Friday, 11 January 2013

The Hat Does Not Fit

Tuesday, January 08, 2013 

Criminology in Public

"In the great criminological choir some get chosen for solo parts: thus by the accident of victimisation Helen Newlove becomes a Baroness and Victims Commissioner after her husband is kicked to death. Sara Payne’s daughter, Sarah, dies at the hands of Roy Whiting and through the boost of the News Of The World’s campaigning zeal Sara becomes an honorary doctor of the Open University. As this story shows Roy Whiting has been seriously victimised but don’t expect his name to feature in any politically astute honours list.

But back to honours and Dr Sara Payne. She lends her name, and more controversially her title, to The Sun’s Justice Campaign. A number of academics are concerned about this and as an OU graduate I am uneasy but probably because I’m opposed to honours systems in all areas of life. Yes, I know my father, Brian, has an honorary degree from the Open University.

So far Sara Payne is not advertised or billed as a criminologist. However, Mark Williams-Thomas is, and some in the criminological community are unhappy about this. I welcome his voice and enthusiasm but am more concerned that his very policey/punitive approach is seen as representative of UK criminology. A better example of this ‘who can be described as a criminologist debate’ though is Roger Graef. I recall a colleague being very exercised that he was described as a criminologist. But, enjoy the irony here, I’m happy to honour him with that title. And similarly Richard Garside a very sage commentator on crime and criminal justice. And famously Against Criminology and now sadly dead I honour Stan Cohen."

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