Saturday, November 22, 2014
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Linking Developmental Science and Prevention Research to Intervene MoreEffectively in Child Development - Theresa Betancourt
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Tonight was the reception drinks and formal dinner for all of us who have arrived for the Global Violence Reduction Conference (see earlier post). As we all got ready at King's College in our guest rooms and student accomodations, we were reminded of our earlier student days, ready to learn.
After venturing over to the Chapel, we entered a space full of specialists from all disciplines and occupations and instantly conversation started to flow. In every group that formed, typical questions were first asked 'Where are you from? What are you presenting?' Then it always led to 'What is your area of research?'. That is when it became clear that what the UBS Optimus Foundation wanted to happen, was actually taking place naturally.
The UBS Optimus Foundation works to support various organisations and projects that have been created to help children who face adversity. The Foundation provides significant financial support to projects that aim to break down barriers that prevent children from realizing their potential.
Patricia Lannen, who is the Programme Director of Child Protection at the UBS Optimus Foundation, has submitted a paper to the conference entitled 'The Role of Philanthropy in the Prevention of Violence against Children'. One key message in this paper is that we need organizations to work together from very different disciplines to create a Violence Prevention Research Capacity and this can not be left in the hands of politicians who are working towards short-term results and are pressured by electoral cycles.
It quickly became evident that discussions around violence prevention were taking place between Political Scientists, Criminologists, Physicians, Psychologists, Members of major Think Tanks from America, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa as well as many other very well established academics. Discussions around the difficulty to get funding for research, access to quality data and lack of political/government support were quite common. But also, similarities between research designs, prediction models and risk and protective factors surfaced. It is evident that there is a very collaborative theme to this conference with the ultimate goal of working together to understand how we can continue to reduce violence globally.
However, the highlight of the night was during dinner when Manuel Eisner (Director of the Violence Research Centre) was named 'Harry Potter'.
Thursday, September 4, 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
The YJB has announced in their 2014-2017 Corporate and Business plan that they will be focusing on reducing reoffending of young people by improving resettlement strategies for young people who are released from custody, increasing educational opportunities while in custody, ensuring young people are placed at the secure estates that best suit them, and by creating the secure college pathfinder to be built in spring 2017. More information about the secure college can be found HERE.
In addition to working closely with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Secretary of State for Justice, the YJB also works with the Home Office. Their mission with the Home Office is to 'prevent anti-social behavior and youth crime, including youth violence and support the delivery of the cross-departmental Ending Gang and Serious Youth Violence strategy and related work to prevent the sexual exploitation of girls'. This is undertaken even though the Home Office has withdrawn all financial support to the YJB this year.
In addition to working with the Home Office, the YJB also works with:
- Young Offenders - to get their opinion on youth justice and youth offending.
- The Department of Health - to ensure there are mental health and substance misuse services available to young people in the youth justice system.
- Department of Education - to ensure education services meet the needs of children and young people.
- Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) - to support YOT objectives and also make sure YOTs are evaluated and performing to high standards.
- Secure Accommodation Providers - such as the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), local authorities and private sectors.
- Voluntary Sectors - with around 6,000 volunteers to support initiatives such as restorative justice, act as appropriate adults for young people in custody, mentors, in prevention or education schemes and with families. If you are interested in volunteering, click HERE
- Adacemic Community - to ensure that advice and guidance is based upon the latest UK and international research.
- Improvement in the delivery of the youth justice system in the community.
- To create an under-18 secure estate that better meets the needs of young people.
- To make structural and process improvements that support a better youth justice system.
- Make sure young people are placed efficiently in the most appropriate establishment.
- The safety and well-being of children and young people in the youth justice system is assured.
- Practitioners have access to the best advice and support, and use this in practice.
- The YJB is seen as an effective and efficient public body.
This is the breakdown of expenses and savings made:
One finding based on recent Youth Justice statistics is that there has been a decrease in the number of First Time Entrants (FTEs) into youth custody. This was seen as a result of the positive work of the YJB, which I am sure some of it was. However, in their business plan, the YJB openly admits that in order to deal with the financial challenges stated above, they have incorporated a strategy which is to: 'Maximise savings from having fewer young people in custody by decommissioning beds in the under-18 secure estate'. Well...if you have less money and there are less spaces available in custody for young offenders, then obviously there will be a reduction in the number of FTEs. Is this reduction really an outcome of best practice, or is it simply the outcome of a reduced budget?
This isn't to take away from the hard work that the YJB does to help prevent offending and re-offending. Instead, it is a means to provide a clearer picture of what is really going on and to help us understand that while we are being told that more is being done to help young people in England and Wales, the government is actually spending LESS money on young people at risk of offending and re-offending. It is also important to consider whether or not the government is perhaps embellishing the results of their youth offending statistics by taking credit for the reduction in FTEs, when in reality it is very likely the result of budget cuts and fewer available spaces in youth custody.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
More specifically, according to The Guardian, the Metropolitan police said in a statement: "The MPS counter-terrorism command (SO15) is investigating the contents of the video that was posted online in relation to the alleged murder of James Foley. We would like to remind the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating extremist material within the UK may constitute an offence under terrorism legislation".
SO15 is responsible for protecting London and the UK from threats of terrorism. You can find out more about them HERE. I wanted to understand more about why sharing and 'viewing' the video could be considered a crime, and also what part of the Terrorism Legislation sharing videos or pictures falls under.
Having looked at Legislation.co.uk, it appears that Section 1 and Section 2 of the Terrorism Act 2006 cover areas that are related to the 'Encouragement of Terrorism". Section 1 starts by saying that Encouragement of Terrorism applies to
"a statement that is likely to be understood by some or all of the members of the public to whom it is published as a direct or indirect encouragement or other inducement to them to the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism or Convention offences".It continues:
"A person commits an offence if (a) he publishes a statement to which this section applies or causes another to publish such a statement; and (b) at the time he publishes it or causes it to be published he - (i) intends members of the public to be directly or indirectly encouraged or otherwise induced by the statement to commit, prepare or instigate acts of terrorism or Convention offences; or (ii) is reckless as to whether members of the public will be directly or indirectly encouraged or otherwise induced by the statement to commit, prepare or instigate such acts or offences".If you are re-tweeting something or sharing it on Youtube or Facebook, you are at risk of being seen to make a statement that could be understood by members of the public to be 'directly or indirectly encouraging others or instigating acts of terrorism'. Its possible that by sharing the video and photos, you are fueling feelings of hate which could lead to a reaction. However, even if you DONT end up encouraging someone to 'commit, prepare or instigate any such offence' you can still get in trouble because as stated in subsection 5:
It is irrelevant for the purposes of subsections (1) to (3) (a) whether anything mentioned in those subsections relates to the commission, preparation or instigation of one or more particular acts of terrorism.... (b) whether any person is in fact encouraged or induced by the statement to commit, prepare or instigate any such act of offence".So what this means is that if you share videos or photos, you can be held criminally responsible even if there is no outcome based on your actions. But why do the Met Police warn about viewing videos? This part comes down to the way that Social Media is designed. On Facebook, for example, if you view a video, sometimes this shows up on your 'Facebook Friends' newsfeeds. On Youtube, if you view a video, it increases that video's count which means it moves up in the list of 'search results' which are based on most popular videos. Although it is a stretch, there are still ways that even viewing a video can result in you sharing content which, under the Terrorism Act 2006 is illegal.
If you are still not convinced by this social media crackdown and insist on Freedom of Speech and being able to watch and share what you want, you might want to consider the potential outcomes first. According to Section 1 subsection 7:
A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable - (a) on conviction of indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years or to a fine or both; (b) on summary conviction in England and Wales, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum...Furthermore, Section 2 deals specifically with Dissemination of terrorist publications and subsection 2 states:
...a person engages in conduct falling within this subsection if he - (a) distributes or circulates a terrorist publication; (b) gives, sells or lends such a publication (c) offers such a publication for sale or loan; (d) provides services to others that enables them to obtain, read, listen to or look at such a publication, or to acquire it by means of a gift, sale or loan; (e) transmits the contents of such a publication electronically; or (f) has such a publication in his possession with a view to its becoming the subject of conduct falling within any of paragraphs (a) to (e).It finishes with: ...
'publication' means an article or record of any description that contains any of the following, or any combination of them - (a) matter to be read; (b) matter to be listened to; (c) matter to be looked at or watched.
This section relates a lot more to the actions that are most likely to be taken across social media platforms. The same sentences apply if a person is found guilty of the offences listed above.
Besides the moral issues surrounding instances of people sharing this video and photos, there are also many legal considerations as well which are leading us into a whole new wave of criminal offences based on technological advances.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Friday, July 11, 2014
The confusion arises when you find out that the ‘Victims Personal Statement Scheme’ has been in place since 2001; not exactly a new entitlement. And even though being able to read your statement out in court is cited as an entitlement, the court judge can still refuse to allow it. So what are the new ‘entitlements’ in the ‘Victim’s Code’? There isn’t any. Most entitlements are already being given to victims of crime or should be given. This gives rise to the question of whether this is just a way of the government acting like it is doing something to help victims, when really it does nothing that isn’t already being done.
The wider question to be asked is: is the reform of the ‘Victims Code’ going far enough to ensure that victims are put first, and that the system is more responsive and easier to navigate? Well, it is quite telling that the former head of public prosecutions Kier Starmer, who is now a member of the Labour founded Victim’s Taskforce, has been quoted as saying that:
“From a victim’s point of view, our justice system is hardly fit for purpose”
He goes on to say that:
“No doubt individual failings by police and prosecutors provide part of the explanation. But to suggest these shortcomings are the core problem is complacent, and overlooks the real improvements that have taken place in recent years. A more radical review of our criminal justice arrangements is long overdue”
“These measures (Victims Code) are ‘bolt-ons’ to the existing arrangements. What is needed is a fundamental rethink, leading to a specific and legally enforceable Victim’s Law alongside a real and radical shift in attitude and approach”
- The case of Frances Andrade - http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jul/07/frances-andrade-inquest-despair-sex-abuse-trial
After highlighting the issues with defence barristers, it is interesting to highlight the fact that there has been much emphasis on how the police respond to rape victims, and how this could potentially have an impact on the low reporting rates for rape. When in actual fact it is more likely to be that individuals who have been raped know what they have to go through in a courtroom which could actually be what is putting rape victims off reporting these crimes.
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
It has probably not escaped most people’s attention that there is a debate raging on about whether or not the sentence handed down to Rolf Harris is appropriate. Some are of the opinion that the sentence is not long enough, or too lenient in proportion to the offences he was convicted of. Some believe that as a man of 84, there is little benefit to putting him in jail, and some going so far as to believe that a man of this age is incapable of being a further danger to women (whether or not the offending stopped in later life this view genuinely frightens me). In my own opinion, I have several problems with the sentences passed down on Rolf Harris last week.
Firstly, in the sentencing comments by Mr Justice Sweeney he spoke of considering that Mr Harris be enabled to spend his 'twilight years' with his family. My major contention with this issue is the length of time that his abusing went undetected, unreported, and I suppose more to the point unpunished. Whilst it may seem pointless to some; sending a man who probably won't live to fulfil his full sentence to prison, I would ask those people to consider the effect that the abuse has had on the victim(s), the knowledge and anguish they have held for lengthy periods of time knowing that their abuser has been afforded the freedom to live peacefully in a way that was taken from them. I would also suggest that this be reason to not consider his age a mitigating factor, he has, for decades been able to spend time with his family, I seriously wonder why this luxury should be granted to him now just because he has been discovered so late in his life.
My second issue is with whether his celebrity status was a factor in a lower sentence length, as his other 'contributions to society through entertainment and charity work' also seem to have been considered. Teachers and care home workers are all in the position to make great contributions, but when these positions are manipulated to enable sexual offending, it is considered to be a gross breach of trust, and therefore, I have to wonder the extent to which their contributions are considered mitigating factors. If a teacher whom abused several children was also supporting many others towards achieving good grades etc, would this be considered a worthy enough contribution to society to warrant a lowered sentence in the same way that the charity work of a popular entertainer may be? Somehow the scales feel tipped, though on research, sentence lengths for so called non-celebrity historic abuse cases still seem lenient in my eyes anyway; the reason behind this brings me on to my third point:
Concurrent sentences. Under guidelines for concurrent sentencing, when several charges are pursued, if a person were to be sentenced consecutively this may result in an overall sentence length considered disproportionate to the crimes committed, and therefore concurrent sentencing is used to consider the offences as a whole. While I see some sense to this, in this case along with those of Stuart Hall and Max Clifford I feel it has been grossly miscalculated to the benefit of the convicted party. According to the sentencing council guidelines, when multiple sentences are to be served concurrently, it may be that some are increased in length through the consideration of aggravating factors to reflect the overall criminality and the amount of harm caused to the victims. With this in mind, receiving 12-15 month sentences for offences which even under the 1956 act carry a maximum sentence of 2 years, does not reflect the purpose set out in these guidelines.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
B.A. (Hons) Criminology
To read a previous post about Rolf Harris and the sentencing decisions, click on the link to the right, or click here
Monday, July 7, 2014
Sexual Offender who has been sentenced for 12 counts of abuse and victimized at least 4 young girls will spend less than 3 years in Prison: Rolf Harris
Count 1: 9 months’ imprisonment.
Count 2: 6 months’ imprisonment consecutive.
Count 3: 15 months’ imprisonment consecutive
Count 4: 15 months’ imprisonment concurrent
Count 5: 15 months’ imprisonment concurrent
Count 6: 12 months imprisonment concurrent
Count 7: 15 months’ imprisonment consecutive
Count 8: 12 months’ imprisonment concurrent
Count 9: 12 months’ imprisonment consecutive
Count 10: 9 months’ imprisonment concurrent
Count 11: 9 months imprisonment concurrent.
Count 12: 12 months’ imprisonment consecutive.
Some people are asking “But what did he do?”, “Didn’t he just grope a few girls? Back in the day that wasn’t uncommon”. Well let me help you to get a better picture of what Rolf Harris did to innocent children.
You indecently assaulted ‘A’ in 1969 (when she was aged 8 and you were aged 39). You did so when you made an appearance at the Leigh Park Community Centre in Havant, and she approached you for your autograph. Others were present. Taking advantage of your celebrity status, you twice put your hand up her skirt between her legs and touched her vagina over her clothing.
Victim 'C' - Age 13, took her on holiday and indecently assaulted her; and again when she was 15. You left your wife and ‘C’’s parents downstairs and you went up to ‘C’’s bedroom on the top floor of the house....."
Ill stop there, but if you want to know "what did he do" the judge summarises it here.
“On your behalf I am asked to take into account a number of matters in mitigation, including the following:
(1) With the exception of ‘C’ the offences were brief and opportunistic.
(2) The fact that you have no previous convictions and have led an upright life since 1994 ‐albeit it is accepted that that must be tempered by the reality, underlined in the Attorney General’s Reference (above), that you got away with your offending for years.
(3) The fact that you have a good side, that there are many people who know you who speak well of you, and that over many years you have dedicated yourself to a number of charitable causes.
(4) The fact that you are not in the best of health, as attested to in the report of Dr Fertleman, and that therefore, although capable of serving a prison sentence, it will be particularly tough on you.
(5) The fact that your wife, who you help in looking after, has various health problems, as attested to in the report of Dr Mitchell‐Fox.
(6) That you should be enabled to spend your twilight years with your family.”
I’m sorry, but that’s just not good enough for me. The mitigating factor that I think we especially need to reconsider is the last one, “That you should be enabled to spend your twilight years with your family”. What about the young women’s right to spend their childhood without having it ruined by a sexual predator. Forget about their childhood; the events that took place have ruined their adolescents and impacted their adult years as well, not to mention the outcome that this trial will now have on them. They have been suffering for over 30 years, yet the judge says that Rolf Harris should be enabled to spend his last few years within the safe comfort of his family. It appears that the Mitigating factors are being put before the negative outcomes that his victims have been dealing with for their entire lives.