Understanding Violent Crime

Understanding Violent Crime

Understanding Violent Crime

Understanding Violent Crime


• How widespread is violence?

• Why do people engage in various forms of violence?

• What can be done to reduce the level of violence?

Understanding Violent Crime provides a concise yet thorough and extensive account of the main explanations of violent behaviour. It draws upon sociological and psychological perspectives on violence as part of a coherent approach to the study of a phenomenon that raises wide public concern. There is also a focus on the ways in which violence is considered by the criminal justice system. Definitions of the main violent offences, including violent sexual offences, are discussed and some indication of the levels of sentencing in particular cases is provided. The final chapter then considers ways in which offenders are able to confront their violent behaviour within the criminal justice system. Frequent references to the definitions and treatment of violence in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA give the book a distinctive comparative perspective. The result is a wide-ranging and essential undergraduate text and a key reference for researchers in the field.


Violence and violent images permeate nearly every part of life from its very beginning. In some societies, the first event a new born baby experiences is to be hit by a midwife to make it cry. As it grows older, the infant may come to realize that the biblical instruction 'spare the rod and spoil the child' is still alive. On reaching school, it may experience bullying. If the child is a boy, he will soon be socialized into 'rough and tumble'. After school, children are increasingly likely to be collected by a parent (it is not safe to walk alone) to go home and play violent computer games. Eventually, the child will start to watch news items about bombing and war. As young adults venture into the world, they will encounter the pub and club, with the accompanying threat of violence. The workplace may hold its own dangers, especially for women. The men may play rugby football or stay at home to watch the boxing on television. Babies will be born and the whole cycle will start again.

Allusions to violence are common in everyday speech, especially in sporting or competitive contexts. The British are particularly fond of this: expressions such as 'being thrashed by', 'taking a lot of punishment' and 'taking stick' are still commonly used, particularly in a sporting context.

Several countries have established major enquiries to consider violence. America has had two: the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, established following the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy; and the Panel on the Understanding and Control of Violent Behavior (Reiss and Roth 1993). The Australian federal government set up a National Committee on Violence in 1988 (Chappell et al. 1991). In Britain, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Violence Research Programme has commissioned 20 research projects, which are due to report by 2002 (ESRC 1998).

The idea of a cause of violence must be treated with care. Zimring and Hawkins (1997) have pointed out the difference between the usage of the word in common parlance, which generally indicates a single or sufficient . . .

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