For LGBT People, Criminal Justice Equality Remains Elusive

While same-sex sexual activity is no longer criminalised in much of the Western world, and acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people is growing, full equality for LGBT people before the law and criminal justice systems remains elusive.

Matthew Ball Author image

Dr Matthew Ball, Crime and Justice Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology

 

 

While same-sex sexual activity is no longer criminalised in much of the Western world, and acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people is growing, full equality for LGBT people before the law and criminal justice systems remains elusive. Taking stock of some of these inequalities in Australia, the USA, and the UK reveals some startling insights into the extent of this inequality, and highlights where criminal justice practitioners, governments, and communities must continue to fight for change.

The ‘Bathroom Bills’ recently proposed in some US states are clear examples of recent attempts to reinforce legal inequality. These laws intend to force people to use public bathrooms that match the sex on their birth certificate, whether or not this aligns with their gender identity. These laws specifically (and deliberately) intend to expose transgender people to possible legal sanctions simply for using facilities that align with their gender, and force them to use facilities in which they may be at risk of violence. In Queensland, Australia, the homosexual advance (or ‘gay panic’) defence was only removed in March 2017. This legal defence allowed murder charges to be reduced to manslaughter if the deceased ‘made a pass’ at the perpetrator, to which the perpetrator reacted violently. This was an acceptable legal defence for a gay hate crime – one that South Australia has yet to remove. These laws play on old ideas that LGBT people are deceptive or predatory, and pose a threat, whether to children or heterosexuality.

While governments have recently expunged the criminal records of those convicted under sodomy laws, and issued formal apologies to LGBT people for government and police behaviour, for many LGBT people, the damage to their lives has been done. They may have lost jobs – or been unable to apply for others – because of their criminal record. In some jurisdictions, despite having had consensual sex with another adult who just happened to be the same sex, they may have had to register as a sex offender. The historic criminalisation of LGBT people thus casts a long shadow.

It might be less surprising that LGBT people remain the victims of some truly horrific hate crimes. The recent murders of fourteen-year-old Giovanni Melton and eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, allegedly committed by their fathers who feared having gay sons, highlight the extreme family violence often directed at LGBT people. Hate-motivated violence from strangers also remains a significant issue. For example, while there is debate over whether to classify the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in the US as a terrorist attack or hate crime, the fact remains that most of the 49 victims were Latino LGBT people.

These are certainly extreme events and receive significant media coverage. However, the everyday forms of victimisation that LGBT people experience often remain overlooked. In Australia, it has taken recent debates over marriage equality and the Safe Schools anti-bullying program to expose the largely invisible undercurrent of homophobia and transphobia impacting on LGBT people. This has been lent some political legitimacy by prominent politicians such as former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has very publicly stated that ‘It’s OK to say No’ to marriage equality. This has also limited progress in other areas where LGBT people experience significant victimisation. Evidence suggests that LGBT people experience domestic violence and ‘revenge porn’-related offences just as much, or at higher rates, than non-LGBT people, and yet this research has not translated into visible public campaigns to address these offences.

A key aspect of the inequalities experienced by LGBT people in the criminal justice system is their interactions with police. Unsurprisingly, given the historical role of the police as a source of injustice and discrimination in their lives – whether by arresting them for same-sex sexual activity, failing to take their victimisation seriously, or committing acts of violence against them – many LGBT people remain reluctant to report victimisation to the police. This has a very direct impact on their access to justice.

Police services have taken great strides in many respects to improve their relationships with LGBT people. I’ve spoken to many police officers who demonstrate a real commitment to change. The Queensland Police Service recently released a powerful video of officers talking about the struggles they have faced as LGBT people themselves. In 2016, Constable Mairead Devlin, a transgender police officer, raised a rainbow flag to celebrate International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) at Queensland Police headquarters. Similar visible symbols of support are not unusual across the UK and USA, with police services increasingly participating in LGBT-related campaigns, such as Wear it Purple Day or IDAHOT. While these attempts to shape the ‘public image’ of the police can be dismissed as symbolic, these symbols are nevertheless powerful. They may actually lead to a victim of hate crime reporting to police as opposed to suffering in silence.

But healing the historical rifts between the LGBT community and the police is challenging. Even where significant progress has been made over decades to do so, it only takes one incident – or one homophobic or transphobic officer – to open up old wounds. The violent arrest of Jamie Jackson Reed, a young gay man, at the 2013 Sydney Mardi Gras Parade, which was filmed and subsequently circulated online, led to questions about just how committed police were to LGBT people, even in the Australian city considered the most progressive on these issues. Incidents such as these have a disproportionate impact on the levels of trust LGBT people have in the police. And they only entrench the difficulties that LGBT people experience accessing justice.

The barriers that LGBT people encounter accessing justice also appear in the harshest part of the criminal justice system – imprisonment. And nothing illustrates this more than the experiences of transgender inmates, who have long encountered significant and unique inequalities here. Transgender inmates have been uniquely impacted by our long-standing tendency to house male and female prisoners separately, based on the sex assigned to them at birth and not on the basis of their gender identity – regardless of whether or not they have undergone any kind of hormonal, surgical, or social transition. This means that transgender prisoners have continually experienced institutional misgendering, and had restricted access to gender-appropriate clothing or personal items, hormones, and transition processes.

These policies have had serious and compounding impacts on transgender inmates. Not only have they impacted significantly on their mental health, but they have also put them at risk of violence from other inmates. The unique vulnerabilities of transgender inmates have often led to them being housed in high-security areas or solitary confinement, not because of any wrongdoing on their part, but for their ‘protection’ from other prisoners. The resulting increase in security measures governing their lives in prison has further limited their ability to express their gender identity while incarcerated. Coupled with the isolation that comes with such housing, it has only increased their risk of suicide.

Though prison authorities are increasingly recognising and responding to these unique needs, as suggested by the recent UK Ministry of Justice ‘Review on the Care and Management of Transgender Offenders’, and the guidelines issued by the US Department of Justice, change is not yet widespread. In some jurisdictions, limited information about the policies underpinning the treatment of transgender inmates is available, and little is known about the experiences of transgender inmates themselves. And the rights of transgender inmates to access surgery and other treatments as part of their transition remains hotly debated in some contexts.

While the injustices discussed here are significant – and certainly not exhaustive – important changes have occurred to improve equality for LGBT people in the criminal justice system. And the pace of change is tied to broader social gains addressing other inequalities facing LGBT people. After all, efforts to improve reporting and response rates for homophobic and transphobic hate crimes are only effective as long as there is a broader social commitment to eliminating homophobia and transphobia.

However, those seeking to address legal and criminal justice inequalities face the danger that the broader social appetite for equality for LGBT people extends only to more ‘palatable’ issues such as marriage equality, or violence prevention, and not less popular issues such as the treatment of transgender prisoners. Meaningful change in the interests of justice obliges us to pursue goals that may not be immediately embraced by the public at large. Those who fought against criminalisation, and who sought to separate in the public’s mind LGBT people from the ‘sex offenders’ and ‘perverts’ they had long been associated with, faced similar problems.

Major gains have only occurred because LGBT people have had their voices heard, their unique experiences of legal and criminal justice acknowledged, and because police, government, and community leaders have recognised the need for business as usual to change. These must remain key components in the struggle to achieve greater justice and equality for LGBT people.

 

Dr Matthew Ball is a researcher in the Crime and Justice Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology, Australia. His research examines sexuality, gender, and the criminal justice system, and he has published widely. Matthew is the author of Criminology and Queer Theory: Dangerous Bedfellows?, and co-editor of Queering Criminology.

Email: mj.ball@qut.edu.au

Twitter: @Dr_Matt_Ball

Copyright free image: from author.

Crime and ASB victimisation on Social Renters

A TseloniAndromachi Tseloni leads the Quantitative and Spatial Criminology Research Group at NTU. Her research revolves around risk and protective factors of (repeat) crime victimisation, perceived crime risk and disorder, and the role of security and routine activities in the crime drop.

 

Rich Pickford takes the lead on facilitating RPickfordconnections between researchers, communities, business and citizens and maximising the impact of Nottingham Civic Exchange’s work.

 

 

Social renting households experience the highest levels of crime victimisation by housing tenure types according to research based on national crime statistics from the Crime Survey for England and Wales. At a period of sustained reduction in crime it is imperative to recognise and seek solutions for groups who have not benefited from this crime drop.

Nottingham Trent University’s Quantitative and Spatial Criminology (QSC) Research Group has done in-depth research in this area. This article will highlight research and recommendations related to Social Renters with a particular focus on:

  • Household Crime
  • Personal Crime
  • Witnessing or Experiencing Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB)

Extensive analysis of various years of crime survey data (from 1990s through to 2014) undertaken by the first author highlights that social renters experienced between double and 10 times the national average household crimes depending on their area of residence and year of victimisation (Tseloni et al. 2004; Tseloni 2006). Specifically in relation to owner occupiers social renters on average suffer:

  • 70% more household thefts;
  • 40% more criminal damage (Osborn and Tseloni 1998);
  • 50% more burglaries including attempts (Hunter and Tseloni 2016); and
  • roughly 40% more burglaries and household thefts.

Crucially social renters’ relative burglary risk has tripled compared to owner occupiers over the period of the crime drop (Tseloni and Thompson forthcoming).

The QSC’s research and testing in Nottingham shows that deploying the WIDE combination of household security has the biggest impact. WIDE stands for Windows that lock with a key, Internal lights on timer, Door double or dead locks, and External lights on a sensor. Homes in England and Wales with this combination are 49 times safer from burglary with entry than those without any security devices (Tseloni et al. 2017). The moderate cost of this combination makes it an attractive prevention tool that can be widely deployed. Further research shows it is also the most cost effective & environmentally friendly system of burglary prevention (Skudder et al. 2017). By contrast alarms on average moderately increase the risk of burglary (Tilley et al. 2015).

We recommend that social renter providers deploy the WIDE principles across their housing stock, and be prudent on relying on burglar alarms to prevent burglaries.

WIDE

Window locks, Internal lights, Door double or dead locks, External lights.

Social renters experience 40% more personal crimes within their neighbourhood (within a 15’ walk from home) than owner occupiers regardless of where their neighbourhood is situated (Tseloni and Pease 2015). Specifically in relation to owner occupiers social renters on average suffer:

  • an increased number of thefts from person and robberies (Thompson 2014);
  • 85% higher odds of assault in the night-time economy (Garius 2016); and
  • nearly double number of violence incidents perpetrated by acquaintances, that is people they know just to speak to casually / just by sight, neighbours, workmates / work colleagues, clients / members of public contacted through work, friends / acquaintances, or local children (Tseloni 2016).

Also social renters’ relative risk of violence by acquaintances has moderately increased compared to owner occupiers over the period of the crime drop (ibid).

This research highlights the increased risks faced by social renters. The QSC research has informed engagement and awareness campaigns and we are happy to talk further about this work. It has nudged the Office for National Statistics to provide the online individual victimisation predictor tool (Pease and Tseloni 2014). It can help national and local crime prevention agencies and crime and safety partnerships to understand their area risk profile for a variety of crime types and target messaging to support clients (Hunter et al, 2018; Hunter 2017). These research findings could be used to lobby government and local policy makers to ensure resources are allocated to this pressing issue.

Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) is a term that includes a wide and diverse mix of ‘social disorders or incivilities’ which can range from harassment and intimidating behaviour to dangerous or inconsiderate vehicle driving. The Crime Survey for England and Wales identifies 13 types of ASB whereas the police classifies reported ASB into three possible but not mutually exclusive categories: personal, nuisance and environmental.

Social renters have in comparison to owner occupiers higher odds of experiencing or witnessing ASB by roughly:

  • 30% with regards to criminal ASB (this includes criminal damage / graffiti, harassment / intimidation, others using / dealing drugs, dangerous dogs, and indecent sexual acts);
  • 20% with regards to inconsiderate social ASB (this includes inconsiderate behaviour, loud music / noise, litter / dog fouling, nuisance neighbours, and begging / vagrancy / homeless);
  • 40% with regards to vehicle related ASB; and
  • 20% with regards to ASB from groups hanging about (Ward et al. 2017).

These figures have highlighted a real need to further understand this issue.  The QSC team are currently undertaking further research on ASB.  If you wish to be kept informed of this research please contact the research lead, Dr. Becky Thompson, at rebecca.thompson02@ntu.ac.uk.

We hope our research is used as justification and evidence to stakeholders and partners to tackle traditional volume crimes and ASB by directing scarce crime prevention resources towards target hardening social renting households and their physical environments.

The Quantitative and Spatial Criminology Research Group at Nottingham Trent University is continuing to develop research in this area.  We are keen to work with crime prevention agencies to make society a safer place by developing collaborative work. Further research is currently being developed on similar issues, including, for example, investigating the place and community cohesion effects on crime rates and perceived victimisation risk.

If you are interested in hearing more about this research or some of our previous studies highlighted here on burglary and violence we welcome your contact. Our work is always undertaken with partners tackling issues outside of academia and we value the opportunity to test and develop our research in this way to ensure it has non-academic use and value.

The Quantitative and Spatial Criminology Research Group at NTU has vast expertise in producing internationally leading research often in collaboration with crime prevention agencies that informs public protection policies. Our aim is to develop a better understanding of the factors that shape victimisation across different crime types and ASB in order to inform crime reduction and public reassurance initiatives. The group has extensive expertise in Public Protection informing research, in particular identifying population groups and areas vulnerable to crime and ASB, effective and efficient crime prevention initiatives and their evaluation.

 Academic References

Garius, L.L. (2016) Opportunities for physical assault in the night-time economy in England and Wales, 1981-2011/12. PhD Thesis, Loughborough University.

Hunter, J. (2017) “Helping police forces to engage with their local communities: A bespoke Community Engagement Area Classification at the LSOA level across the East Midlands.” Report to the College of Policing.

Hunter, J., Garius, L., Hamilton, P. and Wahidin, A. (2018) Who steals from shops, and why?, in V. Ceccato and R. Armitage (eds.) International Perspectives on Retail Crime. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan (in print).

Hunter, J. and Tseloni, A. (2016) Equity, justice and the crime drop: The case of burglary in England and Wales. Crime Science. 5(3). DOI10.1186/s40163-016-0051-z Open Access.

Osborn, D.R. and Tseloni, A. (1998) The distribution of household property crimes. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 14, 307-330.

Pease, K. and Tseloni, A. (2014) Using modelling to predict and prevent victimisation. Springer-Brief Criminology Series, New York: Springer. ISBN: 978-3-319-03184-2 (Print) 978-3-319-03185-9 (Online).

Skudder, H., Brunton-Smith, I., Tseloni, A., McInnes, A., Cole, J., Thompson, R. and Druckman, A. (2017) Can Burglary Prevention be Low Carbon and Effective? Investigating the environmental performance of burglary prevention measures. Security Journal. DOI: 10.1057/s41284-017-0091-4 Open Access.

Thompson, R. (2014) Understanding Theft from the Person and Robbery of Personal Property Victimisation Trends in England and Wales, 1994-2010/11. PhD Thesis, Nottingham Trent University. ​

Tilley, N., Thompson, R., Farrell, G., Grove, L. and Tseloni, A. (2015) Do burglar alarms increase burglary risk? A counter-intuitive finding and possible explanations. Crime Prevention and Community Safety: An International Journal, 17(1), 1-19 DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1057/cpcs.2014.17 Open Access.

Tseloni, A. (2006) Multilevel modelling of the number of property crimes: Household and area effects. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A-Statistics in Society, 169, Part 2, 205-233.

Tseloni (2016) “Stranger and acquaintance violence in England and Wales: Trends, equity and threats.” Crime Surveys Users Meeting, Royal Statistical Society, London. 9 December 2016. Also see: http://www.ntu.ac.uk/apps/research/groups/4/home.aspx/ project/178996/overview/violence_trends).

Tseloni, A. and Pease, K. (2015) Area and individual differences in personal crime victimisation incidence: The role of individual, lifestyle /routine activities and contextual predictors. International Review of Victimology, 21(1), 3-29.

Tseloni, A. and Thompson, R. (forthcoming) Highly targeted population groups lacking adequate burglary security over time, in A. Tseloni, R. Thompson and N. Tilley (eds.) Household Burglary and Security. Springer. See also http://www.ntu.ac.uk/apps/research/groups/4/home.aspx/project/178965/overview/burglary_security).

Tseloni, A., Thompson, R., Grove, L., Tilley, N. and Farrell, G. (2017) The effectiveness of burglary security devices. Security Journal, 30(2), 646-664. DOI: 10.1057/sj.2014.30 Open Access.

Tseloni, A., Wittebrood, K., Farrell, G. and Pease K. (2004) Burglary victimisation in the U.S., England and Wales, and the Netherlands: Cross-national comparison of routine activity patterns. British Journal of Criminology, 44, 66-91.

Ward, B., Thompson, R. and Tseloni, A. (2017) “Understanding Anti-Social Behaviour.” Report to the College of Policing.

Contact

Andromachi Tseloni, Professor of Quantitative Criminology, School of Social Sciences,  andromachi.tseloni@ntu.ac.uk

Rich Pickford, Knowledge Exchange and Impact Officer, Nottingham Civic Exchange, richard.pickford@ntu.ac.uk | @NottsCivicEx | http://bit.ly/2qhBfB8

Copyright free images: from author and https://pixabay.com/