CoP Launch Event PROGRAMME

Crimes of the Powerful Working Group - Launch Event

Time, Date and Location: Abertay University, Dundee - Friday 5th June 2015



(see abstracts below)


9.45 am - 10 am Arrival and refreshments


10:15 - Welcome (Monish Bhatia, Samantha Fletcher and Jessica Dietzler)


10:30 - 11.45 Panel: Crime of the Powerful: Where are we now?

Hazel Croall - Crimes of the Powerful: Where are we now?

Simon Pemberton - Harmful Societies: Elites, Austerity and the Production of Harm

Steve Tombs – Taking ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ Seriously

Q&A (30 mins)


11.45 - 12:00 Break


12:00 - 13.15 Panel: Researching the Crimes of the Powerful

Tobias Kelly - Torture and Ill-Treatment Under Perceived

Victoria Canning - Gender, Harm and Power in the British Asylum System

Q&A (30 min)


13.15 - 14.00 Lunch


14:00 - 15:15 Resisting/contesting the crimes of the powerful, Pt. 1: Roundtable

Asylum seekers resistance to state abuse

Unity Centre

Scottish Detainee Visitors

Monish Bhatia


15:45-16:00 short break


16:00-17:00 Resisting/contesting the crimes of the powerful, Pt. 2: Policing Panel

Graham Campbell - Black Lives Matter (TBD)

Will Jackson - Understanding Police Power: Violence, Law and Order

Helen Monk - Gendering Pacification: Policing Women and Girls at Anti-Fracking Protests


17:15 - 18.00

Launching the working group - contributions to the working document*.

* With thanks to Steve Tombs (Open University) and David Whyte (University of Liverpool) for formulating the basis of the working document attached which will continue to be developed in the run up to the event and on the day


Conference Close





Crimes of the Powerful: Where are we now?


Hazel Croall


This contribution will reflect on the extent to which the contemporary status of crimes of the powerful can be described as ‘plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose’. The twenty first century has seen the exposure and greater censure of corporate harms including financial scandals, the banking crisis and tax evasion of major corporations, recurrent exposures of the harmful activities of supermarkets and the food industry, major pollution and toxic waste scandals along with state activities including war crimes and torture. There are recurrent popular and political calls across the board for tougher regulation. At the same time however the extent of real change or progress can be questioned and in many respects the long familiar story of scarce prosecutions and resources for enforcers and derisory, and often non-criminal, sanctions continues to be evident and academically criminology remains dominated by issues of so called ‘conventional crime’.

Harmful Societies: Elites, Austerity and the Production of Harm

Dr Simon Pemberton, University of Birmingham

Every year, thousands of adults and children in the UK die or are injured as a result of preventable events. For example, more than 18,000 people in England and Wales die because of the effects of winter, while 29,000 lives are ended prematurely from air pollution and 13,000 people across Britain die from lung disease or cancers contracted via the workplace. Far from being inevitable events, it will be argued that such social harms are the result of the way we choose to organise our societies. 

The presentation will reveal that similarly-placed capitalist societies vary greatly in their ability to protect their citizens from these harms. Thus demonstrating that harm is not inevitable or unavoidable but rather a product of the way we choose to organise the societies in which we live. In conclusion, many of the features of societies that protect populations, such as social expenditure on benefits, services, education and healthcare are now threatened by austerity programmes in many countries.

Taking ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ Seriously


Steve Tombs, The Open University


Notwithstanding the empirical obviousness that corporations of all sizes and shapes, in all sectors, across all jurisdictions, routinely steal, cheat, lie, kill, maim and poison, claims for ‘corporate social responsibility’ (CSR) continue to circulate, albeit at times more or less vociferously. At the same time, there exists a plethora of critiques of CSR claims, while the exercise of juxtaposing such claims by specific corporations alongside examples of their actual activities and priorities is all too easy an exercise. Somewhat differently, in this presentation I consider CSR as corporate strategy. I will explore the relationship between CSR and profit maximisation, before indicating some of the various ways in which CSR represents a proactive, ongoing series of discourses and practices designed to jimmy open spaces between and within laws, thus designed to secure greater corporate influence over the nature of state regulation; then, I argue that, not least in moments of crisis, CSR also needs to be viewed as a way of meeting the threat or reality of legal intervention, that is, as a defensive strategy of maintaining already existing spaces for autonomous action beyond existing law.


Torture and Ill-Treatment Under Perceived

Tobias Kelly, University of Edinburgh


This paper examines the difficulties that human rights groups have in documenting one particular state crime: torture. The documentation of torture and ill-treatment is inherently difficult. Torture can be deliberately inflicted in ways that leave few visible traces. Survivors also can be too traumatized to give detailed or consistent accounts of their experiences.  However, the obstacles to documenting the full extent of torture and ill-treatment originate not only in the nature of torture and ill-treatment in itself, but also in the priorities and institutional capacities of human rights organizations. In this paper we outline six conceptual and institutional biases that result in human rights organizations significantly underperceiving the extent of torture and ill-treatment.

*This paper is is co-authored with my colleague Steffen Jensen who works at Dignity: Danish Institute Against Torture.


Gendering Pacification: Policing Women and Girls at Anti-Fracking Protests


Helen Monk, Liverpool John Moores University

This paper seeks to consider the policing of anti-fracking protests at Barton Moss, Salford from November 2013 to April 2014. More specifically, the paper focusses on the experiences of women and girls at the protest camp in order to analyse the gendered nature of protest and policing protest, and to contribute to discussions around the construction of women as political subjects. I argue that women and girls at Barton Moss were considered to be transgressing the socio-geographical boundaries which establish the dominant cultural and social order, and were thus responded to as subjects who were seeking to be disruptive and disorderly. Through the lens of pacification, the paper will analyse the gendered experience of police violence and argue that this violence is central to the exercise of police power in response to protests which challenge the status quo. Pacification literature views police power as both destructive and productive; it produces a series of effects that impact not only on those involved in protest but also those on the peripheries and, in doing so, aims to produce a suitably disciplined ‘non-disruptive’ political subject. The argument here is that the threat and use of sexual violence by police towards women and girls aims to enforce compliance within the protest movement and to send a message, specifically to those on the peripheries of the movement, that protest is illegitimate and inherently dangerous. As such, sexual violence forms part of the social production and construction of gender and is instrumental in the making and remaking of subjectivities. State violence, in this instance police brutality towards women and girls at Barton Moss, therefore operates as a disciplinary function to regulate acceptable forms of protest and acceptable forms of femininity.

*Please note that this paper was developed from a collaborative research project undertaken with Joanna Gilmore and Will Jackson into the policing of protest at Barton Moss Community Protection Camp, Salford.


Understanding Police Power: Violence, Law and Order

Will Jackson, Liverpool John Moores University

This paper seeks to contribute to the development of theoretical insights within criminological research on crimes of the powerful. More specifically, it seeks to do this by considering the exercise of police power within a broader exploration of state and corporate criminality. The paper considers a range of recent issues within UK policing that have had the effect for many of complicating the relationship between policing and the law. Recent high profile cases around undercover policing, deaths in police custody, and public order policing for example, have brought into sharp relief the apparent criminality which appears to be central to, as opposed to an anomaly within, policing. Furthermore, when considering these issues against the backdrop of financial crisis and punitive austerity, the selective enforcement of the law has disturbed the view that the police are identical with the law, both in terms of upholding it and in the regulation of their own conduct. The argument here is that these issues need to be considered through a critical theory of the general function of police and that in doing so, empirical and theoretical work of this nature has the potential to make an important contribution to criminological research on crimes of the powerful. This project requires that we consider the relationship between police violence and the law when we seek to make sense of, and in turn resist, the violence of the state. The paper therefore offers an engagement with recent work on pacification as a way of deepening our understanding of violence perpetrated by the state and its corporate allies in the name of ‘security’. In doing so it suggests that we need to consider both historically, and in the current context, how state violence is productive, exercised primarily in an attempt to reproduce a classed, raced and gendered social order. From this point, the paper concludes by offering some reflections on how we conceptualise, theorise and then resist police violence considering the role of the intellectual (in a Gramscian sense) as being central to this project.


Gender, Harm and Power in the British Asylum System

Victoria Canning, The Open University

There are three central aspects to this presentation:  state crime; gendered structural violence, and social harm. Focussing predominantly on the latter, I will highlight examples of physical and mental health harms; autonomy harms; and relational harms that women seeking asylum experience. Building on this, I question the parameters of 'the powerful' in the context of recent controversies in the British asylum system to consider the significance of individual acts of violence, and those that have structurally implemented. While instances of violent crime by and against individuals are often recognised (although seldom criminally accounted for), harms inherent in women's daily lives are usually the result of politicised decisions made in relation to asylum law and social policy. However, it is often these banal and everyday restrictions, exclusions and controls that impact on women's wellbeing, in particular for survivors of sexual violence, torture and other forms of persecution. These harms are particularly far reaching, impeding everyday health and suspending people in a temporal limbo.