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A crime is when a person commits an act and breaks the law, which results in punishment One of the most serious forms of crime is Murder. This is a premeditated killing of one human being by another, planned/previously with the thought and/or an intent/desire to conflict injury, the state of mind/intent is what defines a murder as opposed to manslaughter. Manslaughter is categorized into two categories, Involuntary and Voluntary Manslaughter. Involuntary Manslaughter is where the offender had no intention to kill at all, but acted in a reckless or unreasonable manner. Voluntary Manslaughter is where the offender had no prior intention to kill the victim, and most likely acted in the heat of passion (freeadvice, n.d.)(2)
The statistics for Murder from the Home Office reveal that murder rates have dropped since 2002/2003 in which the total number of recorder murders was 1,047 (including deaths with criminal verdicts of manslaughter) (Home Office, 2012)(3)
Is murder newsworthy? Newsworthiness has five factors that an editor considers before running with a story. An editor must decide how well a story meets these factors before publishing. Normally a story will not be published unless it does well in at least two of the five criteria's for instance timing and significance. Timing is crucial to deciding whether to run with a story in news the story must be 'new', a crime that happened that day is news but if the same crime happened a week ago then it becomes old news and is no longer interesting. Significance is also important in deciding the fate of a story, the number of people affected by the story is very important in deciding to publish, for example, a story where five people have died is more likely to get published than a story where one has died (Media College, n.d.)(4) Unless murder is of political standings, mass killings, someone of high importance or someone famous then it is not usually newsworthy. Nevertheless, should murder be newsworthy? Most offenders commit murder for attention/to be noticed. So while the media stirs up a 'Moral Panic' by creating a profile and putting these murderers on the front page. They are ultimately turning them into celebrities, indulging them to continue in their reign of terror (i.e. The Yorkshire Ripper)
Understanding social behaviour is the most important aim of sociologists. There have been many theories put forward with two of the most popular theories being Positivism and Interpretivism. Positivists believe that people can only analyse and draw conclusions from what they observe, what they see and measure, which forms the subject matter of positivism. (Olivia, 2012)(5) Positivists prefer quantitative data because it can be turned easily into numbers and statistics. They also believe that social factors can affect people's behaviour which in turn can also be measured (Mary, 2009)(6) These theories are in sharp contrast to each other though they do have some similarities where positivism looks at organization in society interpretivism looks at individuals in societies. Interpretivists believe that individuals have the intent, the power to interpret, they also believe that Individuals have the means to build their surroundings instead of just watching what is going on around them (Olivia, 2012)(7) Interpretivists look at the meaning and the motive behind people's behaviour and through interaction with others. They disapprove of positivists because they believe that statistics and numbers do not tell you much about human behaviour and they believe that sociology is not a science. They also disapprove of the methods that positivists use because they prefer qualitative data. Interpretivists prefer to analyse individual's behaviour in depth, from the view of the individual (Mary, 2009)(8)
TV, radio, newspapers and the internet play a big part in everyday life. They show stories of crime and provide information about crime this is an increasingly important way of influencing and, possibly manipulating people's attitudes and behaviour in the way they view the world. Is the media causing crime? According to Greer (Newburn, 2007:88)(9) "All media appear to exaggerate the extent of violent crime in Britain. This includes newspapers, news and entertainment on television and radio, and crime fiction". Because the media cause 'Moral Panics' by exaggerating such crime they could end up causing more crime. They label, define an act to be harmful, deviant and criminal (Newburn, 2007)(10) In the case of Dr Harold Shipman and Peter Sutcliffe it was the media that give them there nicknames, their own profile, dubbing them 'Dr Death' (Fox & Levin, 2005)(11) and 'The Yorkshire Ripper'(Yusof, 2012)(12). Could the media nicknaming cause more panic from the readers, making the elderly scared to see a doctor or have a doctor in their home, make people more afraid to be on out on the streets at night or more paranoid that someone is following them.
The punishment for murder in the UK is mandatory life imprisonment if the offender is aged 21+, custody for life if the offender committed aged 18+ and convicted before they are 21 and detention during her Majesty's pleasure, if the offender is under 18 at the date of the offence now matter of age when convicted (Cps.gov.uk, 2012)(13)
Dr Harold Shipman 'Dr Death' killed elderly females mostly during house calls. His first death could have been in 1971 just months after he received his medical licence, but murders before 1975 were not officially proven. He was linked to have killed 200+ patients and was arrested in 1998. His trial started on 05 October 1999 and on January 31 2000, he was convicted of 15 murders. Judge Forbes ordered Shipman to serve 15 simultaneous life sentences for the murders and 4 years for forgery. Shipman was sent to the highest-security-level prison in Durham North East, England where he remained until January 13 2004 where prison officials found his body hanging in his cell from a make shift noose that he made out of bed sheets (Fox & Levin, 2005)(14)
Peter Sutcliffe 'The Yorkshire Ripper' caught the media's attention. He fooled the police and managed to go on a killing spree that lasted 5 years. The police had interviewed him 9 times between 1977 and 1980 before he was arrested in 1981. There were four main reasons as to why he has eluded the police for so long. The first being that the police had a big backlog so his file was not up to date and most of the officers thought they were interviewing him for the first time. The £5 note inquiry was held back because the note was not found until five days after the body of Jean Jordan was found. The over reliance of the police on the hoax letters and tapes, rather than the considerable amount of clues they had from survivors and murder scenes. Mostly because he had a solid alibi from his wife on the night of the first murder this could realistically not be challenged by the police officers. (Execulink.com, 2011)(15)
On 22 May 1981 a jury found Peter Sutcliffe sane and guilty of 13 counts of murder. The judge recommended a minimum tariff of 30 years, he was send to Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight. In 1984, he was attacked by another inmate and was transferred to Broadmoor secure hospital. In 1997, he was stabbed in his left eye with a pen causing him to lose his sight, but still remains at Broadmoor. In January 2005, Sutcliffe was allowed out of Broadmoor briefly to visit his father's grave, this provoked a big media outcry. Recent European legislations outlawing the ability of Home Secretary to impose 'whole life' tariffs meant that in 2011 Sutcliffe would have been eligible for parole. The media interest and public opinion made sure that this didn't happen. A high court ruling rejected an appeal in 2010 confirming that Sutcliffe would serve a whole tariff and never be released back into society (Crimeandinvestigation, 1975)(16)
Due to mismanagement of the police concerning the hoaxer, 'Wearside Jack' as the media called him (Crimeandinvestigation, 1975)(17) ended up costing Britain £6 million pound. The hoaxer first sent a series of letters to the police on 23 March 1978, he claimed that he was behind the murders. The first letter was sent directly to Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield, the man in charge of the investigation, he was taunted by the hoaxer saying that they had missed victims, this got Oldfield's attention. The second letter was sent to the Daily Mirror and the third was sent directly to Oldfield again, they all had a Sunderland postmark. Three months later a tape was delivered personally to Oldfield from Sunderland. By 1981, the cost of the investigation had cost the police around two and a quarter million man-hours. In 2005 a man called John Humble was arrested for a minor driving offence and his DNA was taken, when ran through the more modern up to date forensic system it matched what they had on file for the 'Yorkshire Ripper Hoaxer'. He was arrested in March 2006 and sentenced to eight years in prison (18)
From the two cases mentioned 'The Yorkshire Ripper' case received more 'air' time this was due to the hoaxer and the fact that the police spent so much time trying to solve that riddle then the actual murders. When the 'ripper' was caught the media mentioned this story once instead just focusing on Oldfield and how they wanted him to quit, how it was his fault. Did the media cause more 'Moral Panic' with this case? Would they have killed more if the media did not make a big deal out of it? Did people in Sunderland become more scared to be out alone now that the media were telling them that he was up here? Crime is always going to around us, but is the justice system fair enough to help combat crime/murder? Murder should not be newsworthy it is just leading to more serial killers to become world famous and gives them what they want. On another note the media can be seen as a positive link between the public and offenders with the likes of Crimestoppers and Crimewatch helping them catch a killer.