The formal criminal justice system plays only a very minor role in achieving social control and regulation
The formal criminal justice system has a range of different methods which are employed to help prevent certain members of society from engaging in deviant activity. One area that has been focused on recently is terrorism. The terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 and of July 7th 2005, as well as the emergence of new threats such as cyber-terrorism, have lead to a number of new acts and policies being introduced that aim to prevent terrorism (Newburn, 2007, pp. 873-874). Acts, such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, provide the state with new powers that can be used to control terrorism suspects.
This essay will look at the different ways that the criminal justice system attempts to control offenders, with particular attention being paid to suspects of terrorism. It will look at how effective these methods of social control are as well as how they affect members of the general public. The effects of surveillance methods such as CCTV will be specifically examined when looking at how social control has impacted on the lives of ordinary members of the public. One of the first acts to be passed after the September 11th terrorist attacks was the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (ATCSA 2001) (Newburn, 2007, p. 875).
One of the powers introduced by the act was the ability for the Home Secretary to indefinitely detain any non-British citizen whom he suspected to be a terrorist. The act specified that the power was to be used to detain suspects while arrangements were being made to deport them, however it also stated the power could still be used if deportation was “temporarily or indefinitely” not available as an option. The ability to detain foreign nationals indefinitely was in contravention of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR); however a section was included in ATCSA 2001 which suspended Article 5 (Downes & Morgan, 2007, p. 33).
This act gave the government considerable power when it came to dealing with foreign terror threats and the power was used to detain thirteen foreign nationals for three years in Belmarsh Prison (Downes & Morgan, 2007, p. 233). This power has since been replaced with control orders due to the Law Lords’ ruling that part 4 of ATCSA 2001 was unconstitutional. Control orders were introduced in the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (POTA 2005) brought in control orders to replace the ability to indefinitely detain foreign terror suspects.
These orders allow a range of restrictions to be applied to an individual that is suspected of terrorism. These controls can include prohibiting the possession of certain items, restricting movements to certain areas, restrictions on communication with others (Newburn, 2007, p. 875), bans on the use of mobile phones and bans on the use of the internet (HM Government, 2011, p. 36). The most restrictive order permits the indefinite house arrest of an individual, which required the government to declare it exempt from the ECHR due to it contravening Article 5 (Newburn, 2007, p. 875).
Controversy surrounds control orders due to it being possible for the state to impose very intrusive restrictions without the need for a conviction of the individual suspected of terrorism (HM Government, 2011, p. 37). Control orders also bring up the issue of how the state decides if an individual is a suspect of terrorism. POTA 2005 states that there must be reasonable grounds for suspicion, however the Terrorism Act 2006 states that that an individual can be suspected of terrorism if they engage in any conduct that can be considered preparation for an act of terrorism (Zedner, 2010).
It has been noted that actions such as the purchase of a map or a computer manual can constitute preparation for an act of terrorism (Zedner, 2010). The state is therefore in possession of a form of control that it can exert on an individual for merely suspecting them of terrorism. Those who attempt to justify methods of controlling terror suspects, such as control orders, usually state that the risk terrorism poses to large numbers of people means that extreme ‘pre-crime’ measures must be available for the state to use (McCulloch & Pickering, 2010, p. 33).
Opponents to control orders may highlight the fact that they undermine the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’, they contravene the ECHR and that placing restrictions on someone, including placing them under house arrest, based on a suspicion that they may be a terrorist is a restriction on freedom and liberty which is set out in the Human Rights Act 1998. Control orders also reinforce the statement that the criminal justice system (CJS) plays a minor role in achieving social control as they are initiated by the Home Secretary and are therefore outside of the formal CJS.
The human rights group Liberty opposes control orders because they are not applied by the CJS and therefore bypass the normal process of “investigation, arrest, charge and conviction” (Liberty, 2011). Liberty also argued that terror suspects should face trial and, if convicted, be sentenced to prison. They support this action as they believe real terrorists pose a threat when control orders are used as they can abscond (Liberty, 2011). The review of control orders found that out of the 48 people issued with control orders, 7 absconded (HM Government, 2011), therefore undermining their effectiveness.
Another method of social control that can be exercised by the state is the ability to detain anyone suspected of terrorism without charge for a limited amount of time. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 stated that terror suspects could be detained for 14 days without charge but it was proposed in the Terrorism Act 2006 that this be increased to 90 days, with a letter from Andy Hayman of the Metropolitan Police being sent to the Home Office supporting this (Hayman, 2005). The bill was rejected by the House of Commons because of the proposal of detaining suspects for up to 90 days.
The bill was therefore amended to allow suspects to be detained for up to 28 days instead, which passed through the Commons (Crossman, 2008, p. 16). The Labour government was seen to have very little evidence that an extension of this power was necessary (Crossman, 2008, p. 16) and Liberty also oppose this measure due to it contravening human rights (Liberty, 2011). In January 2011, the ability to hold suspects for 28 days lapsed and reverted to 14 days, perhaps showing that the original increase was unnecessary (The Guardian, 2011).
This ability to detain suspects without charge is an example of how the CJS can achieve social control as it temporarily removes from society, those who are believed to pose a threat. Other methods that can be used to control terror suspects are the powers of asset freezing and stop and search. Under the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc Act 2010, the treasury is able to freeze the funds of anyone they suspect of being involved with terrorism. This power, like control orders, is authorised by the executive and therefore bypasses the formal criminal justice system.
Campaigners believe that this power should belong to the courts, not the government (Liberty, 2010). A power that is possessed by the criminal justice system is the ability for the police to stop and search individuals that they have reasonable grounds to suspect possess stolen items, offensive weapons or prohibited items. However, Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 allows the police to perform stop and searches without grounds for suspicion (Mythen & Walklate, 2010). This power was used 117,200 searches, with black and Asian people being 4 times more likely than white people to be searched using section 44 (Mythen & Walklate, 2010).
The power was also used to obstruct demonstrations against the Iraq war, capitalism and arms fairs (Coleman & McCahill, 2011, p. 106). Section 44 was also used against a heckler at a Labour Party conference in 2005 (Coleman & McCahill, 2011, p. 106). This seems to show that the power was used unjustly, and in July 2010 the ability to use section 44 was suspended by the government (Liberty, 2011). This could be seen as a by some as more evidence of the diminishing role of the formal CJS in achieving social control as one of their powers has been removed.
Surveillance is a method of social control that has been used to help prevent terrorism but has also ended up being used to monitor members of the general population (Coleman & McCahill, 2011, p. 92). It has been noted that global security companies have expanded into the civilian market since the end of the Cold War and that they have started providing surveillance solutions for governments such as CCTV, database management and electronic tagging (Coleman & McCahill, 2011, p. 105).
A power that the state has is the ability for the Home Secretary to grant a warrant to intercept all communications from a person or premises (Longstaff & Graham, 2009, p. 7). This is another power that some believe should belong to the courts, not the executive (Longstaff & Graham, 2009, p. 7). This can be used as another example of how the role of the CJS in exerting social control has diminished. One may also question the motives of private corporations when it comes to surveillance. Personal information relating to members of the general public may be useful to a profit driven, capitalistic company (Longstaff & Graham, 2009).
Publicly operated CCTV is, according to one report, the most heavily funded crime prevention method in the UK, with an estimated i?? 500 million being spent from 1996 to 2006 (Coleman & McCahill, 2011, p. 173). In 2006, there were believed to be up to 4. 2 million CCTV cameras which equates to roughly one for every fourteen people (BBC News). The use of CCTV raises the issue of privacy as ordinary members of the public are monitored by the cameras as well as criminals and suspected terrorists. In Birmingham there has been public anger expressed at the disproportionate use of both covert and overt CCTV cameras in the city (Awan, 2011).
The police stated that the use of CCTV in Birmingham is to tackle all crime, however the selection of predominantly Muslim areas has lead to accusations that the cameras are being used for the purpose of counter terrorism, especially seeing as the scheme is being funded by the Terrorism and Allied Matters fund (Awan, 2011). The main arguments against CCTV in general is that it infringes the privacy and civil liberty of citizens (Awan, 2011) and that there is little evidence that CCTV cameras result in a reduction in crime (Coleman & McCahill, 2011, p. 70). When assessing the roles of the criminal justice system in achieving social control, it can be argued that’s its role is minor. The executive seems to be able to exert more control through the use of powers such as asset-freezing and the use of control orders. The CJS still maintains some methods of social control such as the police’s power of stop and search and police CCTV schemes; however debate surrounds the way that these powers are used as well as the effectiveness of them.
The involvement of private corporations within the field of surveillance can be viewed with scepticism due to the profit driven nature of corporations and issues surrounding data privacy. Overall, all these methods of control infringe on the rights and civil liberties of members of the public; however the duty of the state and CJS to protect the public must also be taken into account. The formal CJS also seems to play less of a role in social regulation than the executive however it does still have influential powers such as the ability to detain suspects of terror for 14 days without charge.
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