Monday, 31 March 2014

Career Building for Sociology and Criminology Students

Earlier this month a group of alumni in Sociology and Criminology returned to Keele for an event in Keele Hall and KUSU, to provide career-building advice and support to more than 30 current undergraduates.

Students in all years of Sociology or Criminology benefited from a full day of career planning, including sessions to build their networking skills, which they later put into action with our alumni visitors.  A wide range of routes were represented by our alumni group, who work in housing, charity PR, project management, community safety, crime prevention and probation, policing and in executive coaching.

Students were extremely grateful for the opportunity to build networks and work on their own employability, advised by those who know exactly what it is like to be an undergraduate at Keele.  Students came away from the day with a wider range of career options, and direct experience of professional networking and with offers of further career support from alumni.

Visiting alumni commented on how fresh and committed they found our students, and how much they enjoyed the opportunity to be invited back to Keele. In addition to a nostalgic visit to KUSU, they also enjoyed a tour of the revamped central campus from a Student Ambassador.

The Alumni Career networking event was the second such event organised by Dr Rebecca Leach, School of Sociology & Criminology, supported by the Alumni and Careers offices, and has provided a model for employability and alumni engagement that is being taken up by other Schools.

(Picture - Dave Barnett, Sociology & Music Technology graduate, now Finance Lead in the Cabinet Office, at the event).

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The saga of TV Licence evasion: are we finally ready to decriminalise?

By Adam Snow, PhD student in Criminology

Proposals have been put forward for TV licence fee evasion to be decriminalised. Originally the proposal was to completely decriminalise the system, now amendments have been accepted that give the power to Ministers to decriminalise at a date in the future should they see fit.

The first thing to say about this change is that in all likelihood decriminalisation will be unlikely for a significant period.  The BBC itself welcomed the changes from outright immediate decriminalisation and stressed the need to take into account the BBC's review of charter which takes place every 10 years.  The next review is due before 2016.  Thus nothing will likely happen before then.  The current bill proposal states that a review of decriminalisation must take place within 3 months of the act becoming law, and the review must be completed within 12 months from that date.  Anyone familiar with the issue of decriminalisation of the licence fee will no doubt be sceptical that any changes will take place in the foreseeable future.  The Auld report in 2001 recommended partial decriminalisation by way of a fixed penalty notice, but even this modest proposal (still maintaining the criminal law) was not taken forward; indeed the Communications Act 2003 reaffirmed the criminal nature of licence fee evasion.

Any magistrates reading this and hoping for a swift removal of these "boring and monotonous" cases from the courts is, I think, in for a shock.  I suspect that decriminalisation is unlikely to happen at all or at least in the next few years, if anything it is more likely that the Auld recommendations will taken forward as a compromise (A fixed penalty notice with the option of going criminal proceedings).  The BBC seems to be quite an effective lobbyist on this issue.  If a full scale judicial inquiry into the criminal justice system cannot bring about this change, there is little chance now I'm afraid.  But what strikes me as particularly interesting and, quite frankly, bizarre, is the idea that by retaining the criminal law in TV licence evasion it somehow impacts on people’s behaviour.  Here the dispute is more to do with the idea of deterrence and the possibility that the use of the criminal justice system can deter people from avoiding the licence fee.  Overwhelmingly the evidence for the efficacy of deterrence in criminal justice is that it is weak means of gaining compliance.  The best evidence for deterrence is that in situations where the likelihood of being captured is increased then there is some deterrent effect.