Faculty of law blogs / UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

Oxford Criminology at the ESC Annual Conference 2014, Prague


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Prague was the host city for this year's European Society for Criminology Annual Conference, and more than half a dozen Oxford scholars descended on the 'old town' to present their research to Europe's finest academics in the field at Charles University's beautiful neo-classical Law Faculty right on the banks of the Vltava.

Julian V. Roberts of Worcester College and the UK’s Sentencing Council presented his research on the ECtHR’s decision in Vinter, which has been conducted in conjunction with Prof. Barry Mitchell of Coventry. Highlighting the ‘review’ mechanisms which comprise a whole life minimum term (aka LWOP) across a number of jurisdictions as part of a comparative exercise, he proposed a model for such a ‘review’ that could be incorporated into a UK life sentence with a whole life order to ensure compliance with the judgment of the Strasbourg court. It had insisted life sentences must be ‘reducible’ in order to offer a hope of release to the offender.

Ben Bradford was part of panel organised by Kristina Murphy from Griffith University: other speakers were Kristina, Jon Jackson from LSE and Elise Sergeant from University of Queensland. The panel was entitled: "Building Police Legitimacy and willingness to comply with the law: The importance of procedural justice policing”, and three of the papers were collaborative pieces involving various combinations of the panel members, as well as others not present. My paper found that when people feel fairly treated by police, their sense of identification with the superordinate group the police represent is enhanced, strengthening police legitimacy and motivating compliance with the law. By contrast, unfair treatment signals to people that they do not belong, undermining identification, legitimacy, and adherence to the law. Ben Bradford found that, “the session went really well - standing room only in the venue and as much discussion as time allowed. He further notes, “ I also went to the Fiducia project panels, as I am involved in that project, along with Federico Varese and Paolo Campana in Sociology.”

Similarly, Sarah Turnbull’s panel was very well attended (full house!). She found it a great opportunity to have a focused session on immigration detention from the perspective of different countries; the UK, Portugal, and Norway. Her own paper noted that a defining feature of immigration detention in the United Kingdom is its indeterminacy; that is, there are no statutory constraints on the length of time an individual can be detained. As such, detention is uncertain and unpredictable; it may last a few hours or a few days, or weeks, months, and even years. Sarah’s excellent presentation drew on ethnographic fieldwork within immigration removal centres in the UK to explore the lived experiences of waiting.

Mai Sato introduced an EU funded project which is looking specifically at wildlife trafficking, focusing on instrumental and normative approaches used to achieve both supply reduction and demand reduction. It reviewed the current policies from enforcement strategies to the use of “soft power” strategies to reduce offenders’ preparedness to engage in poaching and trafficking offences and consumers’ preparedness to buy trafficked horn. Additionally, she found the Conference “good for networking and discovering new projects.”

George R. Mawhinney’s paper looked at the impact Schedule 21, the statutory sentencing guidelines for murder, has had on the sentencing of another serious offence against the person, namely attempted murder. It charted developments from before the legislation was enacted in 2003, to the present day, via countless cases and even some sentencing guidelines for attempted murder itself. Along the way he sought to distil the approach of the Court of Appeal and how it may have changed through close scrutiny of every reported appeal against sentence for attempted murder, highlighting problems, issues, and inconsistencies along the way.

The ESC in beautiful Prague
The conference provided an excellent opportunity for members of the Young Nordic Police Research Network to get together and to showcase some of their latest research, Criminology DPhil student Matthew Davies found. The network was formed by several current and former members of the Centre for Criminology who met through the Police and Policing Research Discussion Group, including Chris Giacomantonio, Synnove Uglevik, Sophia Tarrow and Matthew Davies. At the conference in Prague, the network held its own panel session, entitled "Policing in the Nordic countries between cooperation and privatisation". This featured fascinating presentations on issues of policing across borders from a Norwegian perspective, privatization of policing in Denmark, and securitization in Finland and abroad.

The 14th annual conference of the ESC, or EuroCrim as it has been dubbed by the organisers, was the biggest yet and continues to go from strength to strength. One hopes Oxford can send even more delegates next year!