Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg

Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg
Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg © Gernot Keller, 2007
Blinkered Justice articles also appear on CrimeTalk and Government In The Lab

Monday, 19 December 2011

Aidan Burley & the face of crime (part 2)

Aidan Burley MP (c) altogetherfool
Further to my post on Margaret Moran and the inequalities inherent in criminal justice systems, it seems apposite to mention the (in)action of Aidan Burley, Conservative MP for Cannock Chase.

From what the papers say, the objective of those attending the party was: 
"We are trying to intimidate as many people as possible. A lot have been quite offended, especially one guy who was both Jewish and gay." 
Another member of the party allegedly toasted the ideology of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. This makes Burley an accessory to inciting to intimidation, and potentially hate crimes.

Returning to the UK riots, and those who incited them on Facebook, even though none occurred as a result of their actions, why is it that someone in political power is facing nothing more than an internal inquiry into his conduct into something that caused harm?

What took place in France is little different to what took place on the internet. The objective in both cases was to intimidate and incite. Whilst one might argue that these incidents took place in separate geographical locations (France and the UK), I would counter this. 

The incitements to riot took place online. This is a space not confined to geographical boundaries, as Brown (2003) makes clear:
"Cyberspace can not be treated as a neutral space, or as a definitvely different space, but neither can it grasped by existing notions of crime and the law."
Besides, as Wall (2007) points out we have two separate ways of policing cyberspace. Distal (offline), as in traditonal, conventional policing and proximal (online) through the likes of internet service providers and community vigilante actions. Therefore, this space is different, in that it has different crimes, bound by more than just the UK's criminal justice system.

Buchenwald disabled Jews (c) United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Moreover, who is to say that the crime has stopped? As a publicly elected official, I am assuming that Burley represents constituents from diverse backgrounds, with different needs. I wonder how the Jewish, homosexual, disabled communities in Cannock Chase feel about having an M.P. representing their interests, yet one who is willing to condone intolerance against their groups. 

I understand that what happened in France is illegal, although not in the UK. Given our recent political spats, it is possible that Burley will criminal charges. If he were to, then beware the political and mainstream media fallout. 

By recreating ideas of an 'us' and 'them' and a 'right' and 'wrong', we will no doubt hear that this incident was not really a crime, just because under UK law it is not. As such, he would have people in powerful positions distancing him from being constructed as a criminal. 

Due to these unequal power relations in society, the notion of crime is no longer an adequate term for understanding the experience that victims suffer and face. Ideas of 'social harm' would seem to be more appropriate for determining what constitutes what we call a crime.

Because as things stand, this case is just another example of what the face of crime looks like. 

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