Posts By / Jane Healy

Racism and the Criminal Justice System: a roundtable contribution

Last month colleagues and I in the Department of Social Sciences and Social Work, and members of the Seldom Heard Voices Research Centre, convened a round table discussion on racism, the impact of Covid-19 on minority groups and the rise of #BlackLivesMatter following the murder of George Floyd. As someone who teaches intersectionality to social science students, I presented background information on racism within the criminal justice system as well as on my own research experiences on hate crime. Today’s blog considers the first of these areas, and I hope colleagues will join me in sharing their own stimulating presentations in the coming days.

As students in my classes will be aware, there is a long history of marginalisation, discrimination and prejudice against minority groups in the UK. I only have the space here to briefly consider the particular relationship of Black and Asian minority groups with the criminal justice system but hope it will encourage wider debates. Although this is an area that we have seen awareness raised around in recent weeks, following the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests here and overseas, these issues are not new.

The contributory factors surrounding the murder of Mr Floyd are not specific to the USA and given its history of colonialisation has many similar features to the UK also.  As we wait to hear the outcome of the charges and trial of the police officers involved in Mr Floyd’s death, we must bear in mind that in the UK there have been no successful prosecutions for deaths in British Police custody since 1969 – that is, over 50 years.  That is not to say there have not been deaths in police custody since that time – there have been hundreds – and they have been proportionately more likely to involve the death of a black man than any other ethnic group.

What is the relationship between race and crime? Criminology students start by considering the groundbreaking work of Stuart Hall and colleagues in Policing the Crisis: Mugging the State and Law and Order, originally published in 1978, exposing a socially constructed moral panic around young black ‘muggers’.

Since that prosecution in 1969 of two Leeds officers for the death of David Oluwale, we have seen repeated evidence of prejudice and discrimination by the CJS towards our black communities. There was the Scarman report of 1981, focussed on responding to undercover officers targeting BAME communities in Brixton, which involved hundreds of people being stopped and searched on the basis of ‘suspicion’ and subsequent public disorders (note: I refuse to use the term ‘riot’). In 1995 Sir Paul Condon, then Commission of the Met Police, said young black men were committing 80% of muggings in high crime area, implying that it was colour of skin rather than socio-economic backgrounds and structural conditions that were a factor in criminality, showing little had changed.

We have seen the MacPherson report of 1999 investigating police response to the murder of Stephen Lawrence, which was the genesis of hate crime legislation and victim-focussed policing in the UK. We have witnessed disorders or ‘riots’ from 1985 in Birmingham, Brixton, Broadwater Farm, Meadow Well Estate, and Tottenham again in 2011. As with recent reports, the actions of minority members resulted in heavy handed or excessive police responses, and further undermined the fragile community relations between police and minority communities.

Despite the introduction of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act in 1984, communities continued to complain about increasing numbers of discriminatory targeting of black men through the use of stop search – particularly young black men.

Consistently, Black men were more likely to be stopped and searched than white men.

Consistently, Black people were more likely to be arrested and charged compared to other ethnic groups.

Throughout the criminal justice system, as the Lammy Report (2017) shows us, a BAME man was more likely to be stopped, arrested, charged, denied bail, convicted and sentenced to prison than a white man with the same previous history, and the same offence.

So racism is not new. Outrage is not new. And no wonder our communities are tired of peaceful protests and not being heard.  This prejudice exists both within our CJS structurally, and within our communities.  It is fuelled by processes of dehumanisation and racialisation. What bothers me most about these recent events is that we are still having to debate and argue about the extent of racism within our societies today, and as this brief overview has shown, lessons have not been learnt.

All of this comes within the embedded dehumanising, stigmatising and Othering of minority communities. From Ben Bowling’s work on racism in the police in 1998, Kathryn Russell’s call in 1992 for a Black criminology to investigate the over-representation of race and ethnicity in crime statistics – as well as victim statistics – to Alpa Parmer in 2017 who highlights there is still too little criminological research on the nexus between race, gender and crime… I add to their calls for action. We all have a responsibility for action.

Jane Healy

Gender in Conflict Conference: WAN-funded event

On Wednesday 9 October 2019 Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers and I hosted an international and intersectional conference involving staff, students and Erasmus colleagues to debate issues of gender, violence and conflict in contemporary societies. We were very fortunate to receive funding from the Women’s Academic Network for this event, and for additional guest speakers who will be visiting BU in the coming months to contribute to discussion on this theme.

The focus of our ‘Gender in Conflict’ conference was to provide a platform for discussion and reflection on conceptualisations of gender and violence that have heightened visibility in post-conflict environments. We asked contributors to consider what we can learn from questions of gendered violence in a fragile international context and whether international lessons can be applied to social environments in the UK.

The aims were:

  1. To de-colonise and de-exoticise knowledge about gendered violence in war and post-conflict contexts abroad by going beyond stereotypical assumptions and representations;
  2. To interpret contemporary UK conceptualisations of gendered violence through an alternative lens inspired by international experience.

We were fortunate to have the opportunity of the Erasmus-funded presence of two visiting Kosovar colleagues who presented at this event.  Dr Linda Gusia and Assoc. Prof. Nita Luci are the founders and directors of the Programme for Gender Studies and Research at University of Prishtina, Kosovo. They are highly visible women’s rights activists in Kosovo. The post-conflict situation in Kosovo poses unexpected challenges to equal rights not only arising from classic patriarchal cultural legacies but also from masculinity reiterations in the totalising field of international intervention.

We were also joined by two BU criminologists of our own Department for Social Sciences who are working in related fields: Jade Levell on gang crimes in the UK and Dr Shovita Dhakal Adhikari on agency and interventions within human trafficking in Nepal. This conference emerged from our own academic interests in questions of gendered hate crime in the UK (Dr Jane Healy) and on questions of social justice in transnational and post-conflict settings (Dr Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers).

Stephanie welcomes participants

Stephanie opened the conference by encouraging contributors and audience members to reflect upon the transferability of interpreting phenomena we often consider in their specific contexts alone and the limitations arising from differences in our epistemological framings of analyses, contingent on such context and distinctions such as ‘the Global South’. Questions of cultural translation, power, language and positioning can be perceived or experienced as barriers to engagement, rather than opportunities to share best practice. The aims of the conference were to critically re-envisage our contemporary conceptualisations of such concepts on the basis of comparison and shared reflection.

Jade Levell was our first speaker, with a paper entitled:  “The competing masculinities of gang-involved men who experienced domestic violence/abuse in childhood”. Jade’s presentation, drawn from her PhD thesis, considers the conflicted and competing gender performances by marginalised men who have been drawn into gangs in the UK. She demonstrated how these men are performing hegemonic masculinity in an attempt to claim power where they have none. This is conveyed through a language and symbolic rhetoric of war and honour.

Jade Levell introduces her research

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nita Luci then spoke about “Researching Gender in the Balkans” as she traced the recent history of gender studies research in Kosovo. Her presentation began during a period where few academics were interested in looking at gendered experiences in the region to the emergence of the Programme for Gender Studies and Research in contemporary Kosovo. Through this timeframe, she highlighted the simultaneous re-framing and changing conceptualisations of masculinities in Kosovo.

 

 

Visiting scholar Nita Luci from University of Prishtina

 

 

 

Linda Gusia’s paper took this conceptualisation further. In “Recognition of Sexual Violence in Kosovo after the War” Linda highlighted the conflict between the hyper visibility of war-time sexual violence and a complete silencing of questions of gender and nationalism before the war. She considered how sexual violence against women was propagated by men, as an attack on the nation’s male gaze. Through a nationalist lens the concept of heroism was the prevailing public image and discourse. There was limited space for women’s own conceptualisation of the war as their stories were reframed through a narrative of sacrifice, martyrdom and atonement.

Visiting scholar Linda Gusia

In her paper entitled “Exploring Child Vulnerabilities: pre- and post-disaster in Nepal”, Shovita Dhakal Adhikari demonstrated similar patterns of silencing of women’s and girl’s experiences of human trafficking in Nepal. Shovita critiqued the application of Westernised concepts and labels to Nepalese society, particularly in regard to discourses of vulnerable victims in need of ‘rescue and protect’. Here again, women’s bodies are being controlled as a method of protection.

BU’s Shovita Dhakal Adhikari shares her research on child trafficking narratives in Nepal

 

Lastly, Stephanie chaired a panel discussion of all of the speakers, entitled “Inverting the gaze: Juxtaposing gender and conflict in transitional societies abroad and the UK”. This produced a lively debate around concepts of competing masculinities, vulnerabilities and visibilities of marginalised voices that could be drawn from all case studies presented. The conference drew to a close with contributors and audience members agreeing that this was an energising and engaging series of papers that showcased similarities in constructions of gender and gendered violence, both in the UK and abroad.

Participant contributions

Two further speakers who were unable to attend this conference at short notice were re-scheduled to visit BU this academic year:

  • Dr Emma Milne from Plymouth presented on Criminal Justice Responses to Maternal Filicide: Judging the failed mother on 13 February 2020.
  • Dr Hannah Mason-Bish will visit on 23 March 2020 to discuss Gender and Hate Crime.

For further details or discussion please contact: jhealy@bournemouth.ac.uk or sssievers@bournemouth.ac.uk

New Publication: Intersectionality as a hate crime research framework

Christmas came early for Jane Healy as her publication “Thinking outside the box: Intersectionality as a hate crime research framework” was published on 19 December in the conference journal for the British Society of Criminology.  Jane’s article was based on her paper presentation at last summer’s BSC annual international conference which was held at the University of Lincoln.

The conference theme was ‘Public Criminologies’ and the article draws upon Jane’s previous PhD research, her ongoing work on hate crime in the Dorset community and her undergraduate teaching for sociology and criminology students on intersectional criminology; demonstrating Fusion in action!

The article challenges the current single-strand approach to hate crime in the UK and uses case study examples to illustrate how applying intersectional analysis to hate crimes contributes to a greater understanding of the nature of victims’ experiences. This comes at a time when the Law Commission is reviewing current hate crime legislation which she argues is hierarchical and fails to provide equal protection across hate crime strands.

The full article is available Open Access at: https://www.britsoccrim.org/pbcc2019/

Further findings from Jane’s PhD are discussed in an article published by Disability & Society in June last year, entitled “‘It spreads like a creeping disease’: experiences of victims of disability hate crime in austerity Britain” which is available here:

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09687599.2019.1624151

Dr Jane Healy is Deputy Head of the Department of Social Sciences and Social Work, in the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences.

Representing BU at the North South Irish Criminology Conference

I had the pleasure of presenting two papers at last week’s international criminology conference at my alma mater, University College Dublin (UCD), representing BU for the first time since joining last September. As with all international conferences, there was an eclectic mix of personalities, researchers, academics and practitioners, representing both sides of the border, as well as the UK, Canada and further afield. The field of criminology remains a niche area in the Republic (but growing slowly) and it was a pleasant surprise to see over 100 delegates at the two day conference presenting papers on prisons, probation, policing, offending, criminal law, victims and prisoners’ rights.

The conference opened with a keynote address by Prof Eamonn Carrabine from the University of Essex who gave an inspiring paper on what he (and others) terms the new criminology of war. Drawing on Mann, Klein and Ruggiero‘s work, he emphasised how war is an “image event”. Using war photography to support this thesis, he demonstrated the way in which war is an intense cultural production, in particular drawing our attention to the impact it has on the towns and villages that are bombarded, and the consequential (de)structural barriers to cultural evolution.

Jane Healy presents research findings at UCD’s criminology conference

 

The conference topic was “New Frontiers in Criminology” and there was certainly plenty of food for thought as to where criminological study might develop in the future, with other presentations that considered indigenous criminology, online crime and labour trafficking, for example.  These were complimented with more ‘traditional’ discussions around rape myths, desistance and youth justice. The majority of papers focussed on prisons, probations and police with only a limited number on victimology itself. My own paper highlighted the more unique forms of hate crime targeted against disabled people, including accusations of benefit fraud, the fluidity of both online and offline abuse, and the use or threat of sexual violence as a method of hate crime.

I jointly presented the only other hate crime paper at the conference with Dr James Palfreman-Kay from Equality & Diversity at BU.  Our hate crime project, which provides students with forum theatre scenarios to enable them to discuss hate crime in an interactive – and safe – way, was recognised by the panel audience as an innovative method of engaging in such a sensitive topic.

As new frontiers go, hate crime is an area ripe for research development in contemporary Ireland. Despite almost a quarter of a century of hate studies here in the UK, there is limited research in the Republic on this topic, with the exception of course of sectarian violence. There is currently no  hate legislation in the Republic, despite recent efforts and encouragement from the likes of Dr Jennifer Schweppe at the University of Limerick and a recent publication by Jennifer, Seamus Taylor, and others. Given the increasing hate crimes and incidents being reported in the UK, I really do hope to see the introduction of hate legislation in the Republic at the very least and would encourage potential PhD students to consider it as an avenue to contributory research.

Given the dearth of victimological papers (and hate studies) presented at the conference, we hope that we achieved our goal of introducting new avenues and ‘frontiers’ for future criminological research with colleagues overseas. We welcome further enquiries from home and abroad who might want to adapt or explore our methods or areas of enquiries. Their absence however did not detract from an interesting and enthusiastic gathering that highlighted so many other fruitful areas of research for me in the future. As an ECR, I left wanting to know more about everything from the demise of prisoners’ rights movements to the question of whether the State’s criminal justice system can ever be constrained through proportionality.  I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend the conference and would encourage others to look out for the “NSICC” in future years. Highlights of the event can be found by following @UCDLaw or #NSICC on Twitter.

Dr Jane Healy is a Lecturer in Sociology and Crime & Deviance in the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences and recently completed her PhD in disablist hate crime