Criminology - Causes of the 2011 London Riots

Topics: Police, Sociology, Émile Durkheim Pages: 12 (4485 words) Published: January 8, 2013
Criminology Coursework – Assessing the riots...

Criminology is focused on the attempt to understand the meanings involved in social interaction. Theorists have tried to explain sociological behaviour by looking at the patterns created by individuals that commit crime. The August 2011 riots are pivotal in explaining criminological behaviour since official statistics show that 865 individuals were put in prison by the 9th September 2011 for offences related to the disorder between 6th and 9th August 2011. This is not to say that others were not involved, but that they have simply not been identified to date and may never be identified, however the evidence we do have about the recent riots gives us plenty to talk about. This essay will provide a basis for causes of the 2011 riots by applying the ‘Labelling theory’ and the ‘Anomie theory’ to events that led to such behaviour. Mark Duggan was shot by a police officer from the specialist firearms command team and as life-taking errors were made on behalf of the police force, such events that led up to the riots suggest that the police service could be to blame. It was on the 6th August that relatives sparked the riots by setting fire to police vehicles as they demanded information about Duggan’s death, however the British Prime Minister David Cameron rejected a causal relationship between the death of Mark Duggan and the subsequent looting. Some say labelling is not a ‘theory’ because it does not give an explanation of law, but questions why we have such rules. For Labelling theorists there is no such thing as crime, as we create the laws and punishments by defining certain acts to be deviant. Deviant means to depart from usual or accepted standards. Leading theorist Kitsuse said “it is the responses of the conventional and conforming members of society which identify and interpret behaviour as deviant which sociology transforms persons into deviants”. This means that it is not the actions themselves that are crimes but the social response to such actions that the majority of people deem to be unacceptable and so these actions have been made crimes. This is how we label individuals to be criminals as they do not conform to the behaviour of the ideal majority. This can be unfair to minority groups since they may not deem their actions to be criminal but do not have a choice, for example the introduction of the Criminal Justice Act which criminalised previously civil offences such as section 63 which gives police the powers to remove persons attending or preparing for a rave. The aim of the act was to give greater penalties for anti-social behaviour; however such activities like raves may be anti-social in behaviour from some perspectives but is merely a form of entertainment to others and so this is discriminatory against ravers as their recreational activity has been barred. Commentators have seen the Act as a draconian piece of legislation which was explicitly aimed at suppressing the activities of certain strands of alternative culture. In response to this Bill, the band ‘Dreadzone’ released a single called ‘Fight the Power’ which links into the Anomie theory (see anomie below) as the band were taking action to rebel the change in the law by getting the message across through their music. This also reflects Tannenbaum’s view of labelling; that the process of defining someone as a delinquent is due to conflict over particular activities, which results in tagging in which the person becomes the thing he is described as being and that the only way out is through a refusal to dramatize the evil. This can be applied to the recent riots the people involved were in conflict with the rest of society. Official statistics have shown that 73 per cent of those that appeared before the courts for the disorders involved in the riots had a previous caution or conviction and so this fits in with Tannenbaum’s debate that once a person is labelled to be ‘ bad’ they will continue in that...
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