Informal Systems of Justice:
The Formation of Law within
Susan Caffrey and Gary Mundy
Recent criminological theory has laid increasing stress upon the importance of informal controls in cooperation with state agencies in the prevention of crime and the apprehension of those who have offended. Gypsies and other ethnic minority groups are often represented as having a lifestyle which is built upon criminality, the areas where they live being seen as supportive of a criminal way of life.1 We wish to show that these so-called crimogenic communities have their own system of law which could be seen to have something to offer to the host society. By looking at Gypsy communities, who already manage conflict and justice without recourse to the formal systems of justice, we propose to see how informal controls work, and under which conditions they successfully operate. Attention will be given to the problems of assuming that similar informal controls can be developed within modern urban societies.
Recent years have seen an increase in concerns both over the level of crime and over the ability of “legitimate” state agencies to control crime effectively. These concerns have manifested themselves politically in a number of reforms of the criminal justice system which have had the prime objective of making governments appear to do something about a problem which is “out of control. ”2
It might be said that there currently exists an acknowledged discrepancy between the ability of state agencies to be effective in controlling and preventing crime and their position as the sole legitimate agent in the carrying out of this task.____________________