In Defence of Decolonisation: a response to Southern Criminology

Authors: Thalia Anthony, Robert Webb, Juanita Sherwood, Harry Blagg & Antje Deckert

Mohwak scholar Taiaiake Alfred has remarked that in settler colonies, reconciliation is another form of re-colonisation. The “reconciliation of Indigenous people to colonialism”, in Alfred’s words, do not challenge structures of power that deny First Nations people substantive rights. We draw on Alfred’s observations to highlight the agenda of Southern Criminology. This increasingly influential school while seeking to engage epistemologies of the South reinscribes colonial relations of power, including colonial hierarchies of knowledge. It does so by uncritically bringing together the North and the South through a working partnership in criminology. 

The standpoint of Southern Criminology was recently updated by lead-author Professor Kerry Carrington in the British Society of Criminology blog. A key purpose of the blog is to take to task ‘decolonial theory’ in Criminology by accusing it of essentialising Indigenous knowledges, making unfair criticisms of Western Criminology and presenting ‘crude simplistic critiques of southern criminologies’. Our blog represents a defence of decolonising frameworks. We point out numerous false claims and inconsistencies in Carrington’s blog. Among these are that decolonial theory is ‘negative’. We contend that challenging colonial legacies in criminology is crucial for building more inclusive ideas and praxes.

Colonisation is not a metaphor

Carrington opens her blog by questioning the division of the world between North and South, centre and periphery and/or First and Third World. She claims these demarcations universalise theories of the North to cast the South as backwards. To buck this trend, Southern Criminology advocates for the equal acceptance of the North and the South, in which criminologists accept that the South is not lesser than the North. A move that, according to Carrington, would contribute to cognitive and global justice.

In conceptualising the South, Carrington describes it ‘as a metaphor’ for inequality. The blog does not contend with real power relations where inequality is not a metaphor. We assert this in a similar way to Tuck and Yang’s contention that ‘decolonization is not a metaphor’. Inequality is countenanced in everyday colonial institutions that dispossess Indigenous peoples of their land, destroy sacred sites, steal Indigenous children, kill Indigenous people in custody, condone racist policing, deny Indigenous people basic rights and silence Indigenous critiques and systems of knowledge. Unequal power relations have assured that First Nations people are hyperincarcerated across settler colonial societies and that Australia’s Indigenous people are the most incarcerated people on the planet.

Carrington’s choice of words, such as North and South, understates past and present structures of oppression. A telling omission in her language (and analysis) is the lack of reference to geo-political divisions of “colonisers and the colonised”. By failing to confront ongoing colonising relationships, the type of ‘Southern Criminology’ Carrington champions cannot challenge this divide. This is highlighted in its main mission to ‘democratize’ knowledge by promoting a partnership between the North and South through simply expanding ‘the repertoire of criminological knowledges’. The blog rejects the proposition that the ‘epistemologies of the south and north, east and west, Indigenous and non-Indigenous’ are ‘dichotomous’ or ‘mutually exclusive spaces or categories’, hence neglecting the colonising dynamics embedded in the construction of the divisions.

A decolonising lens reveals why these differences exist. Blagg and Anthony contend in Decolonising Criminology that the existence of the colonial world and its epistemologies, including its criminological mindset, relies on the colonisation and assimilation of Indigenous people and knowledges. Inferiorising Indigenous peoples and knowledges justifies colonisers’ self-proclaimed superior ideas and intrusive practises. Colonisers regarded Indigenous people as trespassers on their own land to enable settler violence and land take over. Constructs of Indigenous people as outlaws justified frontier massacres and segregation.

Universities are a symptom of colonial forces and their constructs of Indigenous people permeate the academy and research. Criminology in colonised states is preoccupied with identifying, quantifying, explaining, and fixing Indigenous “criminality”. The blog claims that bridges can be built between these approaches of the North and approaches in the South. However, a decolonial lens identifies that the North’s deficit discourse relating to Indigenous people stands at odds with the discourse of sovereignty of Indigenous people and the colonial harms of penal institutions. How can the colonising impetus of the North sit alongside theories of critical resistance and Indigenous self-determination? Conceivably, they cannot. If there are to be attempts at a reconciliation, the terms should be governed by principles of Indigenous self-determination to recognise the legacy of epistemological oppression.

Decolonisation seeks to disrupt the structures and theories of colonisation that are intent on eliminating Indigenous people. Juan Tauri’s decolonising research calls into question Criminology’s ‘veil of scientism’ that perpetuates ‘myth construction’ of Indigenous people’s inferiority and the colonial state’s superiority. Decolonial research has a different agenda (in relation to furthering Indigenous sovereignty and resistance), asks different questions (about the colonial harms of the state and ruling class) and applies decolonising methodologies (that radically critique colonial institutions, elevate the voices and knowledges of Indigenous people and accept different forms of knowledge sharing – song, poetry, art, film, ceremony etc). It supports a post-disciplinary approach in which university disciplines are not the central repository of knowledge production. It also challenges the focus of much of Criminology on policing, surveillance and prisons, and instead recognises that colonial harms against Indigenous people operate in a broader carceral network for which penality is only one site.

Southern Criminology’s false representation of decolonial approaches

Repeatedly through her blog, Carrington accuses ‘post-colonial/decolonial theories’ of reductionism and essentialism. Carrington states, ‘One of the problems with theories of decolonisation, has been the tendency to essentialise race and romanticise ethnicity’. Carrington cites Cain (2000) to suggest that decolonial critiques of Western Criminology engage with a ‘romanticization of “the other”’. Cain’s article, however, is not an analysis of decolonial thinkers. Rather, it takes aim at the ‘western criminology of orientalism’ because it ‘romanticizes the other’ (Cain 2000, 239); the reverse of what Carrington claims in her blog. The issue of misrepresentation of other’s work arises with Carrington’s use of de Sousa Santos’ work. Carrington also relies on de Sousa Santos (2014: 212) to argue that post-colonial/decolonial theories ‘reify and essentialise concepts, such as Eastern or Indigenous knowledge’ (Carrington’s words, not de Sousa Santos’). However, de Sousa Santos does not state this about post-colonial/decolonial theories. Instead, he identifies this trend in the Global North. In the cited reference, he critiques

both the reified dichotomies among alternative knowledges (e.g., indigenous knowledge versus scientific knowledge) and the unequal abstract status of different knowledges (e.g., indigenous knowledge as a valid claim of identity versus scientific knowledge as a valid claim of truth).

Following on from de Sousa Santos, decolonial approaches recognise that Indigenous knowledge – in its multiplicity of forms – is scientific knowledge. It provides a method for understanding the world and for continuing survival. Decolonial approaches can also use the tools of statistics to challenge colonial institutions. The research of Palawa woman and Professor Maggie Walter’s is a testament to this approach. In these ways, decolonial approaches reject that Indigenous knowledge is homogenous, “romantic” or reified – these are all ideas that stem from the Global North. Rather, it recognises the need to reclaim Indigenous knowledges from the melting pot of colonial knowledge and from misappropriation. As Māori scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith (2008, 62) attests in Decolonizing Methodologies,

[C]olonialism not only meant the imposition of Western authority over indigenous lands, indigenous modes of production and indigenous law arid government, but the imposition of Western authority over all aspects of indigenous knowledges, languages and cultures.

We can draw from Carrington’s use of other scholars’ work that misrepresentation can contribute to false claims. There is a high importance for criminologists to accurately present other scholars’ work in order to further knowledge.

Spurious claims of Southern Criminology

To defend Southern Criminology against decolonial approaches, Carrington claims that Blagg and Anthony’s book Decolonising Criminology reference ‘very few Indigenous scholars’. A careful examination of the text demonstrates that the contention is false. There are over 200 publications authored by Indigenous scholars, organisations and people on the ground that are quoted and cited. There would be few Criminology texts that could make this claim. To name a few Indigenous authors across the settler-colonial lands of Australia, Canada, New Zealand: Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Alfred Taiaike, Jackie Huggins, Eve Tuck, Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Peta MacGillivray, Pat Dudgeon, Amanda Porter, Jeff Corntassel, Alison Whittaker, Nicole Watson, Juanita Sherwood, Vanessa Davis, Peter Yu, Gallarrwuy Yunupingu, Willie Ermine, Martin Nakata, Sákéj Youngblood Henderson, Renee Linklater, Eddie Cubillo, Moana Jackson, and Ambelin Kwaymullina. By contrast, Carrington makes scant references to Indigenous researchers in her blog and article she and her co-authors’ published in the British Journal of Criminology, including from the country she occupies, Australia.

Not only does Decolonising Criminology reference Indigenous scholars in significant numbers, but more importantly, their ideas are centred – not because the authors reify them, but because they provide new understandings, Indigenous understandings derived from Indigenous lived experience. These have been silenced for over 500 years and, to use the blog’s own words, giving voice represents ‘cognitive justice’. The book is a challenge to criminological research that largely neglects the impacts of penality on Indigenous people and practises of Indigenous resistance and sovereignty. Key ideas in the book include Gaykamangu’s and Gaymarani’s analysis of the relationship between Indigenous and Western laws; Marie Battiste and Sákéj Youngblood Henderson’s notion of Indigenous Knowledge; Larissa Behrendt’s examination of the colonisation of Indigenous women; Audre Simpson’s concept of Indigenous refusal; Irene Watson’s critique of international law in the context of Indigenous sovereignty; Yin Paradies’ analysis of institutional racism and Juan Tauri’s critical examination of restorative justice. Decolonising Criminology includes a foreword by Wiradjuri woman and Pro Vice Chancellor First Nations Engagement, Professor Juanita Sherwood who states (2019, ix), ‘This book challenges the colonial epistemology of one truth and explores the expertise of First Peoples of Australia and their ways of knowing, being and doing regarding their experiences, circumstances and unfair treatment.’

Southern Criminology’s inconsistencies

There are a number of inconsistencies within the Southern Criminology schema and claims as set out by Carrington in the blog.

First, despite arguing that decolonial approaches essentialise Indigenous knowledge, Carrington claims that she herself has adopted a decolonial approach. Indeed, the title of her blog reads, ‘Decolonizing Criminology through the inclusion of epistemologies of the south’. She writes in the blog, ‘the southernizing of criminology pursues practical decolonizing projects’. The attempt to criticise decolonial approaches, on the one hand, and claim them, on the other hand, is inconsistent. It signals Southern Criminology’s gesture of claiming the decolonial space on its own terms while actively marginalising its decolonial and Indigenous detractors.

Second, Carrington criticises scholars who perceive the decolonial limitations of Southern Criminology, on the basis that they publish in ‘privileged journals in United States and England’. She does not appreciate the irony that her seminal piece on Southern Criminology was published in the British Journal of Criminology. In her blog, Carrington prides Southern Criminology on a conference co-hosted with the University of Oxford. With no disrespect to these forums, it is disingenuous to criticise decolonial thinkers who may engage in these forums. It also neglects the journals that are founded or edited by decolonial scholars such as the open-access journals, Decolonization of Criminology and Justice and Journal of Global Indigeneity. In response to Carrington’s claims on this issue, it can be argued that the best place for decolonial and Indigenous scholars to ensure their critique reaches Southern Criminologists is to publish in the journals that they clearly prefer because they do not cite or submit to decolonial or Indigenous journals.

Third, despite Carrington imploring intercultural exchange, she refutes a resurrection of ‘alternative origin stories or “founding fathers”, as some decolonial theorists have done’. Without identifying who these decolonial theorists are or the nature of these origin stories – in other words, without offering evidence to support her claims – these claims amount to an unevidenced rejection of alternative knowledges. Does she intend to demean stories about Country that are passed down by ancestors? Her denial of alternative stories is inconsistent with Southern Criminology’s calls for a cross-pollination of knowledge and perpetuates the dismissal of Indigenous knowledges.

Fourth, the blog suggests that the tendency of ‘theories of decolonisation … to essentialise race and romanticise ethnicity’ makes invisible the ‘gender of coloniality’. Carrington claims that ‘southern feminisms’ aim to ‘decolonise and democratise feminist theory … by embracing a mosaic of epistemologies’. However, Carrington’s own work eschews the epistemologies of Indigenous women. As discussed in the following section, deep seated concerns by Indigenous women scholars, including Amanda Porter, Crystal McKinnon and Marlene Longbottom, with Carrington’s methods and findings in her numerous publications on women’s police stations have remained unaddressed in her work.

Southern Criminology in practise 

Carrington’s recent research on women’s police stations signify the importation of assumptions of the Global North. Far from questioning the role of the police in women’s lives, especially its brutalising impacts on Indigenous women, Carrington seeks to layer gender into police operations. Injecting gender into policing operationalises Carrington’s objectives for Southern Criminology ‘to decenter, democratize and pluralize knowledge by injecting it with knowledge from the south and the periphery’. 

Carrington et al assert that the Argentinian model of women’s police stations ‘would be good for Aboriginal women’. She states (2020),

Australia does indeed have much to learn about how women’s police stations respond to and aim to prevent gender violence. If appropriately staffed by Indigenous and non-Indigenous teams trained to work from both gender and culturally sensitive perspectives, police stations designed to specifically respond to gender violence, have the potential to significantly enhance the policing and prevention of gender violence across Australia.

Carrington assumes that place-based practices from one side of the globe can be exported to another side of the globe. This is reminiscent of Western Criminology which applies, for example the family violence model from Duluth, Minnesota (which centres police and courts) to Indigenous people in remote Australia. Conversely, because the women’s police station model is from Argentina, ostensibly part of the ‘good South’, does not make it any more appropriate for Indigenous women. Carrington’s universalising methodology – where all practises from the South can be transferred – is tantamount to essentialising the South. This replicates one of the key critiques of the domination of ‘the North’, which is at the forefront of Southern Criminology, namely its long hegemony over the development and global transfer of theories, policies and interventions.

What this body of research reveals is that Southern Criminology reinstates the penal institutions that threaten Indigenous communities. This is because Southern Criminology ‘is blind to coloniality and, therefore, has yet to break away from criminology’s modern epistemological and ontological underpinnings’, as Eleni Dimou describes. It ignores calls by Indigenous scholars and campaigners to defund police. When Southern Criminology speaks of building bridges in Criminology, it amounts to incorporating elements of the South into the penal structures of the North. It has no regard for the fact that Australian Indigenous women who die in police custody often do so under the watch of women police officers. Women police officers served as the custody supervisors and lockup keepers when Indigenous women Tanya Day, Ms Dhu, and Rebecca Maher died in custody in Australia in recent years.

Confronting oppressive criminal institutions as a pathway to unity

In her blog, Carrington describes decolonising research – which identifies the colonial logic in penal enforcement – as ‘negative decolonial projects’. She claims that they ‘damn all criminologists as “racist”, “westerncentric” “control freaks” on some sort of “bandwagon”’, and once again she does so without providing any evidence to support her assertions. By contrast, Carrington venerates Southern Criminology’s projects for ‘bridging global divides’ and not setting out to ‘denigrate the contribution of metropolitan criminology’.

However, it is racism, its manifestation in Criminology and translation in carceral practices that are divisive and negative. By calling into question the deep-seated precepts of Criminology – namely, the criminality of the ‘Other’, the defence of penal institutions and the righteousness of universalising Western methods – we can imagine a different world. We can imagine a world that promotes collectivity, human rights, and Indigenous self-determination rather than one that depends on exclusion, hierarchy, and racism. A decolonising agenda is based on unifying humanity by dissolving the structures that divide us.

About the authors

Collectively and individually, our research identifies the colonial legacies in penal institutions, criminological thought and the broader carceral network. In our work and activism we seek to decolonise the carceral and criminological agendas so we can move beyond them.

Thalia Anthony is a Professor of Law at the University of Technology Sydney Thalia.anthony@uts.edu.au.

Robert Webb is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Auckland robert.webb@auckland.ac.nz.

Juanita Sherwood is a Professor and Pro Vice Chancellor First Nations Engagement at Charles Sturt University (NSW). jsherwood@csu.edu.au

Harry Blagg is a Professor of Criminology at the University of Western Australia. harry.blagg@uwa.edu.au

Antje Deckert is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Auckland University of Technology. Antje.deckert@aut.ac.nz

Main image courtesy of Montecruz Foto

The Grenfell 72 – Two Years On: Remember the dead and fight for the living!

Grenfell, two years on, amidst the layering of contempt shown to the survivors and bereaved families, the fight for truth, justice and accountability continues.

Sharon Hartles photo

Sharon Hartles is a MA Postgraduate Crime and Justice student with the Open University.  She has an interest in crimes of the powerful, including state and state-corporate crime.  In an explicit attempt to move beyond criminology, she draws upon a zemiological approach to evidence the social, political and economic context in which crime is produced and interwoven into society via socio-economic inequalities.

The Grenfell Tragedy is an account that needs to be chronologically told to uncover the state and corporate subterfuge which orchestrated untold harms. Cutting corners, unresponsive local authority bodies and capitalist/aesthetic concerns will reveal the contempt to which this community was shown, elevating the scale of injustice. Drawing upon a counter hegemony approach, are there any lessons that can be learned to prevent such negligent disasters from re-occurring?

Wednesday 14th June 2017, is a date which is etched into the memory and hearts of thousands. A date which resonates loss and grief so painful that no amount of selected words will ever be able to offer any more than a symbolic gesture of empathetic comfort to the Grenfell community affected by the events which took place on that day have since unfolded and are still unravelling.

The 14th June 2017, was not going to be another ordinary day for the residents of Grenfell Tower, a twenty-three storey residential block of flats in West London, Kensington, or for the wider Grenfell community. Instead, the 14th June 2017 was going to be the day in which one of the UK’s worst, modern, avoidable disasters was going to take place. Just before 1:00am, a fire broke out in the kitchen of flat 16 which was situated on the fourth floor. An inferno soon took hold and Grenfell Tower burned. Despite the heroic efforts of the fire-fighters, the untenable situation meant that the Grenfell Tower burned for 24 hours before the blaze burnt itself out.

What was known as ‘home’ to approximately 350 people, had been engulfed in flames and smouldered until all that remained was a devoured, burnt-out carcass. In the immediate aftermath, the range of readily visible harms such as the loss of homes and possessions was apparent. However, this became interlaced with the realisation that along with the physical harms in the forms of injuries to approximately 107 individuals, this preventable tragedy had claimed the lives of 72 people. Seventy-two human beings had their lives stolen away from them in a horrific and inhumane traumatic event.

The realm of academia challenges the ball and chain approach (gate-keeping of knowledge) dares to defy the status quo imposed and governed by the powerful elite, such as state and corporations. By adopting a resistance perspective, this articulates how these ‘uncomfortable truths’ can be brought into the mainstream public domain. In remembrance of the Grenfell 72, in solidarity for the fight for the living, and through counter hegemony the truth will continue to be revealed.

In November 2018, at a public inquiry, Dr Glover, an electrical fire expert, concluded that a probable cause of the Grenfell Tower fire was a poor crimp connection. This led to an overheating within the compressor relay compartment of a Hotpoint fridge-freezer (Model FF176BP). What is startling is that plastic back casings which are combustible, contributing to the fire, comply with safety requirements in the UK. In contrast, the same appliances made in the US are required by Underwriters Laboratory Standards to be fitted with metallic steel casings as a preventative measure because they are non-combustible and they also help to contain internal fires for a longer amount of time.

The Grenfell Tragedy was certainly an event which caused and is still provoking great suffering, destruction and distress, but it was so much more than just a situated event. The Grenfell Tragedy was avoidable, preventable and foreseeable, it was not an accident and there was nothing natural about the systematic layering of failures which led to the catalyst moment that sparked the fire. The 72 residents of Grenfell Tower who had their lives snatched away should not be passed off as ‘fire-related fatalities’. The faulty malfunctioning appliance (that posed a so called ‘low risk’ – which might have posed an even ‘lower risk’ had it been fitted with a metallic steel casing instead of a plastic casing) was merely the tip of an iceberg in relation to the series of political and economic facilitated failures which led to the Grenfell Tragedy. The 72 deaths were a direct result of crimes of the powerful, and as such form part of the ever-increasing death toll of state-corporate-related fatalities.

To the detriment of the residents of the Grenfell Tower, like the vast majority of high-rise buildings in the UK, it was not fitted with a sprinkler system. Nick Paget-Brown, the Tory leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, stated “There was not a collective view that all the flats should be fitted with sprinklers because that would have delayed and made the refurbishment of the block more disruptive”. The British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association estimated the cost of installing a sprinkler system in Grenfell Tower to be £200,000.

Summerland (1973), Knowsley Heights (1991), Garnock Court (1999), Harrow Court (2005) and Lakenal House (2009) were the locations where five fire disasters took place, all of which preceded Grenfell.  The Fires That Foretold Grenfell as they are now referred to, predicted a Grenfell-type inferno happening in Britain. More harrowingly, in November 2016, seven months prior to the Grenfell fire, the Grenfell Action Group predicted that a fire would take place in one of the tower blocks managed by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) due to what it referred to as the poor safety record encompassing dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation. “We have blogged many times on the subject of fire safety at Grenfell Tower” “showing the poor safety record of the KCTMO should a fire affect any other of their properties and cause the loss of life that we are predicting.”

In July 2016, KCTMO’s capitalist fuelled mindset, absolute disregard for health and safety legislation and therefore contempt for the Grenfell Tower residents, (their tenants and leaseholders) was captured “We need good costs for Cllr Feilding-Mellen and the planner tomorrow at 8.45am!“. The ‘good costs’ referred to was a saving of £293,368. KCTMO allegedly gave in to pressure from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKCC) to save money and cost cutting measures led to Rydon (instead of D+B Facades) securing the Grenfell Tower cladding contract. In addition to this, subsequent haggling of a £293,368 saving reflected a further downgrade of the cladding selected for installation. In order to make this saving, the zinc cladding approved by residents was replaced, after tender, with cheaper aluminium. Despite this alleged ‘pressure’ KCTMO designed and delivered the Grenfell Tower refurbishment with consent and blessing from the RBKCC via their shared common interests, taking the form of health and safety regulation breaches. In this regard it is clearer to see how the capitalist modus operandi approach was championed – instead of a safety driven decision-making strategy – which inevitably led to the Grenfell Towering Inferno.

Life is priceless and no price should ever be put on the value of a life, yet it can be claimed that the RBKCC and KCTMO profit interests came before health and safety considerations, illustrating how the value each of the 72 residents who lost their life based on the £293,368 saving to be worth £4,074. Furthermore, in retrospect this equates to a valued life worth £838 when calculated between the approximate 350 residents who resided in Grenfell Tower at the time these cost cutting savings were agreed.

The cladding signed off for use by the RBKCC (suspected of fuelling the deadly conflagration), failed to meet the governments ‘A’ rating safety standards. By the time the cladding had been installed and due to the panel type (cassette system) fitted, the cladding panel rating varied from a ‘B’ and ‘E’ classification. An industry source discerned that “you wouldn’t put E on a dog kennel“. If KCTMO or the RBKCC had spent a little time looking into the cladding from a health and safety perspective, instead of a capitalist standpoint they would have been aware of this information.

In an interim report commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government, (published on December 2017) Dame Judith Hackitt advised “the whole system of regulation, covering what is written down and the way in which it is enacted in practice, is not fit for purpose, leaving room for those who want to take shortcuts to do so.” Therefore, it is contemptible to know that the building control managers at RBKCC approved the Grenfell cladding system, proposed by Rydon, without being in receipt of proof that relevant and up-to-date testing (BS 8414) had been carried out. Moreover, they were never going to get confirmation because it would have failed the standards process. In a nutshell, what this meant is that the responsibility for compliance (duty of care) with the Building Regulations rested with those carrying out work and building control bodies. Consequently, the complex chain of companies involved in the Grenfell Tower refurbishment project should not be used as a “problem of many hands” excuse resulting in a defence of  “diffusion of responsibility” for health and safety negligence. Within the process of outsourcing a chain of companies, who share a common goal, such as refurbishing Grenfell Tower, in effect, were authorised to act as a single entity, ultimately on behalf of the RBKCC. With that said, any and all attempts made by RBKCC to deny responsibility for the group of companies authorised in law to act as a ‘corporation of sorts’ through their signed contracts, only adds insult to injury.

What is even more senseless, is the fact that cladding was never part of the original refurbishment plans for Grenfell Tower. The cladding company D+B Facades provided a quote of £3.3 million, a figure based on “A1 non-combustible” cladding system, solid aluminium sheets, backed with mineral wool insulation which does not burn. It is ironic that KCTMO put the cladding contract out to tender and yet ended up “agreeing to an overall budget that put the cost for the cladding and insulation at £3.5 million – £200,000 more than D+B Facades’ quote for the noncombustible materials.” So, had the KCTMO not deviated from the original refurbishment planning for Grenfell Tower, it could have saved the RBKCC £3.5 million because the cladding was not mandatory.

With this in mind, it begs the question, why was the cladding included at a later date as part of the Grenfell Tower refurbishment? The answer and reason why cladding was added to the external faces of the Grenfell Tower, only adds to the disbelief and fuelled anger shared with the bereaved families and the Grenfell survivors. 72 Grenfell residents lost their lives, notwithstanding the subsequent multitude of harms that have followed, so that the “character and appearance of the area are preserved and living conditions of those living near the development suitably protected.” So the ‘uncomfortable truth’ of the matter is that the home of the Grenfell Tower residents was insulated in cladding, that was not fit for purpose, by RBKCC, (which is the wealthiest constituency in England) to improve its appearance when viewed by the  conservation areas and luxury flats that surround north Kensington. Clearly, this is distressing to know that the lives and health and safety of the residents who resided in the Grenfell Tower was of no concern to KCTMO and RBKCC, while ensuring it looked aesthetically pleasing was paramount.

Whether RBKCC is recognised as a representative of the state or as a corporate entity in its own right, its relationship with KCTMO facilitated the Grenfell Tower tragedy, of which there can be little doubt. As such, this event can be re-labelled as a state-corporate crime, which can be understood through the acts or omissions which resulted from deliberate decision-making committed in pursuit of its common goals such as profitability. Alternative labelling includes harms of capitalism, which have been socially mediated within harmful societies, or social murder, resulting in unnatural death as an inevitable consequence of conditions imposed by state and corporations. Regardless of the critical criminological framing lens, the focus remains on the visible and invisible, known and unknown harms which have manifested, and other harms which may not become clear for decades to come.

If this preventable loss of lives was not appalling enough, the bereaved families, survivors and the wider Grenfell community battle through daily barriers of contempt in their pursuit for Truth, Justice and Accountability for the Grenfell 72. The promise of a swift inquiry is broken and replaced with delays possibly extending to 2022, as detectives continue the investigation into a range of offences from corporate manslaughter to health and safety breaches. We can only hold out hope that the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, is able to bring some form of accountability for the Grenfell community. Sadly, the reality is that no large organisation such as RBKCC or KCTMO has been successfully convicted of deaths resulting from gross breaches of a duty of care, it seems very unlikely that the bereaved families will get justice for the Grenfell 72.

This is merely the latest unfolding harm, to be added to a series of failings, broken promises and contempt that have manifested and have been inflicted upon the survivors, bereaved families and immediate Grenfell community since Wednesday 14th June 2017. These harms extend beyond the physical to include social, economic, psychological and environmental harms as the following five examples demonstrate:

In the wake of the cladding scandal and the knowledge that this cladding was the popular choice selected in cost-conscious council refurbishment schemes, Theresa May pledged £400 million towards the removal of flammable cladding, in particular Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding, (aluminium cladding panels containing a plastic filling) from social housing such as councils and housing association properties. In November 2018, Housing Secretary, James Brokenshire, gave authorities power to remove panels from private blocks of flats and bill landlords, but these “are proving largely useless”.  In May 2019, a welcomed allocation of £200 million has been confirmed by Theresa May to remove combustible cladding from privately owned tower blocks. However, this small step will not cover all the costs.

According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s Building Safety Programme (as at 31st March 2019), only 89 buildings in England (comprising of both social and private sector) have had remediation work to remove Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding systems out of 434 identified. The remedial work on buildings has been laboriously slow. The 345 buildings, yet to be remediated (this number does not include 15 private sector buildings where the cladding status is still to be confirmed) are unlikely to meet Building Regulations. Therefore, the residents occupying these properties are living in fear, as the latest fire in Vallea Court, a private block in Manchester with Grenfell style cladding on the 4th May 2019 has proven.

Despite losing their loved ones, neighbours and homes in the Grenfell Tower fire, and facing a daily battle against contempt, Grenfell United, a registered family association, made up exclusively of Grenfell Tower survivors and bereaved families, have drawn upon their grief and experiences and channelled this into a campaign which actively calls for the Government to create a new housing regulator that works for tenants. The aim of their campaign is to send a clear message to the government that all “people living in social housing deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.” Two years on from 14th June 2017, the Grenfell survivors, bereaved families and community stand united in solidarity to ensure that Grenfell will not be forgotten and will remain forever in our hearts; as they work together for their community and campaign for safe homes, justice and real change for people across the country.

For those who want to show their support you are warmly invited to attend an evening of remembrance, entailing: Wreath Laying at the Tower, Multi Faith Vigil and a Silent Walk. Alternatively, why not take action by holding a Green 4 Grenfell Day between 14 June and 28 June 2019 and do something good for your community by supporting a local cause? Or simply wear green as a mark of respect for the bereaved families, survivors, the Grenfell community and in remembrance of the Grenfell 72 who lost their lives:

Tony Disson, Ali Yawar Jafari, Abdeslam Sebbar, Denis Murphy, Zainab Deen, Jeremiah Deen, Mohammad Alhajali, Steve Power, Hamid Kani, Debbie Lamprell, Majorie Vital, Ernie Vital, Joseph Daniels, Sheila Smith, Kamru Miah, Rabeya Begum, Husna Begum, Mohammed Hanif, Mohammed Hamid, Khadija Khaloufi, Vincent Chiejina, Isaac Paulos,  Birkti Haftom, Biruk Haftom, Sakina Afrasehabi, Fatemeh Afrasiabi, Mohamednur Tuccu, Amal Ahmedin, Amaya Tuccu-Ahmedin, Eslah Elgwahry, Mariem Elgwahry, Mary Mendy, Khadija M Saye, Jessica Urbano Ramirez, Farah Hamdan, Omar Belkadi, Leena Belkadi, Malak Belkadi, Abdulaziz El Wahabi, Faouzia El Wahabi, Yasin El Wahabi, Nur Huda El Wahabi, Medhi El Wahabi, Logan Gomes, Raymond ‘Moses’ Bernard, Ligaya Moore, Nura Jemal, Hashim Kedir, Yahya Hashim, Firdaws Hashim, Yaqub Hashim, Sirria Choucair, Bassem Choukair, Nadia Choukair, Fatima Choukair, Mierna Choukair, Zainab Choucair, Marco Gottardi, Gloria Trevisan, Hesham Rahman, Mohamed Neda, Gary Maunders, Abufars Mohamed Ibrahim, Isra Ibrahim, Rania Ibrahim, Fethia Hassan, Hania Hassan, Victoria King, Alexandra Atala, Maria Del Pilar Burton,  Fathia Ali Ahmed Elsanosi, Amna Mahmud Idris.

 

Contact

Sharon Hartles, MA Postgraduate Crime and Justice student with the Open University

Email: sh28739@ou.ac.uk

Twitter: @shartles1

Images: courtesy of the author

Working Together: ‘Invisible’ crimes, victimisations and social harms

The BSC Victims Network hosted their first research planning and writing day. Reflections include participants feedback.

Dr Hannah Bows is currently a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Teesside University. Her research coalesces around age/ageing, victimisation and gender with particular interests in violent crime against older women. Her recent work includes a national study of rape against older people, a national study profiling homicide of older people and a study exploring ‘risk’ in relation to older sex offenders and policing. She is the editor of a forthcoming two-volume edited collection on Violence Against Older Women (Palgrave MacMillan, 2019) and monograph based on her national study of rape against older people (Routledge, 2018). Outside of the university, she is the deputy director of the BSC Victims Network, Chair of Age UK Teesside and sits as a Magistrate on the Durham and Darlington bench. From August 2018 she will be taking up the role of Assistant Professor in Criminal Law at Durham University.

Professor Pamela Davies lectures in Criminology in the Department of Social Sciences at Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Pam’s main research interests are victimological and connect to criminal and non-criminal types of victimisation and social harm. She has a particular focus on gender, crime and victimization and has engaged in research and evaluations of gender based violence.  Pam has published widely on the subject of victims, victimization and social harm and on how gender connects to matters of community safety. She has authored Gender, Crime and Victimisation (Sage) and has co-edited a number of texts including Victims, Crime and Society (2007, 2017), Invisible Crimes and Social Harms (2014) and Doing Criminological Research (2000, 2011, 2018).

 

As we write this, the BBC is airing The Stephen Lawrence Story. This brutal murder and three part documentary of it is a chilling reminder of the vocabularies of victimization. The death of Stephen provoked a fight for justice by his parents, which has changed the landscape of policing and race relations. This and other well publicized forms of criminal victimization including sexual exploitation and systematic abuse of vulnerable young people in our neighborhoods and the continued efforts to tackle violence against women and girls are sad indictments of life in 21st century Britain.

The BSC Victims Network is a collection of people within the criminology community who have interests around victims of crime and social harm, survivors and resilience. We are committed to raising awareness of ‘invisible’ crimes, victimisations and social harms and to securing justice for those experiencing or affected by crime, atrocities, disasters and injustices through our scholarly activities. The Network facilitates the cross-national exchange of work and ideas relating to these concerns under the shorthand label ‘victims’.  The network brings individuals together to facilitate and promote theory development and research. It provides an arena for information exchange, critical analysis and debate across the research, policy and practice communities – nationally and internationally – encourages networking between academics, researchers, practitioners and students, and looks for opportunities to secure research or consultancy income.

On 26 March 2018, the British Society of Criminology Victims Network (BSCVN) hosted the first research planning and writing day for 17 members at Sheffield Hallam University. Participants immersed themselves in thinking about, discussing and writing about some of the most seriously debilitating experiences imaginable including the direct and indirect impact of criminal and non- criminal forms of victimization, harm and suffering. The day was divided into two parts: established academics met to discuss research ideas or plans, develop networks and collaborations and discussed funding opportunities and early career academics and postgraduate students took part in a writing day, with each ECR/PG assigned to one of the established academics for mentoring and supporting.

The day kicked off over coffee (of course) at 9.30am, where all delegates introduced themselves and their research and outlined their plans and goals for the day: most members had a specific book, chapter or journal article that they wanted to work on and most set an ambitious target of 500 words by the end of the day. Following this, the writers convened and spent the morning writing with mentoring support built in. After a delicious lunch, featuring cake and coffee, members reconvened to discuss how the morning had gone and revise/confirm their goals/targets for the afternoon session. Professor Davies provided an overview of her and Professor Matthew Hall’s current book series on ‘Victims and Victimology’ and explained the publishing process for those interested in submitting proposals.

A general discussion of publishing, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and approaches to writing followed before members returned to writing and/or research planning. At the end of the day, members reconvened to reflect on how the day had gone, what they had achieved and what their goals were going forward.

I just wanted to thank you (and Hannah – who I’ll also email) so much for organising such a brilliant day. I really appreciated the opportunity to meet new colleagues and the time away from my institution to think. It was a very valuable day and I am still working my way through the list of ideas and “to dos” and feeling quite inspired!

The day provided a much-needed opportunity for members to have dedicated time to write/plan research and discuss ideas, challenges and opportunities with colleagues. The day was supportive and feedback during and after the event attested to the importance of having the time and space to write, and to the benefit of having the opportunity to talk with colleagues, discuss tips and the ups and downs of writing, and bounce around ideas.

Thanks again for a great day

 – what a good day it was! Thanks so much (and to Hannah) for organising – it was a productive and thoroughly enjoyable day! I hope you both got home ok? 

Thank you very much for the BSC Victims Day. It was a very productive day and great to meet some new faces….

 I just want to thank you for a very useful and constructive day. I really enjoyed the balance of writing and networking/collaborating – the day was well structured.

Following this success, we hope to organise similar events in the future. Watch this space!

If you want to join us, do subscribe to our jisc list here – www.jiscmail.ac.uk/BSCVICTIMSNETWORK

Contact

Hannah Bows – Teesside University

Email: hannah.bows@durham.ac.uk

Twitter: @Hannah_Bows

Pamela Davies – Northumbria University

Email: pamela.davies@northumbria.ac.uk

 

Copyright free image: from BSC website

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