Analysis of Submissions to National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

20 Nov

A report released today, from the University of Limerick School of Law, provides an analysis of the submissions for the final review of the National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence 2010-2014.

The report, written by Dr Eimear Spain, Sarah Gibbons and Professor Shane Kilcommins, provides an overview of the submissions prepared by stakeholders with experience of the National Strategy. The responses were gleaned from questionnaires created by Cosc.

The following key themes were identified:

  • leaving situations of violence – dangers presented, risk of homelessness, particularly acute in the current housing stock crisis, inadequately understood link between domestic violence and child abuse
  • cohorts of concern – the groups most at risk (Travellers and Roma, migrants, persons involved in prostitution, persons with a disability, persons identifying as LGBT, pregnant women, young people, those with an addiction, older persons, those with a mental illness)
  • service provision – enhanced co-operation needed
  • legal – need for emergency legal orders available outside court hours, concern about restriction of barring orders, issues with legal aid, delays in judicial proceedings and re-victimisation of persons through the investigative and legal process, attrition rates, inappropriate sanctions
  • prevention – aware-raising of what constitutes violence and supports available, with a tailored approach for groups such as Travellers and Roma
  • resources – under-funding and cuts

The report in full is available here.

Women’s Aid today held an event in Dublin to raise awareness of violence against women and children. A vigil was held outside Leinster House in memory of 78 women, as well as 10 children, killed by their current or former partners since 1996.

Sexual Trauma and Abuse: Restorative and Transformative Possibilities?

13 Nov

The first Irish report to assess the potential of Restorative Justice in relation to sexual crime is to be published next month.

The report, Sexual Trauma and Abuse – Restorative and Transformative Possibilities, will be launched by the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, on 1 December at the Dublin Castle Conference Centre.

The report is a joint research project undertaken by Dr Marie Keenan at UCD and Facing Forward.

Postgraduate Criminology Conference, Dublin

10 Nov

n 2004, a landmark book was published: Crime, Punishment and the Search for Order in Ireland (Kilcommins et al). This book was a milestone for Irish academia as it was the first Irish Criminology monograph. The importance of this was noted in the book’s opening line which described Criminology as Ireland’s ‘absentee discipline’. The adoption of this phrase, which had first been used by Tomlinson and Rolston in 1982, speaks to the under-development of the discipline.

The publication of Crime, Punishment and the Search for Order in Ireland came at a time of resurgent interest in Criminology in Ireland, marked by an increase in Irish Criminological enquiry. In 2001, an Institute of Criminology was established by University College Dublin, and taught and research postgraduate degrees are now offered at a growing number of institutions. September 2014 has also seen the introduction of Ireland’s first Criminology undergraduate degree in University College Cork, and in 2015 the first Routledge Handbook of Irish Criminology will be published.

The growing interest in Criminology in Ireland has seen greater numbers of postgraduate students conducting Irish research within the discipline in Ireland, Northern Ireland and further afield. These students are researching issues across the broad spectrum of criminology and the volume and scope of this work speaks to a demand for a forum in which research, ideas and approaches can be disseminated. Moreover, criminology is a ‘rendezvous’ discipline, drawing together work from sociology, history, philosophy, law, economics, politics and psychology to explore fundamental issues of crime and punishment. Criminology’s multi-disciplinary variety makes it an exciting and important social science as it provides new frameworks for deciphering and advancing our understandings of Irish historical, cultural, social and political life more broadly.

The rapid mushrooming of this academic area suggests that we are at the beginning of what is to become a significant disciplinary field in Ireland and as such this is an important time to generate a constituency of Irish researchers interested in Criminological questions which can begin to take stock of the Irish Criminological enterprise. The inaugural Postgraduate Criminology Conference presents an opportunity to begin such a task.

Call for papers deadline: Friday 19 December 2014
Poster abstract deadline: Friday 13 February 2015
Register attendance via eventbrite

Contact the organisers at

Changing Mindsets, Changing Minds: Conference on the Rights of Children of Offenders

6 Nov

Children whose parents have been incarcerated have often been referred to as “invisible victims of crime and the penal system”. It is well accepted that the absence of a parent for a prolonged period of time will affect the physical and mental wellbeing of all family members including children. Moreover, it can affect the academic performance of children and may trigger bullying and social exclusion. It will inevitably impact negatively on the family’s finances.  At the same time, evidence shows that supporting prisoner’s families has positive outcomes for them as well as the wider community with prisoners being more likely to successfully reintegrate as a result.

UCC School of Law are hosting a one day international Conference of an interdisciplinary nature highlighting the rights of children affected by family imprisonment. The aim of this innovative event is to bring together key professionals, researchers as well as those actively working in this area to share best practice and knowledge. Key note speakers will include the world renowned Justice Albie Sachs, a former Judge from the South African Constitutional Court.   Other international experts in this area will share their specialist expertise such as Ben Raikes, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, University of Huddersfield, Shona Minson, University of Oxford, and Lucy Gampell, Director of Children of Prisoners Europe. This event will also provide a platform for the NGO sector as well as those directly affected by family imprisonment. International practice perspectives will be drawn from England, Northern Ireland and Europe more generally, while national experiences and initiatives will also be highlighted. The impact of family imprisonment will be dealt with via the sharing of family experiences in panel discussions as well as a unique Children’s Art exhibition, to be hosted in Jennings Art Gallery UCC, which will provide attendees with a critical insight into the views of children and young people affected by imprisonment in Ireland.

The event is kindly supported by the Irish Research Council, UCC Strategic Research Fund, UCC College of Business and Law and the Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights, UCC.

For further information concerning this event please see here

For registration details: please contact School of Law, Events Manager: Noreen Delea; 021 4903220.

To Book follow the link here

For event information please contact the conference convenors: Dr Fiona Donson ( /Dr Aisling Parkes (

5 CPD points available

Public Lecture: Grangegorman: From Asylum to Academy

4 Nov

This Thursday, 6 November, at 6pm Dr Damien Brennan of Trinity College Dublin will hold a public lecture at DIT’s new Grangegorman campus.

Dr Brennan will speak on ‘Institutions Behind the Walls: Grangegorman, from Asylum to Academy’.

During the 1950s, the level of mental hospital usage in Ireland was the highest internationally, with a rate of 710 beds per 100,000. These institutions provided ‘care’ to those categorised as ‘insane’, ‘mentally ill’, or ‘having mental problems’, as it is now described. However, they also developed into locations of substantive social and economic importance to the communities in which they were situated.

This paper will demonstrate that the spectacular growth of Irish mental hospitals during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries had little to do with the mental state of the individuals who were institutionalised. As such there was no epidemic of ‘mental illness’ in Ireland. Rather, this institutional confinement occurred in response to social forces (such as legislation, systems of admission and discharge, diagnostic criteria, social deprivation and family dynamics), along with the actions of the individuals, families and professional groups who carried out the act of committal.

The lecture will take place in RD005, Rathdown House, further information is available here.

Inside Probation and the Possibilities for Penal Reform

29 Oct

When viewed alongside international comparators the use of supervised community sanctions (such as Probation and Community Service Orders) in Ireland is relatively low. The marked increase in the prison population in Ireland in recent years has focused attention once again on the under-utilisation of community sanctions. The recent report of the Strategic Review on Penal Policy echoes calls made in numerous policy documents over the past 30 years, to reduce the use of imprisonment, particularly for short prison sentences, and to strengthen the range of community sanctions available to the courts. Alongside cost imperatives – prison is an expensive sanction – the detrimental effects of prison have been noted. Temporary incapacitation, particularly in the form of short prison sentences does not help to reduce offending in the long-term. In fact a wide range of evidence suggests the opposite effect.

However, lessons from other countries suggest that caution should be exercised in viewing community sanctions as merely a mechanism of penal reductionism. When community sanctions are positioned as ‘alternatives to prison’ prison is viewed as the ‘norm’ to which the ‘alternative’ should be provided. The result is that community sanctions are ‘toughened’ up to give them an associated punitive bite that may make them potentially more attractive to sentencers and to the public. What has been shown in other countries is that the net result of this approach may not yield the reduction that is required, but result in precisely the opposite effect.

Increasingly stringent community penalties see people being brought under the ambit of probation services where they may previously have been given a lesser sentence. An emphasis on enforcement of these ‘tougher sanctions’ results in greater numbers of people being sent to prison for failure to comply with the conditions of their orders. Constituted in these terms, probation functions as a net-widening rather than a penal reduction mechanism. One commentator who has analysed the relationship between probation and prison populations across the United States characterises this as the ‘paradox of probation’.

There are important lessons to be learnt from international research that explores the different use of community sanctions and the inter-relationship between their use and imprisonment. These include sentencing processes and practices and the effectiveness of probation supervision and services. Addressing the issue of sentencing processes and practices – the final report of the Strategic Review of Penal Policy published in July of this year calls for a more structured and transparent approach to sentencing by the Courts. To this effect it reiterates a previous recommendation that where a custodial sentence is imposed the reason for such a sentence should be provided in writing. In response to this particular recommendation, the Minister for Justice has indicated that she will seek to legislate on this matter. While placing an emphasis on the need to reduce the use of imprisonment in Ireland, the Review also recommends an increase in the use of community sanctions. However, it notes that order to achieve this community sentences will need to be ‘effective, credible and command community confidence’.

Research on what may enhance both public and sentencer support for community sanctions shows that attention needs to be paid towards how the purposes of justice can be served by such sentences. This involves both evidence-based arguments- typically premised on rational considerations of what is most effective; but critically a wider consideration about what values and functions of justice community sentences should serve. An example of such evidence-based arguments is the recent data on recidivism published by the Prison Service and the Probation Service which shows lower levels of re-offending for those subject to community sanctions when compared with imprisonment. However, appeals to the wider purposes and values of community justice should also involve an increased focus on how community based sanctions can provide greater opportunities for reparation and change. Some commentators have even argued that such ‘affective’ approaches should appeal to sentiments regarding redemption and a belief in forgiveness.

Central also to leveraging support for community sentences is focusing on the potential for people to change. Given the complex and interrelated nature of issues faced by many who are processed through our criminal justice system – including drug and alcohol addictions, mental health difficulties and homelessness – such processes of change are often likely to be complex and to take time. Importantly, also as the Strategic Review of Penal Policy notes, these challenges cannot be met alone by agencies within the criminal justice system. The role of the health services and local authorities in this area and the need for a greater coherency of approach across various agencies is noted in the Review.

The recent broadcast on RTE of the documentary Inside Probation showed some of the difficulties faced by people on probation and the complexities of work in this area. It also shone a light on a part of the criminal justice system that is often overlooked in public discourse and commentary. The recommendations set out the Strategic Review and the proposed legislative changes to modernise probation, provide real opportunities for re-orienting the criminal justice system away from an over-reliance on the use of imprisonment. The challenge will be to ensure that increasing the use of community sanctions achieves the desired effect of reducing our use of imprisonment and affecting broader positive changes in the lives of those who are its subjects.

Dr Nicola Carr

Lecturer in Criminology, School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, Queen’s University Belfast

Management Committee Member of COST Action IS1106 Offender Supervision in Europe 

#Blog ‘Crime, Disorder and Symbolic Governance’ by Matt Bowden

25 Oct

The Irish Criminology Research Network is very pleased to present a guest blog from Dr Matt Bowden. Matt has written a blog on his new book (forthcoming, November 2014) from Palgrave, Crime, Disorder and Symbolic Governance: Governing the Urban Periphery. His guest blog provides an overview of the work, and a fascinating insight into the continued relevance of its subject matter and the publishing process.

What I have tried to do in Crime, Disorder and Symbolic Violence is to use some of Pierre Bourdieu’s ideas on the formation of the state to draw out a theory of governance of territories and of subjects. In this way we might come to understand state power as a penetrating force in physical space, symbolic space and in social space. Like Gramsci, Bourdieu was interested in the state’s quest for legitimate power as an agent of dominant classes. However Bourdieu’s emphasis is upon the use of symbolic violence – the manipulation of meaning through the imposition of arbitrary frames on reality. The state therefore acts as the shaper of conscience and appoints and legitimises various institutions and allies into this project.

In a nutshell, I have put forward a theoretical case of symbolic violence. This centres on how youth crime and disorder was dealt with in the urban periphery. Previously many social scientists had sought to conduct, like the social Darwinists at the Chicago School, ecologically informed studies of the inner-city. My focus was on the urban periphery as a new socio-spatial formation – seen by politicians and planners as a developmental environment that was supposed to be an improvement on the living conditions experienced by the working classes in inner-city areas. The outbreaks of urban disorder in these planned communities in the 1990s were upsetting for all those planners and beneficent politicians who built them. Manuel Castells in his book City, Class and Power spoke of the urban periphery as a productive ensemble of labour and the means of production: the Irish urban periphery, primarily in Dublin was an ensemble of labour power and little else. Industrial policy in the 1980s had dispersed new FDI based industries to the provinces, leaving cities surrounded by pools of surplus labour – the very conditions for urban disorder. Hence that state had to make a phoenix-like resurrection after its own benign neglect, and this is best captured in the report of the Interdepartmental Group on Urban Crime and Disorder published in 1993. Recognising the wider complexities of the problems in the urban periphery, the report effectively placed the Department of Justice as a central driver of development in a number of governing arenas. It had to find additional ways of penetrating the space and the people who lived there. Thus the argument of the book is the state found itself governing its way out of a crisis through symbolic violence.

It took me a long time to write this book but I have long since given up on seeing that as a shortcoming. Apart from the fact that the subject matter is of a type that needed the passage of time to protect those who informed it, the finished product I hope has an aged flavour. An article that I wrote based upon this book was rejected by two international journals.  Of course I could have done a better job writing it but a reviewer in one journal said that it was dealing with historical events that did not reflect what was happening in the country now. My initial anger on reading this turned later to pity for that poor soul as this year I watched, read and listened to day after day reports about how the police were treating whistleblowers, reports of the secretive and silo culture in the Department of Justice, and the cosy relationship that existed between government and police. I am very pleased that the book will be a repository for the 15 years I put into researching and writing this material and so I am cool with that.

Crime Disorder and Symbolic Violence


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