Thursday, 25 February 2010

Spot the difference

Tesco's current Corporate Page promoting its "responsible" attitude to the sale of alcohol

The same page before it was quoted as evidence against Tesco in their recent court action to be allowed to sell alcohol in one of its Cambridge stores in an area "with known disorder issues".

Tesco and socially irresponsible attitudes to selling alcohol

Tesco's drive to dominate the high street continues. Part of their strategy to achieve this means the promotion of high strength alcohol brands, often at less than cost prices.

Many of its express stores are located in areas where there are problems related to alcohol, particularly steet violence and where they are able to boost sales by targeting the proxy purchasing and pre-loading. The former refers to adults buying alcohol for children, the latter to clubbers getting tank up prior to going out on cheap tesco alcohol.

This week Tesco took Cambridge City Council to court over its refusal to grant them a licence to sell alcohol in their Mill Road store following police objections. this comes in the same week that Diageo, the world's biggest spirits seller is redirecting its marketing budget to supermarkets in an attempt to boast sales. Meanwhile in Leicester, Tesco has been caught out breaking its pledge not to sell high strength largers and ciders in a store in a new store in London Road.  These promises were made to help Tesco overcome objections to its licence application but appear to have been rapidly forgotten once the store was open.

Given this track record I was really pleased to see Tesco has lost its court action in Cambridge.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

New Medium, Old Techniques

I was working on a lecture on cyber crime this afternoon and highlighted how spam often plays on people's guilt or insecurities. Nowhere is this more obvious than in offers of penis enlargement, not only a whole industry for spammers but also a sizable real industry providing treatments, potions and contraptions. A Google search demonstrated this with sponsored links, shopping results, videos as well as information from Wikipedia.

The success of this industy I would hazard a guess is a direct result of a sizeable (pun intended) number of men feeling insecure about their natural endowment. The spammers hit a raw nerve!

There is nothing new in this technique.  I recently read Ben Wilson's excellent Decency & Disorder: The age of cant 1789-1837 who told the story of a quack called Samuel Solomon who after purchasing an MD at the age of 20 went onto make his fortune through marketing his cure all wonder drug The Cordial Balm of Gilead. The promoting of this drug was achieved by sales of Solomon's A Guide to Health which went through 66 editions in racking up over 120,000 sales.

To sell the balm for over a quarter of a century only through promotion in his book was an amazing achievement. His success was down to his book's ability to link all known medical conditions to teenage masturbation. As he delicately put it:
Youth of either sex, who have practised a secret and destructive vice, and thereby relaxed, weakened, and debilitated the whole nervous system, will find the Cordial Balm of Gilead the most powerful, certain, and effectual restorative.
He had put his money on the universality of self pleasure and his judgement that when it was diagnosed as the cause his customers would be reluctant to request a second opinion. He made an awful lot of money. He had like today's spammers hit a raw nerve.

UPDATE - Apparently you can buy Balm of Gilead Oil on Amazon for the bargain price of £3 - no mentioning of masturbation - apparently you should
Wear this oil to mend a broken heart, or to attract a new love. Also add 1 drop to red wine for a simple love drink. Burn as a material basis for spirits, and also carry on a tissue for protective and healing purposes.
Well I never

FURTHER UPDATE - Penis Enlargement really does increase the size of your blog readership.  Following me posting this blog late on Sunday, the following Monday saw a record number of visitors in a day. I wonder what else I can do to pump up the size of my readership?

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Whose Fraud? What Cheats?

Early this month it was reported that the Labour Party was considering including rewards for people who grassed up  so called "benefit cheats".  They hope this idea will appeal to middle class voters and essentially involves offering (often poor) people cash rewards for spying on and grassing up other poor working class people.  What they are not offering is any reward for exposing tax cheats, planning fraud, safety crimes, corruption or consumer fraud.  These crimes which do far more damage to ordinary people and cost the tax payers billions more than benefit fraud are carried out by powerful people who wouldn't want ordinary people snooping on their cheating and stealing.

I was interested to see in today's times that attempts are being made to target the richest 100,000 people in the country for tax fraud.  However despite these good intentions the article reported that:
  • In 2007 four hundred people earned more than £10,000,000. Out of the 400 on 65 paid any tax.
Which makes you understand why these people don't want ordinary people snooping around their very private business. However utilising all the skills developed from my training as a Criminologist I estimate that leave 335 evading tax.  I will report this to the Inland Revenue immediately and hope to soon have my reward.

P.S. For those not familiar with the picture at the top of this blog its graffiti from Stokes Croft in Bristol showing five "benefit cheats" - Harry, Wills, Charlie, Liz and Phil.  (thanks to Bristol Graffiti for the picture)

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

32 Chief Constables have qualifications in Criminology

A survey by the Police Review of qualifications of Chief Constables shows that 32 have obtained qualifications in criminology since joining the police. 

Only two Stephenson at the Met and Graham in Fife have no degrees.

Not sure what the significance of this beyond it suggesting that 'criminology' is seen of being of use to senior police officers.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Whose terrorism? What terror? - Update

I posted a blog Whose terrorism? What terror? on the 20th December 2009 in which I called for readers to write protesting at the treatment of Sunny Nasir Ahmed in HMP Glenochil.  Sunny was being victimised for becoming friends with Mohammed Atif Sadique, a convicted "terrorist".  Sunny's treatment by the prison service demonstrated how prison service racism is trying its hardest to radicalise muslim prisoners.

Last week the Appeal Court in Edinburgh threw out Mohammed Atif Sadique's conviction and set him free declaring his case a miscarriage of justice.  Sunny remains in prison and I suspect will continue to be victimised for his friendship with a man who the prison service still regards a terrorist but who was in fact a victim of a miscarriage of justice.

Letters of solidarity to

Sunny Nasir Ahmed,

HMP Glenochil
King O'Muir Road
FK10 3AD

The cost of poverty

New research this month shows that people living in the poorest areas of England can expect to suffer about 17 more years of ill health and disability than those in wealthier areas. The research was commissioned by the Government and carried out by Michael Marmot. He correctly points out that tackling health inequalities is a matter of social justice.

I blogged last month about the damage done by poverty and inequality and gave a plug to Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett's excellent book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better.  This YouTube video plugs the book.  Watch and read the book.

Hat tip Janet Shapiro (via radstats)

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Profits from the infliction of pain

Correction Corporation of America (CCA) is the World's largest private operator of prisons. It operates prisons with a capacity to cage over eighty six thousand people. It has a long history of abuse of the prisoners in its custody and of covering it up.  Early this year Arizona Prison Watch reported more abuse by CCA in their state.

This month CCA reported on their accounts for 2009.  In a year where many companies had suffered from the global recession CCA were able to report earners per share up by a massive 12.5%. One of the major threats to their future profits is if America comes to its senses and ends its imprisonment binge.  CCA will resist this by continuing to spend significant sums out of the profits they generate through pain infliction on lobbying for further increases in the use of imprisonment.

Friday, 12 February 2010

OAP hoodies rampage through Lancashire

I saw this story last month in the Lancashire Evening Post - Hundreds of 'OAP hoodies' commit crimes in Lancashire.

It presented the image of a crime plague by elderly yobs. They had discovered that 550 pensioners have been arrested in the past two years with 320 charged. Nigel Evans, a local right wing Tory MP claimed  "The figures will help to explode the myth that anyone over the age of 65 with a bus pass is fine" and John O'Reilly, chairman of Lancashire Police Federation declared "people will be surprised at the number of plus-65 hoodies we have in the county."

The article ends by telling us that Lancashire's Jails have 28 prisoners over 70. To put this in some context Lancashires population has 125,000 people over 70.

Although this journalism is designed to be sensational and distort the reality the rising number of old people being caught up in criminal justice system and ending up in prison is a real concern. The over 60s are the fastest growing group of prisoners. The Prison Reform Website identifies these key facts about Senior prisoners

  • On 30 June 2007 there were 2,221 prisoners aged over 60 in England and Wales, including 405 over 70. The number of sentenced prisoners aged 60 and over rose by 169% between 1995 and 2005.
  • More than one in ten older prisoners belong to a minority ethnic group, far higher than the proportion of the general population.
  • The majority of men in prison aged 60 and over (56%) have committed sex offences. The next highest offence is violence against the person (20%) followed by drug offences (11%).
  • In March 2007, the number of prisoners over 60 serving sentences of 1-5 years was 541. 551 were serving sentences of 6-10 years. 749 were serving sentences of over 10 years.
  • The number and proportion of men aged over 60 sentenced to prison by the courts has increased significantly. Between 1995 and 2000 the number of elderly males given custodial sentences increased by 55%. In 1995 fines accounted for the majority of sentences (31%). By 2000 imprisonment accounted for the majority of sentences (31%) and fines accounted for 24%.
  • The significant rise in the number of male prisoners aged over 60 is not matched by a corresponding rise in the number of men convicted by the courts for indictable offences. Between 1995 and 2000 the number of convictions for this age group increased by only 8%.
  • The increase in the elderly prison population is not explained by demographic changes, nor can it be explained by a so-called ‘elderly crime wave’. The increases are due to harsher sentencing policies which have resulted in the courts sending a larger proportion of criminals aged over 60 to prison to serve longer sentences. This has particularly been the case in relation to sex offenders and drug traffickers. The courts are also tending to imprison those older offenders whose crimes most challenge society’s age-related stereotypes.
  • A Department of Health study conducted in 1999/2000 of 203 sentenced male prisoners aged 60 and over in 15 establishments in England and Wales (about one-fifth of that total population) reported that 85% had one or more major illnesses reported in their medical records and 83% reported at least one chronic illness or disability when interviewed. The most common illnesses were psychiatric, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and respiratory.
  • More than half of all elderly prisoners suffer from a mental disorder. The most common disorder is depression which often emerges as a result of imprisonment.
  • In 2003, 21 people aged over 65 died of natural causes whilst in prison.
  • Most older prisoners are held more than 50 miles from home, causing particular problems for visitors, many of whom are themselves older people.
  • A thematic review of older prisoners by HM Inspectorate of Prisons published in December 2004 found little evidence that their individual needs were being assessed or provision made for them. It concluded ‘Prisons are primarily designed for, and inhabited by, young and able-bodied people; and in general the needs of the old and infirm are not met. A number of academic studies and a report by the Prison Reform Trust and the Centre for Policy on Ageing have also concluded that the health, social care, rehabilitation and resettlement needs of older prisoners are not being satisfactorily met.
  • Despite the dramatic rise in the number of elderly prisoners the Home Office has no plans to put in place a separate national strategy for elderly prisoners. The Department of Health is developing a health policy for older prisoners and the Disability Discrimination act (2005) now applies to prison.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Corporal John Moore RIP

This week we heard of more British troops being killed in Afganistan.  When the names were released it turned up that one of the dead soliders was a fellow John Moore.  Even for someone as opposed to the war as me, whose concerns are nornally for the innocent civilians who bear the brunt of the deaths and injuries in this conflict, it was still a chilling feeling to hear a name so close to home being read out.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Sniffer Dogs as Tough Love Parenting

Came across this privatised service for parents on the BBC - sniffer dogs to search their kids bedrooms

Part of the deal is if they find something they dob your child up to the police.  Thus ensuring not only that they have completely violated their child's trust but that they have also severely damaged their future life by getting them a criminal record.

Utter madness

DNA, eugenics and the future of the 'race'

I belong to a number of mailing lists, one of my favourites is RADSTATS@JISCMAIL.AC.UK the mailing list of Radical Statistics.  This morning a member posted a quote from Havelock Ellis from The Task of Social Hygiene (1912)
Eventually, it seems evident, a general system, whether private or public, whereby all personal facts, biological and mental, normal and morbid, are duly and systematically registered, must become inevitable if we are to have a real guide as to those persons who are most fit, or most unfit to carry on the race.
He was a supporter of eugenics - basically selective breeding of humans. Havelock Ellis writing a century ago could never have dreamed on the potential of the DNA database and computers for registering and controlling populations. 

Tont Blair however was well aware of the potential and strongly argued for everyone to be on the DNA database, dismissing civil liberties complaints with the question 'if you are innocent what have you to fear? There is in fact much to fear and GeneWatch UK are running some excellent campaigns on this topis that I would urge everyone to look at and hopeful support. But surely whatever the problems with the DNA database no-one would seriously argue in the 21st Century for eugenics?

Must blog this I thought and moved onto my next e-mail - the excellent DS Drug News, a daily summary of news concerning drugs- and the second item was a story run by BBC news entitled "Should drug addicts be paid to get sterilised?" detailing a current programme Project Prevention in the US which is paying drug and alcohol addicted women $300 each to get sterilised.

Hat tips to Ted Harding (via RadStats) and DS Daily

Monday, 8 February 2010

Not The Nine O'clock News Courtroom Cross Examination

Came across this whilst looking for something else.

Reminds me that for many people targeted by the Criminal Justice System the language of the court is completely unintelligible.

Teaching Terrorism

I don't teach any courses on Terrorism but my collegues in Criminology and Politics and International Relations do.  Rizwaan Sabir is a student studying for his PhD who in 2008 was arrested for downloading (off a CIA site) the misleadingly named Al-Qaida Training Manual.

Rizwaan, writing in the Guardian, has argued that draconian anti-terror laws are blocking the serious study of terrorism and counter-terrorism at UK universities
Since my arrest under the Terrorism Act in May 2008 at the University of Nottingham for possession of the so-called Al-Qaida Training Manual, I have been following the increasing pressure faced by lecturers regarding the teaching of terrorism. One example is the pressure to submit reading lists to research ethics committees for vetting purposes in case they contain material that may be deemed "illegal" or that "may incite violence".The latest fiasco to have hit Nottingham involves my former PhD supervisor, the terrorism expert Rod Thornton. Thornton has decided that he is no longer willing to teach terrorism at Nottingham University. Why? Because he fears that either he or his students risk arrest and detention as a suspected terrorists due to the continued ambiguity surrounding the legitimacy of the Al-Qaida Training Manual and similar works. University management is apparently unwilling to provide him with coherent advice on the matter, despite an increasing number of students wanting to use, and indeed using the document in their research.
So what does Thornton advise his students? Can they access the document or not? If Thornton recommends basic textbooks to his students that encourage them to access the likes of the Al-Qaeda Training Manual, would he be deemed to be disseminating terrorist publications and therefore guilty of contravening section 2 of the Terrorism Act 2006, or would he be prosecutable under section 1 for encouraging individuals to access documents that glorify or and encourage acts of terrorism? And what if students accessed the document independently for their studies? Would they suffer the same fate as me and be reported to the police or not? The answers to such questions remain deeply problematic.
In direct response to the university's failure to offer consistent advice or support, Thornton felt that his teaching of terrorism was too risky and could potentially make him fall foul of the law. For Thornton, the safest option was to pull the plug on teaching terrorism totally. I would have preferred it if Thornton continued teaching and did not feel intimidated by the draconian laws that have prevented him from doing his job. However, his decision is sensible and reasoned and one that I cannot blame him for taking.
Even though the government guidelines issued in 2008 entitled Promoting Good Campus Relations recognise that academic freedom is important and argue that "staff and students may need to access terrorist publications as part of legitimate research", the University of Nottingham seems to think differently. It also has a code of practice for staff and student use of computing facilities that prohibits mere "access" to "terrorist materials". Thornton could in theory have taken the government's guidelines into account and continued to teach terrorism without fear of arrest and detention, but the fact that the university failed to carry out the government's guidelines and uphold his academic freedom means he felt that he had no other choice other than to cease teaching altogether.
Thornton's case highlights some problematic issues, not only for Nottingham, but for universities throughout the UK that wish to contribute to the debate on terrorism and counter-terrorism, but are afraid of becoming the subject of investigation themselves. If we are to address the problems associated with terrorism and are to have a successful, rigorous and informed counter-terrorism strategy, we need to take the threat posed to free and open inquiry at the behest of the UK's anti-terror legislation, and indeed by universities who fail to uphold traditions of academic freedom, very seriously indeed. If the issue is not addressed and the problems are not fixed, I fear that Thornton's case will be the first of many.
Equally interesting, and very worrying, are the comments in response the first one of which asks:
I'm baffled, why are UK universities teaching terrorism?
The comments, all 363 so far, are rarely more informed, and often far less so.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

White Coat Crime

An interesting article in the Observer today about William Hunter and William Smellie the founding fathers of obstetrics suggesting their ground breaking research on the later stages of pregnacy were carried out on the corpses of women in late pregnacy who murdered to order.

Their work, illustrate below, was a major advance in medical understandings of pregnacy but historian Don Shelton writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (subscription only) has claimed that the two doctors, who researched independently, commissioned around 35-40 murders of women in late stage pregnacy.

Shelton's claim is based on his claim that the number of corpses that came their way could not have happened naturally and can only be explained by murdering to order or "Burking".

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

The missing witness from the Iraq Inquiry

Watching Blair and Straw give evidence to the Iraq Inquiry I was struck by the way they attempted to argue that at the time of the invasion no-one could have believed that Iraq didn't have weapons on mass destruction.  Cook's diaries, The Point of Departure: Diaries from the Front Bench, shed interesting lightand are well worth reading if you want to understand the decision making process of Blair's Government. However it is his resignation speech that is worth listening to - it reminds us that, after accessing the available intelligence Cook was able to tell the House of Commons that:

Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term - namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target.
On Iraq, I believe that the prevailing mood of the British people is sound ... they suspect that they are being pushed too quickly into conflict by a US Administration with an agenda of its own.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Louk Hulsman

My last post made reference to Louk Hulsman.  Many readers may not have heard of Louk, an activist and scholar who died last year. 

Andrea Beckmann wrote this obituary in Criminal Justice Matters

The Rotterdam penal law and criminology professor emeritus Louk Hulsman died on 28 January 2009 at the age of 85. He was, apart from Nils Christie and Thomas Mathiesen, one of the most important penal abolitionists worldwide.
Louk was also the director of the Rasphuys Institute and was, amongst other commitments, a leading member of the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control, the Netherlands representative of ICOPA (International Conference on Penal Abolitionism) as well as Chair of The Coornhert League for the Reformation of the Criminal Law.
In the Netherlands, Louk is regarded as the founder of liberal drugs policy as his influential work and stance contributed significantly to the alteration of the Opium Act in 1976. His most influential publications include the Report on Decriminalisation (Council of Europe, 1980) and Peines perdues. Le systeme penal en question (written together with Jacqueline Bernat de Celis, 1982). He is perhaps most well known for 'Critical criminology and the concept of crime' which was first published in 1986 and has been widely reproduced since.

Louk was born in Kerkrade in 1923 and, after attending boarding school and the St. Bernadis Gymnasium, he became active in the resistance to Nazi Germany's occupation of his country. In return for his brave activism he was interned in the concentration camp in Amersfoort. He managed to escape and continued to work in the resistance. It is perhaps these early experiences that made Louk profoundly question the legitimacy of penal law, of state authority as well as the meaningfulness of the category of 'crime' as he kept reminding us that an awful lot of things were and are categorised as 'criminal' but that this does not say anything about their wrongness or indeed their harmfulness.

Louk worked as a civil servant in Dutch defence and justice administrations during the 1950s. In 1964 he became the first professor of Criminal Law at the Erasmus University, Rotterdam. Louk Hulsman always engaged in a critical manner with the state (e.g. when serving as a Councillor in the Dutch Ministry of Justice, as Chair of the Dutch Probation Service, Chair of the Dutch Association for Penal Reform, as a member of the advisory boards of the Dutch Police Academy and of the first Dutch Committee on Drug Policy). He continued his important work with worldwide lectures, workshops and seminar engagements that stimulated critical reflections and further developed alternative ideas to the hegemonic belief systems that govern much of the fields of law, criminology, the media and often strongly impact on public opinion.

He also acted as the Netherland's representative on the European Committee on Crime Problems of the Council of Europe in the 1980s and was once again an important and outspoken influence at last year's Cannabis Tribunal in The Hague. He contributed to the development of European common study programmes on drug policy and critical criminology (with Frederick McClintock and Stephan Quensel), preparing the ground for the Erasmus and Sokrates programmes within the European Union. He thus facilitated the development of new generations of critical criminological scholarship within Europe and worldwide.
Louk's important contribution was fundamentally interdependent with his extraordinary personality. He embodied and lived the humanistic, open and eclectic core of abolitionist thought that takes care to be sensitive to the contextual, situational and personal interpretations of 'lived experiences' as they are defined by people. In the current context of 'penal overkill' that characterises so many societies, it is important to re-appreciate the anascopic ('from the bottom up') stance and associated practices that lie at the heart of Louk's life-work.

Louk was also a close friend who is now sadly missed by many, who was a genuinely cosmopolitan and warm hearted person, who enjoyed being with people, in nature and to be in the midst of life itself. Louk continues to be an inspiration for the ongoing struggle of challenging the very foundations of legitimising systems of coercion that generate harm and suffering and to value and practice solidarity. His legacy as a pedagogue lies certainly within the tradition of critical pedagogy as Giroux (1994) argued: 'Pedagogy in the critical sense illuminates the relationship among knowledge, authority, and power'. Louk fulfilled this task as a critical criminologist.


1. Giroux, H. A. (1994) Disturbing Pleasures: Learning Popular Culture Routledge , New York
This video allows you to listen to Louk talk:

Abolition, Reform and the Politics of Global Incarceration


Abolition, Reform and the Politics of Global Incarceration

23-25 June 2010


The 13th International Conference on Penal Abolition will be held in Belfast at a defining moment regarding the devolution of Policing and Justice to the recently constituted Northern Ireland Assembly. A decade on from the release of political prisoners under the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement, Northern Ireland’s prisons are under continuing criticism. We invite international papers, art, film, policy proposals, reports and posters on any aspect of the generic theme from researchers, activists, prisoners and former prisoners on penal abolition at a time dominated by reformist discourses about ‘healthy prisons’ alongside global expansion of incarceration in prisons, special hospitals and other places of detention. Individuals and groups can offer sessions/ panels in diverse formats. Current and former prisoners unable to attend, please contact us to enable presentations by proxy.

The Conference will be held at the University and in the community. We will provide a range of options for people to book directly with local hotels and hostels and endeavour to accommodate former prisoners.

ICOPA 13 will also acknowledge the life and work of Louk Hulsman who died in 2009:
Abolition of criminal justice is that you abolish that in yourself, in the same way we are doing with racism and in the same way we are doing that with gender differences …You abolish criminal justice in yourself … Abolishing means that you will not anymore talk that language. And if you do not talk that language anymore then you see other things.

Submission of Abstracts:

Deaglan Coyle
0044 28 9097 3472