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The Myra behind the mugshot - understanding Britain’s most hated woman


The University Centre at Blackburn College is a hive of activity – an ideas factory. It is the second largest provider of higher education for a college in the UK and, in the past two years, one in five graduates have gained a first class honours degree. More than 90% are validated by Lancaster University, which is in the top 1% of universities in the world. On Foundation Degree courses there is an emphasis not only on learning, but also on employability – skills that build confidence and ability through work-based learning. Students have to undertake 120 hours of voluntary work in their chosen area per year to graduate from their course. By making university a ‘social project’, it can help to bridge the gap between academic study and the world of work. The Community Challenge project aims to take this further by opening up the

work of students’ within the college to the community at large so that they may also benefit from the learning that takes place. FDA students write an average of 40,000 words in their two years of study and honours degree students write 26,000 per year. For the most part, these assignments are seen by the author and the lecturers marking them; maybe the external verifier as well. Then they are filed away. This is where Criminology Today and Criminal Justice Today play a role. By students re-purposing the assignments they do to pass the course, we can create publications that can be accessed by fellow students, staff, community leaders, businesses and residents as well as other academic establishments. It is a fantastic way to showcase just some of the work that students do. So, welcome to the UCBC Ideas Factory…

the ideas factory 02

criminology today

editorial comment


If you are to believe all you read in newspapers, then we live in a highly dangerous society. There are killer kids just waiting to pounce and paedophiles lurking in every shadow. But this isn’t a true picture of what is going on in our communities.

Having had an 18-year career in newspapers and now studying a degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice, I have faced a dichotomy. I have worked on publications where the salacious sells, written headlines that are deliberately provocative, selected the most damning of images.

The Myra behind the mugshot - understanding Britain’s most hated woman



But I have also spent the past 18 months studying Criminology, gaining a better understanding of why people commit crime. So I’ve brought the two together and the result of that is what you are reading now…a digital magazine full of articles about some of the most contemporary issues in Criminology, written by students at Blackburn College’s University Centre.

The ethos behind this project is to take academic work and repurpose it – to make it striking, engaging and eminently readable. Harnessing the power of the media, we can showcase work such as the results of students’ research projects or the in-depth analysis of contemporary issues such as overcrowding and suicide in prisons.

Domestic violence: the misunderstood crime


Myra: Why is she still the most hated woman in Britain?


Communicating the causes of challenging behaviour


Children of the Media Revolution


Is prison breaking people? Prison suicides at 20-year high


It takes the work undertaken at UCBC and puts it in the public domain. It is a different take on the British press’ notion of publishing items that are in the public interest. We are setting our own news agenda and taking it outside of the University Centre walls. Criminology Today, and its sister publication Criminal Justice Today, supports the idea of public criminology as described by Dr Claire Hamilton, Criminology Lecturer at Queen’s University in Belfast. In her paper ‘Towards a Pedagogy of Public Criminology’, she examines how universities such as UCBC are teaching a ‘more engaged and outward-looking criminology’. This is evidenced at UCBC with first year students being asked to take photographs of ‘hidden crime’ and second years putting together videos to explain the issues involved in tackling Challenging Behaviour. The assignments created by these UCBC students are already in the public domain and can be viewed via links within these digital publications. Please enjoy reading this issue of Criminology Today and let us know what you think by filling in the survey (details on the back page).

Victoria Duffy Editor


Domestic Violence While the majority of people in 2014 could identify the ing to Women’s Aid, every week two women are killed by a violent basic characteristics of domestic abuse, it remains a sub- partner or ex-partner in England and Wales. ject that is misunderstood. Financial abuse Financial abuse comes in many forms, but is centred on the perpetrator keeping control of all earnings to gain control of their spouse. Other aspects of financial abuse would be the perpetraThe definition of domestic abuse is: ‘Any incident of threaten- tor stopping their spouse from entering any paid work or educaing behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, tion to stop them from gaining confidence to leave. Another form financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been in- of abuse would be the refusal to contribute toward household timate partners or family members of any gender or sexuality.’ expenses, leaving the financial strain to the victim. There are different aspects and nuances emerging from 21st Century life and these need to be better understood and publicised.

Victims can be in different types of relationships. These include heterosexual relationships, same sex relationships, transgender relationships and teenage relationships. The majority of victims of domestic violence are women, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, class, age, sexuality, disability or lifestyle. Domestic violence is a widespread problem comprising 18% of all violent incidents. At 44%, it has the highest rate of repeat victimisation of any crime. According to Walby and Allen’s British Crime Survey (2004), ‘41% of women who have experienced domestic abuse have also suffered financial abuse. When you consider that one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime you can see that the problem of financial abuse is bigger than you might think’

Physical abuse

Emotional abuse Emotional abuse is where one person gains power and control over another through words and gestures, which gradually undermine the other’s self-respect. Emotional abuse can be difficult to identify, as there is no scars or marks, and the torment can continue indefinitely (Counselling Directory, Online, 2013).

Psychological abuse Psychological abuse can be verbal or non-verbal. Its aim is to chip away at the confidence and independence of victims with the intention of making them compliant and limiting their ability to leave. Many psychologically abused women define the psychological effects of domestic abuse as having a more profound effect on their lives even where there have been life-threatening or disabling physical violence. (Domestic Violence London)

Physical abuse in a domestic setting is continual hitting, punching, Verbal abuse kicking, or any form of non-accidental physical touching, which is Verbal abuse creates emotional pain and mental anguish. It is a lie performed to harm and intimidate within the relationship. Accordtold to you or about you. Generally, verbal abuse defines people telling them what they are, what they think, their motives, and so forth. The best way to deal with a verbally abusive relationship, whether you are the target of verbal abuse or the perpetrator, is to find out everything you can about verbally abusive relationships and their dynamics. Usually one person is blaming, accusing, even name-calling, and the other is defending and explaining (Verbal Abuse, Online, 2013). While victims can apply for civil remedies to protect themselves from perpetrators, preventing domestic violence would bring significant benefits in terms of public protection and reducing health and criminal justice costs.


The Criminal justice system is making strides to bring agencies and organisations together to help victims of domestic abuse, including the Police, Women’s Aid, the Witness Service and the CPS. Charities such as Women’s Aid have multi-agency risk assessment conferences to assess high-risk victims and situations and bring together agencies to implement a co-ordinated safety plan. The Police have specially-trained officers to assist in Domestic Abuse cases and can help refer victims to get the full extent of help needed, i.e. housing, injunctions or further advice. The CPS decides whether there are substantial grounds to prosecute the perpetrator and the Witness Service supports the victim through the justice process. Taken from work by Anne Watson, Tymika Lax, Pamela Bates, Hollie Gornall, Tracey Crighton, Vainah Makotsa, Carol Casey and Jade Wade.

There are a variety of organisations set up to help the victims of domestic abuse including The National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000247 and Blackburn Darwen and District Women’s Aid on 0845 0777088 05

Myra: Why is she still the most hated woman in Britain? It is a haunting image, an iconic image. It is an image known by not only those who remember the crimes dubbed ‘The Moors Murders’ but by subsequent generations.

Lesley Ann Downey aged 10 and 17-year-old trust Hindley, not fearing any Edward Evans. On the 6th May 1966 Brady danger in accompanying her received three life sentences, Hindley, two, (Bexson, 2011). plus seven years for protecting Brady in But was she predisposed relation to Kilbride’s murder. to commit some of the But even though she spent 36 years in most infamous crimes? Myra Hindley helped her partner Ian Brady prison and died in November 2002, she is Are there markers in her to kidnap, sexually assault and murder five still referred to, particularly in the press, in childhood, personality children between 1963 and 1965. Their vichateful terms such as ‘evil Myra’ and bears and relationships that tims were: Pauline Reade aged 16, John Kilsignificantly more responsibility for could explain her apbride aged 12, Keith Bennett aged 12, the crimes than Brady. parent willingness to This is possibly due assist Brady? Here various to the crimes being psychological theories are examined and sexually motivated assessed. and Hindley’s use of her femininity to ensnare victims. Her Psychoanalytical Theory role was to lure the The Psychoanalytic approach, developed children into her by Sigmund Freud in the 1900’s, argues an car, repeatedly individual’s unconscious mind harbours using the excuse unresolved conflicts. Childhood trauma is of helping her unconsciously repressed and the struclook for a lost ture of personality developed in early glove. The ma- childhood, along with parent and child ternal and car- relationships, can result in abnormal adult ing gender role behaviour (Gross, 2010). expectation of women led This approach suggests individuals have the children to sections to their personality. The Id rep-



by Hayley Bury

in a person with a weak Superego, subsequently resulting in the Id’s selfish and aggressive impulses taking over and resulting in morally unacceptable behaviour and actions. (Putwain and Sammons, 2002). Myra Hindley’s apparent lack of anxiety over assisting in the murders could be explained by her having a weak Superego with her Id becoming the driving force behind her actions (BBC, 2006).

Hindley’s Ego had repressed these traumatic childhood experiences and consequently projected these feelings onto the victims in the form of violence. Her continuous denial of involvement is another Ego defence that supports a psychoanalytical explanation (BBC, 2006).

As a child Hindley was subjected to violent Blackburn (1993) suggests that anxiety abuse by her father and witnessed both or guilt which ordinarily prevent individu- her parents acting violently towards each als from behaving amorally, can be absent other. Psychoanalysis would suggest that

The biological approach suggests individuals have no control over their behaviour, but that it is controlled by biological aspects such as hormones, damage to cer-

resents basic human instincts; the Ego, governs rationality and the ability to apply conscious, realistic feelings to situations, and the Superego represents an individual’s morality. Freud argued, throughout life, these personality parts which develop in early childhood, are in conflict; creating anxiety which causes the Ego to use defence mechanisms such as denial, projection and repression to cope with these feelings (Hayes and Orrell, 1998).

Biological Explanations


tain areas of the brain or genetics. Early theorists such as Lombroso (1876) suggested that criminals had atavistic physical features such as protruding ears and a strong jaw. Sheldon (1949) developed this theory and suggested an individual’s body type determined their personality and temperament, with a Mesomorph (muscular) somatotype being associated with criminality. This cannot be applied to Myra Hindley, as her somatotype is classed as ectomorph (thin), who Sheldon (1949) argues are ‘relaxed and hedonistic’ (Putwain and Sammons, 2002: 31) in temperament and less likely to engage in criminality. However, Hindley could have inherited her fathers’ violent nature through genetic transfer; this genetic predisposition could be considered explanation for her part in the murders. Evidence to support this suggestion can be found in a study conducted by Hutchins and Mednick (1975). They found, from 14,427 adopted children, 24.4% whose biological fathers had a criminal history, also went on to become criminals. Only 11.5% of sons displayed criminal behaviour whose

adoptive father had a criminal history (Putwain and Sammons, 2002).

ism and their relationship was sadomasochistic. Hindley’s diary entries also state that This, however, does not consider genetic Brady bit and beat her during transfer from her mother and the possex. This could explain the sible influence this could have had. The sexual assault and rape of study also only concerns sons and netheir victims as Hindley had glects investigating any possible genetic been conditioned by Brady influence on daughters, which would ento think this was normal able a more reliable comparison to Hindbehaviour. Brady also told ley. This biological explanation of Hindley’s Hindley they were going to behaviour is also deterministic, relying commit the perfect mursolely on biological aspects, disregarding der, her diary states she environmental influences, and neglecting objected and burst into the possibility of her ‘free will’ in particitears, Brady responded pating in the murders. by slapping her across the face and strangling her – an example of Classical Conditioning Brady’s conditioning. Watson and Rayner (1920) conducted an experiment known as ‘The Little Albert Hindley claims to have Study’, which involved conditioning a child been absent when to be afraid. They argue that behaviours Brady killed Pauline Reade. She alleges, alare conditioned responses learnt through though upset at the sight of Reade’s body she did not show it outwardly. Forensic association (Gross, 2010). psychiatrist Professor Malcolm MacCulMyra Hindley could have associated show- loch believes that despite Hindley’s claims ing emotion and empathy with violence of being upset after seeing Reade’s body, as well as associating violence with sex. her willingness to join Brady in killing John Brady introduced her to Kilbride four months later, suggests she the Marquis de Sade, a had an abnormal lack of emotion and book about sexual sad- empathy, reinforcing her conditioned response.

Operant Conditioning Operant conditioning, put forward by Skinner (1938), argues that behaviour is learnt through reinforcement; suggesting individuals repeat or refrain from repeating actions when followed by positive or negative reinforcement respectively. Skinner (1938) used rats in an experiment to support his theory; the rats learnt that by repeatedly press-


iour, which they copied. in cruelty and torture, typifying ‘sadistic (Gross, 2010) characters’ such as Hindley and Brady (Blackburn, 1993:220). Hindley’s willingness to participate in the aggres- The Drive model, Freud (1955), suggests sive murders could be ex- aggression is borne out of frustration at plained by incidents in her obstructed goals. Dollard (1939) furthered childhood, such as the vio- this by suggesting aggression is aimed lent relationship between at either the source of the frustration, her parents. As her mother in Hindley’s case her dysfunctional childretaliated against her father hood; or onto others that are linked to with violence, this externally this source, such as the child victims reinforced violence as socially (Berkowitz, 1989). acceptable and normal behaviour. This violence was mirrored Criticism of these theories is that they are in her sexually violent relation- based on observation and case studies ship with Brady and could be and lack empirical results, therefore they explanation for her willingness can only be applied to Hindley speculato assist him to sexually assault tively. and rape their victims. Despite this analysis, it is still not possible

ing a lever a pellet of food would drop into their cage (Gross, 2010).

Learning theories provide valid explanations for Hindley’s role in the murders, showing the significance of parental influence on adulthood. However, the experiments used to support these theories lack mundane realism as they were carried out in laboratories or controlled settings, which cannot be reliably linked to ‘real life’ situations. Also, comparisons cannot be reliably drawn between the behaviour of animals and that of human beings.

Hindley’s diary describes complaining to her father of being bullied; her father threatened her with a beating if she did not beat up the bully. Hindley beat up the bully; her father positively reinforced this by patting her on the head. Hindley’s relationship with Brady followed a similar pattern to the one she had with her father; she claims, her involvement in the murders was to avoid punishment from Instinct and Drive Theories Brady and that he bullied her into the ab- Instinct and Drive theories, first put forward by Freud (1920/1955), are more ductions. closely linked with violent crime than theories previously discussed.

to provide a definitive explanation for why she participated in the murders. Hindley’s childhood was disruptive and violent, and had few positive relationships and experiences that could have influenced her adult life. However, many children suffer similar upbringings and do not go on to commit murder. Speculation concerning the control Brady had over Hindley has led some to believe she would have led a normal life had they not met (Channel 5, 2012).

Hindley died in 2002 and despite Brady being alive, it is she that is still the focus of public anger. As Bexson (2011) suggests ‘such sustained public hatred is caused by the inability to comprehend a woman, such as Hindley, whose gender role expectation is to nurture and care for children, The Instinct model suggests humans are is capable of the brutal torture, sexual asSocial Learning Theory Social Learning Theory argues that hu- inherently aggressive in nature, driven sault and murder of them’. mans learn by observing others and copy- biologically by the life instinct (Eros) and The location of Keith Bennett’s body is still ing their behaviour. This occurs through death force (Thanatos). Fromm (1973) unknown. With Hindley taking her knowlvicarious, self and external reinforcement. suggests malignant aggression; distinct from benign aggression, described by edge of his location to her grave, she will Bandura (1963) conducted ‘The Bobo Doll’ Freud as repressed aggression due to a remain more culpable than Brady in the experiment to support this theory. Chil- weak Superego (as Hindley had) is found eyes of the public and continue to be considered ‘The most evil woman in Britain’. dren witnessed aggressive adult behav-


Communicating the challenging behavio by Diane Wright


Challenging behaviour is any form of behaviour that interferes with children’s learning or normal development, especially if it is harmful to the child, other children and adults. This puts a child at high risk of social problems and school failure.  

A 2010 study by Hanson et al found that between 5% and 8% of under-7s had serious behavioural problems. But challenging behaviour within schools can lead to a spiral of problems leading to truancy, disengagement and exclusion.

Understanding the causes of such behaviour is now seen as vital, In a school setting, challenging behaviour is acknowledged to be but this can be extremely complex as it is commonly a symptom any form of behaviour that causes concern to teachers. It can of a difficult and challenging home life. It also has links to future range from talking in class, not settling to work, verbal and physi- deviancy and offending supporting Matza’s notion that ‘to be cast cal abuse, destruction of property and bullying (Elton report 1989). as deviant is to hasten the process of becoming that very thing’. Farrington (2000) said that identifying key risk factors and devisHowever, the most commonly cited forms of misbehaviour are: ing prevention methods lies at the heart of tackling challenging Arriving late for lessons, not listening to the teacher, excessive behaviour. And Monk (2013) places the initial responsibility with talking, being noisy – both verbally and non-verbally – and preprimary schools. venting others from being able to work.  That said, such work is contrained by ever-tightening budgets Challenging behaviour is often seen in people with conditions that despite a spend of £5,500 per pupil translating into a projected affect communication and the brain, such as learning disabilities future saving of £70,000 to the criminal justice system. or dementia.   Second year FDA Criminology and Criminal Justice students were Communication is the main way we interact and express our given two options for their Challenging Behaviour module assignneeds, likes and dislikes. If communication is a problem then it can ment, either write a 2,500-word essay or create a two-minute be very frustrating for the person involved and may result in chal- video. Whatever the selected method, the end results had to aslenging behaviour. If this behaviour leads to a desired outcome, it sess the associated risks from challenging behaviour, identify and may be repeated again and again.   explore a range of strategies for tackling challenging behaviour ‘Severely challenging behaviour refers to behaviour of such an and to identify and explore a range of strategies for preventing intensity, frequency or duration that the physical safety of the such behaviour escalating into delinquency and offending.  person or others is likely to be placed in serious jeopardy, or be- The majority of students chose to create videos, but this was haviour which is likely to seriously limit or deny access to and use by no means an easy option. A huge amount of time went into of ordinary community facilities,’ theorised Emerson et al (1987). choosing the pictures, gathering information for the words and making sure the music that was chosen to accompany the video had a royalty-free licence.  Students were encouraged to use Creative Commons, a not-for-profit organisation, which enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge within the realms of copyright laws. It allows people to share and use photographs as well as offering access to course materials from the world’s top universities.

causes of our

Once created, the final videos were uploaded to YouTube and since December have attracted hundreds of views. This has given participating students a huge sense of pride and achievement.

The 14 videos produced by students can be viewed on a special YouTube channel at


by Diane Wright and Victoria Duffy

Children of the

Could a culture of care have helped to rehabilitate John Venables and Robert Thompson? Reaching millions of people each day, via print and online media, tabloid and broadsheet newspapers, coupled with 24-hour news channels such as BBC and Sky, wield substantial power and influence over the public.

(1948), are more befitting of the British tabloid media. Poised like a hypodermic needle or fired like a bullet, the reporting is the message that delivers the effects and an almost instantaneous reaction occurs, frequently moral panic.

There is no better example than the James Examples of great reporting include the Bulger murder. When 10-year-olds Jon VenMPs’ expenses scandal in 2012, the cov- ables and Robert Thompson were charged erage of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 with abducting and murdering the twoand the famine in Ethiopia in 1984, which year-old in Bootle on February 12th, 1993, led to Band Aid and Live Aid. These were the media reaction was unprecedented. In stories that affected readers; moved and the days following the murder, the grainy CCTV image became iconic, in the most informed them. macabre way. The media effects theory examines how mass media and media culture affects And when it emerged that the accused were just children themselves, the story how people think, react and behave. But became a media sensation. it could be argued that the ‘magic bullet theory’ or the ‘hypodermic effects theory’ The effect of the headlines were instanta(Katz and Lazarsfeld, 1955), an extension of neous, so supports the hypodermic effects Harold Lasswell’s Communication Theory theory, but it also caused moral panic; par-


ents were fearful that their children were not safe from other children. Previously moral panic had concerned strangers, particularly older men trying to lure children into cars. Furthermore, in line with Cohen’s theories, it could also be argued that Venables and Thompson became folk devils – figures of hate – despite their lack of power and authority.

into society, rather than being given lifelong anonymity and new identities.

Around the same time of the Bulger case, what could have, in the eyes of the British media, been a more shocking case happened in Trondheim, Norway. On October 15th, 1994, two six-year-old boys beat Silje Redergard to death with stones after the three friends had been playing. While VenaIf the societal and media reactions had bles and Thompson’s mugshots were feabeen different, Venables and Thompson tured on front pages and on news bulletins Seito Sakakibara might have had the chance to reintergrate across the world, nothing was released to dia effects theory in that, while the case the press in Norway about Silje’s killers. received widespread media attention, the The boys were protected rather than pun- way it was reported was fundamentally difished by the area’s child services until they ferent and provoked a different response were 18. One of the pair still suffers from to that of the Bulger case. A website depsychological problems and uses drugs tailing the case was closed after receiving and alcohol, but his issues do not feature 150,000 hits and 600 electronic messages. on the pages of newspapers (The GuardAnd the publication of a picture of Seito ian, 2010). It could be argued that the Sakakibara in Focus magazine met with an media’s handling of the murder was calm edict from the Justice Ministry to withdraw and without sensationalism which allowed all copies from sale (Criminology and Crimireaders to be more forgiving. nal Justice, 2008). His case was heard in a Falling between these two cases is that of family court and he was sent to a media 14-year-old who murdered 11-year-old Jun cal reformatory for young people. While Hase and 10-year-old Ayaka Yamashita in the case led to public debate and reform, Silje Redergard Kobe, Japan, in 1997. This supports the me- the media reaction to his release included


these words: “We wish to emphasise that people, and this goes for the media too, should not try to track him down and reveal his whereabouts and way of life to the public. This sort of intrusive behaviour will only hinder his efforts to make amends for his victims’ bereaved families” (Asahi Simbun, 2004).

nal responsibility to 10 and put Venables and Thompson on trial in an adult court. It could be suggested that their crime and punishment was put on show for all to see.

Erwin James wrote in The Guardian on March 3rd, 2010: “Lynch mobs gathered outside the court where the two boys first faced charges. The van transporting Conversely, Venables and Thompson’s them to ‘secure accommodation’ was atpictures were linked with words such as tacked with stones and bottles. People in ‘evil’ and ‘beasts’, fuelling the tide of anger the street called for them to be hanged. at the pair; their crime described as ‘the But whatever we feel about what they did, death of innocence’. Examining the etymol- they were still only children. Yet we tried ogy of words, using the Online Etymology them as adults and sentenced them to be Dictionary, the roots of the word ‘evil’ are detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure, the juold English, Germanic and Scandanavian, venile equivalent of life imprisonment.” but all link to illness, disease and badness. And ‘beast’ can be traced back to But was it the media who put forward the Old French for wild animal. So those read- notion of these boys being ‘evil’? Sentencing the articles were being told that these ing, trial judge Mr Justice Moreland said the boys were less than human. These articles boys were guilty of an act of “unparalleled were illustrated by smiling school photo- evil and barbarity” and described them as graphs and police mugshots, in which the “cunning and very wicked”. His words are a boys looked younger than their years, vul- matter of public record. nerable and frightened. It was also Mr Justice Moreland who un-

in young children’ but warned against James’s death being ‘an excuse for reversing 10 years of criminal justice policy. A system designed to deal with five million crimes must not be steered by one’.”

Looking at the media effects theory, it could be suggested that by its own reporting, the British media, especially the tabloid press, could be creating the ‘monsters’ that it writes about. It could be argued that the use of such language to describe children and young people demonises, criminalises and labels them, thus creating potential for self-fulfilling prophecy. If the reporting of a case is proportionate, unintrusive and unemotional, there is suggestion that that is the reaction it will garner. The case of Silje Redergard supports the idea that the media takes the lead in shaping public opinion. It could also be suggested that lessons have been learned from the reaction to the Bulger case. Two brothers, aged 11 and 12, tortured and sexually humiliated two boys and left them for dead in an attack in Edlington (Telegraph, 2012). Their identities have been kept secret and, submasked the boys, known as Boy A and Despite this dichotomy, the audience resequently, there has been a less emotive Boy B during the trial, by lifting reporting action was one of revulsion and vengeful reaction. restrictions. calls for hanging to be reinstated were The decision to name Venables and Thompmade (Guardian, 2010). The legal and politi- The Mirror used the headline “Freaks of Nason came from the judiciary, but the press cal reaction was to lower the age of crimi- ture” the day after the sentencing. has played an enormous role in perpetuatBut not all of the British media reporting ing the obsession with and depth of feeling about the case. This is reflected in the was aggressive and emotionally charged. Herald’s billboard in Edinburgh, which was The day after the verdict, The Guardian heavily defaced, particularly the face of ran a leader (opinion) column which said: Robert Thompson, suggesting that one of “The chilling murder ‘unlocked all kinds of the boys was somehow more culpable and primitive fears about the aggressive urges hated than the other.


Is prison breaking people? Suicide rates at a 20-year high Prison sentences were originally only handed out as a last resort. But in the UK in 2014, prison sentences would appear to be the weapon of choice for magistrates and judges in the ongoing battle against crime.

by Victoria Duffy

and Strangeways in 1990, are symptomatic of deprivation of basic needs. While imprisonment entails the loss of liberty, it could be argued that the further erosion of what are seen as basic human rights, such as flushable toilets, only serve to antagonise inmates thus leading to angry and frustrated imates.

The notion of deprivation of liberty and confinement can be traced In some cases, the prison experience has an even more profound back to the 1600s when imprisonment replaced physical punisheffect. ment. But it was not until the late 18th and early 19th centuries that Suicide and homicide rates are currently at a 20-year high with the it transformed into a closer relation of the prison of today. Ministry of Justice figures showing 70 self-inflicted deaths and four England and Wales has 146 prisons, including prisons for young of- murders in 2013. There was a 2% drop in the number of reported fenders and immigration detention centres, with an operational ca- self-harm incidents from 23,552 in the year to June 2012 and 22,977 pacity of 87,717. Figures for November 2013 gave a prison population in the year to June 2013. It must be noted though that not all selfof 85,382 ( with many prisons running at full capacity. harming incidents are reported. Many of the prisons in England and Wales date back to the Victorian era and hold significantly more prisoners than they were originally designed for. An example of this is HMP Wandsworth, which was built in 1851 (Inside Information, 2012) and can hold up to 1,665 inmates. But it was originally built for 700 male and female prisoners.

Statistics from the Prison Reform Trust demonstrate a link between mental health problems and suicide and self-harm with 26% of women and 16% of men being treated for a mental health problem in the year before going into custody. And 62% of male and 52% of female inmates are classed as having a personality disorder.

This has led to significant overcrowding, which is linked to mental ill-health and increased assault (Gaes 1985). And poor conditions, such as a lack of toilet facilities and privacy, exacerbate this. In 2013, HMP Oakwood, run by security company G4S, was found to be failing to provide basic healthcare and sanitation (Reuters, 2013). It could be suggested that riots, such as that in Oakwood in 2013

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said that almost all custody deaths were preventable, adding: “The responsbility for an increase in the number of people who take their own lives in prison lies squarely with those who advocate putting behind bars more and more people who do not need to be there.�



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Criminology Today is a magazine featuring the work of Criminology and Criminal Justice students at the University Centre at Blackburn Colleg...

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