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Essay Plans

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Chapter 1

Analyse the strengths and weaknesses of labelling theory to the study of crime and deviance.

To answer this question you would:

  1. Discuss labelling theory and the context – interactionism – within which it was developed – what does labelling theory tell us about crime and deviance ? It would also be useful in this introduction to distinguish between crime and deviance;
  2. Evaluate how labelling theory differed from earlier approaches related to the study of crime and deviance – in particular a move away from positivist approaches that emphasize the importance of consensual values within society and which seek to provide explanations as to why criminal actions occur;
  3. Analyse the ideas of the key theorists that are associated with labelling theory – Howard Becker and Edwin Lemert (in particular the latter's differentiation between primary and secondary deviance);
  4. Evaluate the weaknesses of this approach – for example, unlike positivist theories it does not seek to explain why deviance actions occurred – but to emphasize the importance of reaction to an act. Additionally, unlike positivist theories, this approach is not based upon conclusions derived from scientific evidence;
  5. Analyse the strengths of this approach – in particular relating to the impact of stigmatization on a person's subsequent behaviour and the relevance of this approach to debates concerning de- criminalization;
  6. Conclusion: in which you would summarize earlier arguments and perhaps develop these to argue that labelling theory paved the way for future criminological theories, especially those associated with Marxist approaches.

Chapter 2

For what reasons do official crime statistics fail to provide an accurate portrayal of the level of crime in society?

To answer this question you would:

  1. Provide evidence to support the view expressed in the question by referring to the divergent estimates provided by official crime statistics and alternative surveys (especially the British Crime Survey) regarding the levels of crime within society;
  2. Discuss how official crime statistics are prepared – the methodology that is used to compile them;
  3. Refer to other issues that might influence the accuracy of official crime statistics – issues such as notifiable offences and Home Office Counting Rules;
  4. Evaluate the filtering process that takes place relating to the number of crimes that are committed and the number that are recorded by the police, drawing attention to stages at which crimes might be filtered out by decisions not to report crime or activities by the police, especially ‘cuffing’;
  5. Refer to changes that have taken place in recent years in connection with the collation of crime statistics (especially the National Crime Recording Standard) and the production of them which is now no longer undertaken by the Home Office: what have changes of this nature sought to achieve?
  6. Conclusion – in which you might refer to the view that official crime statistics are socially constructed – a term you would define and explain how this process occurs. You might also briefly argue that despite their inaccuracies, figures of this nature are important since omissions (in areas such as sexual violence and hate crime) have resulted in changes to the operations of the criminal justice system designed to increase the confidence of victims of such actions so that more of these crimes get recorded.

Chapter 3

Evaluate the success of reforms that have been introduced since 1997 designed to re-balance the criminal justice system in favour of those who are victims of crime.

To answer this question you would:

  1. Discuss the traditional position of victims of crime in the criminal justice system – to what extent (and why) were victims traditionally seen as the forgotten party?
  2. Discuss the emergence of the need to more adequately cater for the needs of victims (and witnesses) of crime since 1997 – why has this concern arisen and in what form has it appeared (such statements by ministers, policy documents, etc.);
  3. Analyse  the problems which are inherent in this approach: in particular you should seek to place this section in a theoretical context by discussing Packer’s ‘due process’ v. ‘crime control’ model which helps to explain why reforms designed to address the concerns of victims of crime will inevitable encounter opposition;
  4. Discuss the content of key reforms that have taken place since 1997 to make the criminal justice system cater more adequately for victims of crime and evaluate the significance of these reforms – how they have sought to improve the position of victims in the criminal justice system. You may refer here to a wide range of initiatives that  include legislation, other government initiatives and  changes in trial procedure;
  5. Evaluate the success (or otherwise) of the reforms that you have put forward;
  6. Conclusion: in which you might consider what more needs to be done in order to ensure that victims of crime are appropriately treated within the criminal justice system.

Chapter 4

Evaluate the extent to which elected Police and Crime Commissioners will provide for a more effective system of local involvement with policing than was afforded by police authorities.

To answer this question you would:

  1. Refer to the establishment of the tripartite division of responsibility for the conduct of police affairs that was introduced in the 1964 Police Act;
  2. Highlight police authorities – their composition and the role that was allocated to them in the 1964 legislation – to maintain an ‘efficient and effective’ police force for their area;
  3. Evaluate changes that were subsequently made to the role and status of police authorities in the tripartite system of police governance – these changes include disputes in some areas between police authorities and chief officers in the 1980s, the emphasis on efficiency and value for money that commenced in the 1980s, the 1994 Police and Magistrates’ Courts Act and the development of the targets regime: the aim of this discussion is to analyse the significance of these changes in relation to the ability of police authorities to effectively reflect the needs of local people;
  4. Analyse the rationale that was put forward by the 2010 Coalition government to justify replacing police authorities with elected Police and Crime Commissioners. Refer to their role/powers and evaluate the advantages that the government believes will derive from this reform which was designed to replace bureaucratic control over the police with political accountability;
  5. Evaluate the problems that may arise with this reform in connection with local involvement in policing – in particular the extent to which one person will satisfactorily represent all strands of local opinion over a wide geographic area composed of diverse communities with different needs and expectations from policing;
  6. Conclusion: based on your previous arguments, provide a balanced account of whether, in your view, this reform is a good or a bad development. In doing this, you might consider what further reforms would help this initiative to operate more effectively.

Chapter 5

Analyse the strengths and weaknesses of trial by jury in England and Wales.

To answer this question you would:

  1. Discuss the function of a jury (‘triers of fact’);
  2. Refer to key issues relating to the development of juries – their composition, majority verdicts – and evaluate the significance of these reforms;
  3. Analyse the key advantages that derive from trial by jury – in particular their ability to change the law to bring it into line with public opinion and to prevent the state behaving in an arbitrary manner towards its citizens;
  4. Evaluate the problems that are associated with trial by jury – in particular in connection with factors that influence jury decision making (which may not always be based on an assessment of the evidence), the extent to which juries are socially representative and the ability of jurors to comprehend the evidence that is put forward in a trial;
  5. Refer to reforms that have been proposed by successive governments since the 1990s to improve the operation of the system of trial by jury and analyse the rationale for these reforms;
  6. Conclusion: based on the material that has been presented above, consider whether the strengths of trial by jury outweigh the disadvantages associated with the system and also consider what further reforms might enable the system to operate more effectively.

Chapter 6

‘The process that is used to select judges should ensure that their composition becomes more socially representative of society as a whole.’ Discuss.

To answer this question you would:

  1. Discuss evidence related to the background of judges that illustrates they consist of a social elite – this includes issues such as social class, education and gender;
  2. Analyse why the lack of social representativeness is a problem – one way to do this is to analyse the work performed by a judge during a trial that might enable biases derived from his or her background to influence judicial proceedings which may, in turn, affect the legitimacy of the system;
  3. Evaluate why judges have not been representative of society – in particular draw attention to the secret ‘soundings’ system that created the potential for judges to become a self-perpetuating elite;
  4. Discuss the reforms that have been introduced in an attempt to broaden the social composition of judges;
  5. Evaluate the effectiveness of reforms to the selection process of judges in broadening their social composition;
  6. Conclusion: in which you could cite contemporary information relating to the social composition of the judiciary and analyse what further steps might be taken to ensure that the judiciary becomes more socially representative.

Chapter 7

Analyse the strengths and weaknesses of retributivist approaches to punishment.

To answer this question you would:

  1. Define the term ‘retributivist’ (an approach that seeks to ‘get tough’ with criminals) and briefly differentiate it from reductivist approaches to punishment;
  2. Identify the various penal strategies that are associated with retributivist approaches to punishment which in Britain included the enhanced use of prisons as a form of punishment;
  3. Evaluate the rationale for adopting a retributivist approach to punishment – which should include a discussion of the emergence of penal populist responses to crime in the USA and Britain;
  4. Analyse the benefits that arise from a retributivist stance towards punishment : these might include apparent public support for a punitive response to crime;
  5. Evaluate the problems that are associated with retributivist approaches to punishment – such as its unwillingness to take the circumstances in which crime was committed into account and its over-reliance on imprisonment (hence overcrowding which undermines the rehabilitative ideal of such institutions);
  6. Conclusion: in which you would indicate, on the basis of your previous discussion, whether the weaknesses of retributive approaches to punishment outweigh its advantages and consider what alternative approaches might be adopted (including restorative justice).

Chapter 8

‘The introduction of the community order has failed to increase public confidence in the use of community penalties as a response to crime.’ Discuss.

To answer this question you would:

  1. Discuss the concept of community penalties – what they are, what they historically consisted of and how they were implemented;
  2. Examine the 2003 Criminal Justice Act which introduced the community order;
  3. Evaluate the nature of the community order – what its requirements consist of and how a sentence (magistrate or judge) can adopt a ‘pick and mix’ approach that is tailor-made to a specific law-breaker;
  4. Analyse the extent to which the community order (which was designed to ensure that community penalties were seen as a punitive response to crime) is viewed as a sufficiently demanding response to crime by the public – did it address previous concerns regarding community penalties as an overly lenient response to crime? In considering the views of the public include the views of sentencers, since if magistrates and judges lack confidence in the nature of the penalty, they will not use it and rely on more traditional forms of punishment such as custodial sentences;
  5. Evaluate subsequent reforms to the community order that was designed to make it more punitive – for example, re-naming the unpaid work requirement ‘Community Payback’;
  6. Conclusion: on the basis of your previous discussion, summarize the strengths and weaknesses of the community order and indicate what further steps you feel could be taken to improve public confidence in it as a response to crime. This might include publicity to convince the public that these sentences offer a genuine demanding response to crime.

Chapter 9

Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of responses that have been pursued since 1997 to tackle the problem of juvenile crime.

To answer this question you would:

  1. Identify factors that explain why juvenile crime was viewed as a problem in the 1990s – issues such as the level of juvenile offending and the spectre of persistent juvenile offenders are relevant to this discussion;
  2. Analyse the rationale for introducing innovations in the way in which juvenile crime was responded to by the incoming Labour government in 1997: the Audit Commission's Misspent Youth (which identified failings in the existing youth justice system) provides a good account around which to fashion this discussion;
  3. Discuss the reforms introduced by post-1997 Labour governments and evaluate the significance of these reforms (for example, the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act placed partnership work in the form of Youth Offending Teams on a statutory basis and the 1999 Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act provided for restorative justice (in the form of Youth Offender Panels) as a response to low level juvenile crime);
  4. Analyse the benefits of these approaches;
  5. Evaluate the problems with these approaches: in doing this you might consider the problems posed by some of the innovations introduced and also broaden the discussion by arguing that these were introduced alongside a range of more punitive measures such as the new court orders contained in the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act and the increased reliance on custodial sentences for juvenile offenders;
  6. Conclusion: in which you would summarize points made in your previous discussion and indicate whether in your view the benefits of the policies pursued since 1997 outweigh their disadvantages.

Chapter 10

To what extent did the 1976 Sex Discrimination Act improve the status of women in the police service?

To answer this question you would:

  1. Analyse the historical position that women occupied in the police service in terms of issues that include pay, role (mainly concerned with what was termed ‘women’s work’),conditions and organization (in the form of separate Women’s Police Departments);
  2. Discuss the aims and objectives of the 1976 Sex Discrimination Act;
  3. Evaluate the significance of the 1976 legislation on the status of women in the police service – how it improved their status;
  4. Identify the progress related to women in the police service that arose as a result of the implementation of the 1976 Sex Discrimination Act;
  5. Analyse the problems that remained: this might include factors such as recruitment, wastage and promotion and must include a discussion of the culture of the police service and whether this adapted to the challenges of eliminating gender discrimination within the police service; 
  6. Conclusion: in which you would summarize the main points of your previous discussion and suggest what further steps need to be implemented to enhance the status of women in the police service: legislation subsequent to the 1976 Act (especially the 2006 Equality Act) can be discussed in this context.

Chapter 11

‘The future development of Europol into an agency equivalent to America’s FBI is an inevitable development.’ Discuss.

To answer this question you would:

  1. Consider the rationale for this development by referring to the emergence of serious crime and terrorism as issues that require a European Union (EU)-wide response; the nature and scale of crime of this nature would be a useful context within which to consider the remainder of the question;
  2. Evaluate the current way in which Europol operates – its role and powers in relation to EU-wide crime issues;
  3. Analyse deficiencies in the current operations of Europol that might justify its further development along the lines of an American FBI (i.e. an agency that operates across national borders with executive powers in connection with serious crime and terrorism);
  4. Evaluate reforms that have been put forward within the EU to address perceived deficiencies: the Justice and Home Affairs Council is an important initiator of developments of this nature;
  5. Analyse impediments that need to be overcome before Europol can develop into an EU-wide crime-fighting agency;
  6. Conclusion: in the light of arguments that have been presented in your previous discussion of this topic, give your opinion as to whether it is realistic to suggest that Europol can be developed into an agency that is capable of tackling serious crime and terrorism across national frontiers.

Chapter 12

‘The imposition of public spending cuts on the criminal justice system since 2010 will inevitably lead to a less effective delivery of services.’ Discuss.

To answer this question you would:

  1. Discuss the scale of public spending cuts that have been imposed on the criminal justice system since 2010 and the rationale for these cuts;
  2. Evaluate the various ways whereby these cuts can be made (for example reducing bureaucracy, increased use of technology as a labour-saving device, changes affecting pay and conditions of the criminal justice workforce, staff reductions, enhanced use of the private sector to deliver services, etc.);
  3. Analyse the impact that the changes discussed in (b) above will have on the future delivery of services – in particular will these promote more efficient and cost-effective services or will they inevitably lead to a deterioration in service provision and delivery;
  4. Evaluate how the government’s ‘Big Society’ programme will help to plug any gap in service provision caused by public spending cuts – in particular emphasize the potential for volunteering in the criminal justice system as a means for helping to provide services;
  5. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of the ‘Big Society’ agenda for providing criminal justice services;
  6. Conclusion: in which you will summarize the arguments presented in the previous sections and give your view, based on the evidence that you have presented, as to whether the effectiveness of criminal justice services will suffer and, if so, in what ways will this be experienced.