Crimes Such As Torture Committed Criminology Essay

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This essay will focus on state crime, specifically on crimes, such as torture, committed by the UK state. This particular form of harm provides us with foundations for pondering the necessity of a general rethink of parameters and horizons of criminological landscape.

The subject of state crime has been neglected for a long time, as it was not considered to be a "proper" remit of criminology (Muncie, Talbot and Walters). The reasons for this are obvious- criminology is an extension of state power as Chambliss, Michalowski and Kramer (2010) argue. The primary interests of criminology are causes and control of criminal behaviour, which have been selected and criminalised by the state. In this sense, as Althusser (1971) argues, criminology become an "ideological apparatus".

Case studies of torture and terrorism by the UK state will be used.

This essay will argue in favour of expansion of public criminology in order to create new ways of thinking about crime, harm and power.

An argument will be put forward in this essay that state crime should be considered within the discourse of social harm rather than the paradigm of crime. Ward as well as Chomsky support this argument

Main body

Firstly, the concept of "state" should be given some consideration. A rather valuable definition is put forward by Engels (1968, 1884), in which he refers to "public power" with the right as well as need of taxes , territory control and personnel equipped for use of force. Foe Engels, public power consists "not merely of

Green and Ward (2004) put forward the following definition: "State violence needs to be understood both as an expression of state power and as comprising individual acts of aggression, with complex social and psychological relations to other form of interpersonal violence".

The importance of the French Revolution in the modern history of the world is widely known and accepted. Not only did this particular time introduce the notion of equality and rights; during the time of the French Revolution we see the first emergence of a particular form of control and governance. It may seem unlikely, but the French Revolution saw the beginnings of terrorism. It was in a rather different form, place and time to what we know today, but this context in which terrorism first emerged has informed theories in criminology and political science. The French Revolution may have initiated the beginnings of terrorism, but it was after the Enlightment era and the Industrial Revolution when we first saw more sophisticated writings and theories on the matter.

All nation states have a monopoly of legitimate use of physical force within their own territory (see Weber, 1968, Cover, 1986 and Tilly, 1992). This means, therefore, that states are in a position to commit some of the most serious crimes.

There are obvious issues with regulating state crime. Law is constructed by those in power and the state is a law making machine, within a clearle defined territory. "the power elite". Wright and Mills (1990) argue that when power is reserved for the elite (in military, corporations or government) then these institutions influence lesser institutions, such as family or education.

Clinard and Quinney (1973) put forward an explanation: "those who legitimate and enforce the law- and determine what is to be regarded as legitimate- are in the position of violation the laws themselves without being criminally defined" (p. 158). "Criminal" is not to be understood in the traditional form. Instead , it is relating to

Doing (2011) points out that activities by the state that breach legislation may be described as unlawful through a judicial review of decisions made by officials to determine ultra vires (where the official acted beyond their power thus making the action/activity illegal)

Moreover, Corall (2001) argues that state crime may involve "activities that are regarded as mala in se, wrong in themselves and those that are regarded as mala prohibita, subject to prohibition, where violations are often seen as "technical" rather than "criminal" offences".

UK criminology journals such as British Society of Criminology and US counterparts, such as Justice Quarterly and Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency mostly focus on street crime, juvenile delinquency and interpersonal violence. Mentions of state crime are either rare or absent

Human Rights Watch has previously highlighted the fact that UK is involved in criminal activities, including torture and illegal rendition. A number of cases have been reported in the UK media.

Moreover, the controversial Security and Justice Bills will ensure that wrongdoing by the British state will never be exposed in Court (as hearings would be private

During the Prime Minister's questions in the Parliament

This is just one of the examples of subtle and complex ways in which the State can manipulate the masses.

Within this example, power relations are clearly evident as there is tension between the crimes of the state and political

Moreover, UK has also contributed to the spread of torture. Amnesty International reported in 2001 that this was due to manufacturing and supplying equipment for torture (

Thinking back to torture of the UK state,

From a radical criminology perspective, the elites violate the law, but the subordinate classes get the punishment. Moreover, attention is diverted from the subordinate class from their exploitation and awareness of the crimes of the powerful

Tony Ward argues that we should focus on state crime to acts which " embody the matrix of actors, rules, audiences and sanctions" so that "acts committed by the state agent in pursuance of state goals, which violate human rights and which are perceived by significant social audiences as deviant (violating legal or moral rules) and to which social audiences are disposed to apply sanctions" (Ward, 2004, p. 86).


Bourdieu (2003) argues for criminology to be a "scholarship with commitment" and that there is a need for public criminology (developed from public sociology) to address state crime. Also, instead of focusing on the traditional principles of criminology, we should focus on organic criminology. Working directly with a variety organisations and individuals linked to the state.

Foucault (1977) has argued that criminology is a state-provided knowledge, thus it is an artifact of power.

There is reluctance to acknowledge the extent of power of the state to injure or kill. In this sense, because the subject falls beyond traditional political, criminological, individualised and localised paradigms, academics have regarded it as not deserving