Controversially, the Home Office have outlined that: “From 7 March 2011 we have removed the national requirement to record stop and account, in order to reduce police bureaucracy. “These changes will save hundreds of thousands of hours of police time.”
Logical enough. Yet, this means that one of the key recommendations of the McPherson Report has been scrapped. Many argue that we need to keep track of police behaviour; Dr Rebekah Delsol of the Open Society Justice Initiative said: “Cutting one of the few mechanisms for accountability at this time – of all times – is reckless and irresponsible as it risks fuelling the tensions that have scarred police-community relations for 30 years.”
Should the wealthy be taxed at a much higher level than others? New Labour’s proposal of taxing earnings over 150k at 50% is being cautiously implemented by the Conservative government. Of course, this is a devisive strategy – many on the right claim it will slow the economy and encourage the rich to leave the UK, whilst many on the left argue it is a justified measure…even Warren Buffett supports higher taxes in the U.S!
Yet, perhaps the biggest focus should be given to the amount of tax which dodged by the elite, this amounts to billions of pounds and would go along way in adding extra revenue. The use of offshore banks is being more closely monitored, and a recent deal with the Swiss banks to return billions from previously anonymous account. Yet, the loopholes of the deal are said to be huge – there is no requirement to end the secrecy of the accounts, so no real break on illegal tax evasion. Nicholas Shaxon, author of ‘Treasure Islands’ argues that it is a “disgraceful deal” which “rewards criminality”, he questions why people who acted criminally are not prosecuted and further still he points out they are even going to enjoy a lower rate of tax. Thus, it is an excellent example of one rule for criminalised elites and one set of rules for everyone else. Cleverly, he points out that at a time when lots of the media are soul searching following the recent riots, and that the general public are suffering from moral decay, yet, it seems that it is actually some of the elites are the real criminals. It really isn’t hard to apply a Marxist argument to these findings!
Moreover, Faiza Shaheem from the New Economics Foundation thinktank argues that the disparity between the rich and poor in the UK is large and this fostered a lack of understanding as highlighted by the reaction to the riots with many denouncing “feral youths” rather than having any understanding of the socio-economic context. She argues that there is so much evidence that more equality brings more happiness – after a certain point, money does not breed contentment.
Following on from the ‘riots’, gang affiliation and anti-social behaviour is a hot topic and it seems apt that Steve Jame’s (Hoop Dreams) new documentary The Interrupters, about preventing gang violence on the streets of Chicago.
It is often said that sociologists are a “bunch of lefties” and whilst we know that this is not true, that sociologists can have any political affiliation or sympathy, it is apparent that some newspapers are much provide much more useful sociological material than others and in my eyes, it is the left leaning Guardian newspaper which provides some of the most interesting stimulus.
I have been especially impressed by the papers involvement with Julian Assange and the wikileaks, and perhaps even more so by the recent coverage of the riots. The paper has tried to critically analyse the events, rather than sucumbing to much of the crass and simplisitc reporting prevalent in much of the media. Indeed, the paper is currently working together with the London School of Economics on what could be the first empirical study of the riots http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/sep/05/reading-riots-study-guardian-lse). Modelled on an “acclaimed survey conducted in the aftermath of the Detroit riots in 1967”, the paper aims to utilise two databases compiled by the Guardian over the last month – one containing more than 1,100 defendants who have appeared in court charged with riot-related offences, whilst the other contains 2.5 million riot related tweets.
So what has been found out so far?
- Typical sentence for theft or handling stolen goods in riots is 13.6 months, compared with 11.6 months for same offences last year
- More than 90% of the cases being sentenced at crown court are resulting in jail terms, compared with an average rate for custodial sentences of 46%.
- An investigation into the Tottenham riots, which sparked copycat rioting across England, has found local police were alerted to rising tensions long before a protest over the killing of Mark Duggan by police descended into a riot.
- The most severe sentences so far were handed for inciting riots on Facebook (even though no comments actually caused a specific riot!)
- Research on public attitudes before and after the four nights of violence finds more people feel British culture is under threat
- The majority of areas where suspect live are deprived – and 66% of them got poorer between 2007 and 2010, when the last survey was published
• 41% of suspects live in the 10% most deprived places in England