Law in Policing: Legal Regulation and Police Practices

By David Dixon | Go to book overview

General Editor's Introduction

Clarendon Studies in Criminology, the successor to Cambridge Studies in Criminology, which was founded by Leon Radzinowicz and J.W.C. Turner more than fifty years ago, aims to provide a forum for outstanding work in criminology, criminal justice, penology and the wider field of deviant behaviour. It is edited under the auspices of three criminological centres: the Cambridge Institute of Criminology, the Mannheim Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice at the London School of Economics, and the Oxford Centre for Criminological Research.

David Dixon's contributions to the debate on the extent to which legal regulation of police powers affect police practices are already well known through his highly regarded articles. In this valuable book Law in Policing he critically examines the issues from a wide variety of perspectives: theoretical, comparative, historical and empirical. His central argument is that 'legal regulation and policing practices are inextricably intertwined: their relationship is interactive, one cannot be understood without the other'. This is well illustrated by his analysis of how policing developed differently in England and New South Wales from the same common law base to produce different legal powers and police practices which no single theoretical model--whether 'legalistic-bureaucratic', 'cultural' or 'structural'-- can explain. Indeed, his interesting socio-legal study of custodial interrogation in New South Wales shows the danger of generalising about the relationship between rules and behaviour, which, he convincingly argues, depends on the cultural and socio-political context within which it develops.

Drawing upon this comparative and empirical approach, Dixon subjects the research, interpretations and policy implications of the major British studies of the subject, particularly the work of what he calls the "Warwick school" as embodied in McConville, Sanders and Leng's influential The Case for the Prosecution, to a sustained but well-balanced critical analysis.

His survey of the ineffectiveness of attempts to change police practices through additional legal regulations relating to arrest and

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