Criminology, probation and stuff

Some musings on criminology with a focus on probation

Posts Tagged ‘media

Criminals applying for jobs in schools- yeah, and?

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I can hardly bear to bring myself to write about this article: Criminals applying for jobs in schools: Paedophiles among 7,000 trying to work with children | Mail Online but I will.

Firstly because, as the article says, it does say something about the CRB system working- at least these people were identified as having criminal records, allowing schools to not employ someone who may present a risk to children.

Secondly, because I want to ask: what happened to the rehabilitation of offenders act 1974 which was meant to give people ‘a second chance’?

Thirdly, because I want to point out that most incidences of child abuse go undetected or unconvicted and so a criminal conviction is not the best way to judge future harm.

Fourthly, I want to highlight the fact that of all the people who had a criminal record, there were only 108 serious crimes which, in my mind, would probably automatically disallow someone from working children such as assault on minors and other sexual offences. This only represents 1.6% of all those found to have a record. It’s not a huge number. I have omitted the 150 drug convictions as, in my mind, possessing cannabis, which is probably what most of them involve does not pose a threat to children especially if one is aware, as most of these people are, of professional boundaries.

Fifthly, I want to reiterate the statement made in the article that there are certain offences which would automatically ban a person from working with children- so, what’s the problem- these people are being ‘filtered out’ at the appropriate time.

There are likely to be people who have had criminal records disclosed who were seriously trying to get round the system in order to cause harm but, really, how many? That’s what we really need to know. We also need to know how many people pose a risk to children, or are actually harming children, but who are doing so undetected. These figures don’t do anything except fuel punitive sentiment amongst the daily mail reading members of the public. At best, they tell us that the CRB system works and also that people are trying to make amends and start afresh by trying to get a job in a very difficult and rewarding profession despite any previous problems. At worst, they encourage schools to employ fewer people with convictions in order to avoid any potential scandal thereby declining these people the chance to fully reform and, in the process, completely undermining the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.


Written by criminologyandstuff

February 24, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Justice, media, Politics

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One rule for us…?

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I’m sure it’s very nice that Jade Goody and Jack Tweed can spend their wedding night together. I am completely ready to admit that I don’t know anything about them (apart from one of them is famous for being on a non-celebrity-cum-celebrity tv show and the other one beats people up with golf clubs) and that I don’t know anything about the process behind allowing people to change their curfew times (although I do know that it is possible if, for instance, someone gets a job which would require being out of the house outside of curfew hours). However, I can’t help feeling that this may be a case of ‘one rule for them and one rule for the rest of us.

I suppose we just have to trust Jack Straw.

The justice secretary, Jack Straw, said: “It is crucial that offenders are treated equally within the rules regardless of the publicity surrounding their case but I was satisfied that it was reasonable to allow this.”

I’ve never done that before though so it’s an unusual position to find oneself in on a Friday afternoon!

I wonder if Jade will change her name… Jade Tweed- it could be an alternative to Burberry Check.


It looks like Andrew Neilson of the Howard League thinks similar thoughts to me. Erm, Guardian, where’s the credit?!

Written by criminologyandstuff

February 20, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Response to reports of ’35 million yob crimes a year’

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I think the Express has really outdone itself here in terms of statistical manipulation. Apparently the police logged ‘3.9million incidents of antisocial behaviour’ in England and Wales in 2007/08. According to the Express, because the British Crime Survey says that only 11% of victims report an incident this means that, actually, there were 35 million ‘yob attacks’- they’ve multiplied 3.9m by 9.1. Well, I don’t mean to be picky but the BCS actually says that:

People who had experienced problems with noisy or nuisance neighbours were the most likely to complain (49% had done so) compared with 23 per cent of those who had experienced drug use or dealing and 14 per cent of those who had experienced people being drunk or rowdy. (page 1)

So I don’t think that the 11% figure is accurate. I thought that maybe they were using reported crime (as opposed to ASB) figures but according to the BCS 42% of crimes are reported. Additionally, the most common reason for not reporting the incident is because it was considered by the ‘victim’ to be too trivial. If this is the case, why are we so bothered about it? The problem is, is that we are dealing with this problem within a framework devised by a government and media which is, quite frankly, obsessed by anti-social behaviour. We are asking people what behaviour they have witnessed, classifying it as ASB and then ignoring the fact that the supposed victim decided not to report it because they considered it to be too trivial to report. This behaviour is obviously not causing any significant harm (financial or physical). If it was, people would report it in the same way that most people report burglary, murder or car theft. I think that a much better way of tackling this issue is to ask people to define ASB acts for themselves based on the ‘official’ definition from the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (rather than the considerably more scary version on the Home Office website- Anti-social behaviour is virtually any intimidating or threatening activity that scares you or damages your quality of life) which is ‘behaviour likely to cause alarm, harassment or distress to members of the public not of the same household as the perpetrator’. Respondents should then be asked to report whether they have experienced/witnessed it.

Moving on… the Express  says:

The horrifying statistics suggest an epidemic of unbridled hooliganism is sweeping the nation.

But, the BCS says that:

Nineteen per cent of adults had a high level of perceived ASB in 2001/02… This rose to 21 per cent in 2002/03 before falling to 16 per cent in 2003/04. Between 2003/04 and 2006/07, there was a slight increase in the proportion with a high level of perceived ASB. The latest figures for 2007/08 show a reduction, compared with the previous year, to return to the same level (16%) as found in 2003/04.

Admittedly, the BCS is fairly wordy but basically they are saying that perceptions of ASB decreased from 19% in 2001/02 to 16% last year, albeit with small fluctuations here and there. I think everyone agrees that police recorded crime is not a very accurate picture of what happens in reality and that the BCS is considerably more so. If we are experiencing an unbridled epidemic of hooliganism, why isn’t it showing up in the BCS? Either, there is no epidemic, or the BCS has some serious methodological flaws which it admittedly does but I don’t think its that bad!

Moving on again… the Express says that:

The types of offences include youth and gang-related nuisance; vandalism and damage to property; drug nuisance and dealing; prostitution and kerb crawling; dog and animal nuisance; harassment and intimidation; and litter, rubbish and fly-tipping.

But we have seen that the most likely incident to be reported is noisy or nuisance neighbours so I expect these are the majority of incidents that would be recorded by the police- not gang-related nuisance. Why doesn’t nuisance neighbours, the kind of behaviour most likely to be reported, not appear in the Express’s article? According to the BCS, ‘of the seven strands that make up the overall ASB measure, the 2007/08 BCS showed that the most widely perceived problems are teenagers hanging around, and rubbish or litter.’ Not exactly gang-related nuisance or harassment. Only 7% thought that vandalism and graffiti is a big problem in their area.

Anyway, it’s not as simple as the Express makes out and I am sure that they are manipulating figures they don’t understand to get a ‘story’. Finally, as another example of statistical manipulation I will draw your attention to the final sentence of the article (yes I did read that far, unlike most tabloid journalists) which is a quote from a Home Office minister:

The British Crime Survey shows that high levels of perceived antisocial behaviour in the local area have fallen from a high of 21 per cent in 2002-03 to 16 per cent in 2007/8.

I wonder why they chose 2002/03 as the year for comparison rather than 2001/02 (which was the year that this data was first collected) when the figure was  19%? Or why not choose 2003/04 when the figure was 16%?

I’m not going to say that ASB doesn’t exist but I am absolutely unequivocal in my belief that it is not as bad as the Express (and the Mail and the Sun, for that matter) make out. But maybe that’s because I’m a fairly privileged, well-educated, white, middle class PhD student at one of the world’s most elite universities… unlike the journalists who make these figures up.

Written by criminologyandstuff

February 4, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Switching off street lamps ‘could triple road deaths’ | Mail Online

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The Daily Mail has reported that Switching off street lamps ‘could triple road deaths’. As ever, I was sceptical from the outset so I decided to actually download the report which is available here . Firstly, just to clarify, the report is a meta-analysis of studies done by other people. The Cochrane Collaboration is vigorous in its selection criteria for including studies in their meta-analyses- even so there are methodological issues within the original studies. The first thing that struck me was this quote (page 2):

Authors’ conclusions
The results from this systematic review suggests that street lighting may prevent road traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities. However, further well designed studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of street lighting in middle and low-income countries.

This doesn’t quite concur with the Mail’s statement that:

Researchers say there is overwhelming evidence that street lamps save the lives of ‘a significant number’ of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists each year.

The report does not argue this and even if it did, there are numerous other major methodogical issues with the whole project which could undermine the results.

  • ‘the methodological quality of the trials was generally poor’ (page 1).
  • The research did not compare the number of fatal crashes with an area control (page 1) so we do not actually know if turning the lights off will increase the number of fatalities.
  • The risk of bias in these studies was judged to be high.
  • 11 of the studies used day time figures as a control so we are not actually comparing ‘night time no lights’ with ‘night time with lights’.
  • The other 5 studies used a seperate area as a control unit so we are actually comparing this area, with street lights, with another (and crucially different area) that has no street lights. to 10.03). Only one study with an area control specified an intention to match the control roads by speed limit, road type and police district
  • There were no randomised control trials in the analysis
  • None of the included studies had a data collection period of less than 12 months for either the before (range 1-3 years) or the after (range 1-8 years) periods,

I’m not going to continue, I think I’ve made my point. I am not criticising the meta-analysis itself- the authors are explicit in the poor quality of the whole exercise. The issue, as if it’s not obvious, is the media reporting of it. You will notice that that most of the first quotes in this post come from pages 1 and 2 of the report (ironically, page 2 is the ‘Plain Language Sumamary’). The Daily Mail author obviously didn’t get that far.

Note the quotation marks in the quote from the Mail above- ‘a significant number’. I think they must have fabricated that quote. If one searches for it in the report, it comes up with 0 (zero) occurrences. Look:

A Significant Number?

Not only has the Daily Mail not read the report but they’re making things up as well! Amazing!

Written by criminologyandstuff

January 21, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Posted in media, Research

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