Crime, Policy and the Media: The Shaping of Criminal Justice, 1989-2010

Crime, Policy and the Media: The Shaping of Criminal Justice, 1989-2010

Crime, Policy and the Media: The Shaping of Criminal Justice, 1989-2010

Crime, Policy and the Media: The Shaping of Criminal Justice, 1989-2010


Media clamour on issues relating to crime, justice and civil liberties has never been more insistent. Whether it is the murder of James Bulger or detaining terrorist suspects for long periods without trial, mediated comment has grown immeasurably over the last twenty years. So, how does it interact with and shape policy in these fields? How do the politicians both respond to and try to manipulate the media which permeates our society and culture?

Crime, Policy and the Media is the first academic text to map the relationship between a rapidly changing media and policymaking in criminal justice. Spanning the period, 1989-2010, it examines a number of case studies - terrorism, drugs, sentencing, policing and public protection, amongst others - and interrogates key policy-makers (including six former Home Secretaries, a former Lord Chief Justice, Attorney-General, senior police officers, government advisers and leading commentators) about the impact of the media on their thinking and practice.

Bolstered by content and framing analysis, it argues that, especially, in the last decade, fear of media criticism and the Daily Mail effect has restricted the policymaking agenda in crime and justice, concluding that the expanding influence of the Internet and Web 2.0 has begun to undermine some of the ways in which agencies such as the police have gained and held a presentational advantage.

Written by a former BBC Home Affairs Correspondent, with unrivalled access to the highest reaches of policy-making, it is both academically rigorous and accessible and will be of interest to both scholars and practitioners in media and criminal justice.


Does a book need a preface when it is followed by an introduction which explains the purpose and context of the study with, one trusts, sufficient clarity? Selfevidently, I have decided that this one does and these few lines are intended to convey the spirit with which I approached this inquiry, to stake out, as it were, how I propose to cross that contested territory which divides the journalist from the academic, often the source of mutual suspicion and misunderstanding.

The Times columnist, Alice Miles, who returned to university after two decades to pursue a Master’s course, wrote in the New Statesman (29 November 2010) that too much of what she was required to study ‘was clothed in the abstruse and impenetrable discourse of academia’. Whilst acknowledging that journalism often ‘goes too far the other way, prioritizing simplification over accuracy, opinion over fact’, she concludes that, if nothing else, journalists are good at ‘talking human’.

Since this is a book about the colliding and overlapping worlds of media and policymakers, the frequently fractious, sometimes collusive, relationship they share as they both, in their own ways, seek to capture either the attention or the votes of ordinary people, it seems to me incumbent to ‘talk human’ throughout. This does not, of course, absolve me of the requirement to be intellectually rigorous in my thesis, to build it on evidence and not conjecture, and to acknowledge and source the work of others who have toiled in this field. But in writing a book which, I hope, will be of interest to students, academics, journalists, policymakers, think tanks and those with no affiliation but merely an abiding preoccupation with the media, criminal justice and governance, accessibility has been my watchword throughout.

Only you, the reader, can decide whether I have been as good as my word.

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