically isn’t tax evasion.
But hang on…. HMRC have made him pay tax on the profit he made from those shares…? So surely this was an example of tax evasion?
Maybe his carelessness was that he tried to use loopholes to evade tax deliberately but then one document created a paper trail and that messed up his despicable scheme?
So maybe the serious fraud office and the national crime agency should be investigating this too?
At the very least we have to question the morality of a former Chancellor over this, and this certainly doesn’t fit into the demands by Rishi Sunak that the Tory Party should display ‘Integrity, Professionalism and Accountability’ going forwards!
It is a useful reminder of how crime is socially constructed in that the financial crime of misreporting taxes has layers of seriousness to it which can be interpreted flexibly by the HMRC.
It seems that this flexibility gives people the opportunity to push the boundaries and risk withholding information without financial gain with a reduced threat of going to prison, the maximum penalty being a 30% fine on what profit you’ve made, which for the very rich, that might just be worth the gamble!