State crime

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  • Created by: Lucy123x
  • Created on: 01-06-16 18:28



  • 'illegal or deviant activities perpetrated by or with the complicity of state agencies'

state crimes are commited by of fr states in order to further policies ie genocide, torture 


  • 4 categories 
  • political crimes (corruption/censorship) 
  • crimes by security and police (genocide) 
  • economic crimes (official violations of health and safety laws) 
  • social and cultural crimes (institutional racism)
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State crime serious because

  • power of state makes large scale crime possible, can have monopoly on violance  
  • State can hide crimes and escape punishment 
  • hard for foreign countries to intervene 
  • media focuses on developing world rather than such crimes in UK or USA 
  • they manage CJS and prosecute offenders (pick and choose) 
  • can undermine the system by being 'above the law' 
  • State can make laws to avoid thier actions being labelled as criminal 
  • can use CJS to control and persecute its enemies eg Nazi Germany 
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  • state crime as 'crimes commited by, or with the complicity of, governments and governement agents' 
  • so includes employees such as the police and local governments and government agents
  • contraversial subject, they say difficult because of the element of security which prevails much of what the state does
  • they have the power to control the laws, so some of the harmful activities they do isn't actually illegal 
  • governments are selective in monitoring and measuring things, so lack of state crime stats 

argue that state crime can be defined through the notion of human rights 

  • from a human rights perspective the state can be seen as a perpetrator of crime and not simply as the authority that defines and punishes crime 
  • although there is no single agreeed list of human rights 
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Important stats


262 million poeple died between 1900 and 1999 through the murder of any person or poeple by a government including genocide, and mass murder 


reported in 2009 torture and ill treatment were perputuated in at least 111 countries and those who perpetuated these and other human rights violatin enjoyed impunity in 61 countries 

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  • argue we should define crme in terms of the violation of basic human rights, rather than breaking of legal rule 
  • states that deny individuals human rights must be regarded as criminal 
  • Advantage- of using humn rights is that virtually all states at least pay lip service to interneational human rights law 
  • both Ward green and the schwendingers argue that a prefered approach is to base definition of crime on the underlying purpose of human rights, to secure basic range of human needs 
  • Disadvantage- of using human rights as a standard of behaviour is that there is no one agreed view about what rights humans should have and expect, could be subjective  
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  • sees human rights as increasingly central to political debate and criminology becuase of increased focus on victims
  • difficult to ignore human rights abuse from around the world as we are now so instantly connected withe everyone, documented now on TV
  • Cohen arguse that states conceal and legitimise there human rights crimes
  • dictatorships simply deny commiting human right abuses whereas democratic nations must legitimise their actions following a three stage 'spiral of state denial' 
  • 1) denial
  • 2) if there is proof it did happen its something other than an abuse
  • 3) if proved to be an abuse then it was justified ie to protect national security 
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  • in the capitalist state there are agencies for social control that specialise in coercion 
  • they argue these agencies are part of the repressive state apparatus is ideological state apparatus fails 
  • states exercise control to maintain stability and power
  • for capitalist states to remain stable they must align with those who control the means of producting so shared common interest is maintained 
  • they argue the power of the capitalists state is upheld by controlling publics view that capitalism is a good way to live. through media education laws ect 
  • if this starts to fail and state is challenged then overt coercian can be used ie army police
  • the pressure to achieve and maintain legitimate power and control can lead to violance that contravenes legal norms 
  • what is acceptable force has been fiercely contested as shown by policing of minors strike
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Crime as a social construct CROALL (1998)

  • legitimate and illegitimate can be hard to define 
  • labelled terrorists see themselves as 'freedom fighters' and that state is involved with terrorism  
  • through time people who were once labelled as terrorists can then form legitimate government eg Nelson Mandela, some argue, came from a dangerous terrorist group to a respected statesman (African National Congress) 
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  • invasion of Iraq 
  • the spread of global capitalism has been facilitated by acts of agression 
  • America removing anti American governements 
  • the state has broken there own laws every year since the end of WW2 
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