skip navigation

PUBLICATIONS

Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.

 

NCJ Number: 66983 Find in a Library
Title: PUBLIC OPINION AND CRIMINAL LEGISLATION (FROM PUBLIC OPINION ON CRIME AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE - EUROPE 1979 SEE NCJ-66980)
Author(s): P ROCK
Corporate Author: Problems
Council of Europe
European Committee on Crime
France
Date Published: 1979
Page Count: 39
Format: Document
Language: English
Country: France
Annotation: THE COMPLEX INTERACTION BETWEEN THE ABSTRACTION KNOWN AS PUBLIC OPINION AND THE CRIMINAL LEGISLATIVE PROCESS IS EXAMINED IN THE CONTEXT OF POLITICAL AND SOCIAL CONDITIONS IN ENGLAND.
Abstract: INTENDED FOR AN AUDIENCE OF SOCIOLOGISTS AND CRIMINOLOGISTS, THIS THEORETICAL STUDY EXPLORES THE CONCEPT OF PUBLIC OPINION, DEFINED HERE AS A CONVENIENT FIGMENT OF THE POLITICAL IMAGINATION, DUE TO ITS ELUSIVE AND FRAGMENTED COMPONENTS. WITH REGARD TO SOCIAL CONTROL OF CRIME, PUBLIC OPINION IS ASSUMED TO COMPRISE ALL SEGMENTS OF THE POPULATION THAT ARE POLITICALLY ORGANIZED AND ARTICULATE ENOUGH TO CONVEY THEIR VIEWS TO LEGISLATORS. IN ENGLAND CRIMINAL POLICYMAKING IS CONTROLLED BY POWERFUL GROUPS (THE SO-CALLED INNER CIRCLES) WITH WHICH PUBLIC OPINION MUST BE STRUCTURALLY ALIGNED IN ORDER TO HAVE A REAL INPUT INTO THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PUBLIC OPINION IN AUTHORITARIAN REGIMES (E.G., NAZI GERMANY, SOVIET RUSSIA, AND COMMUNIST CHINA) AND IN DEMOCRATIC COUNTRIES (E.G., THE UNITED STATES AND ENGLAND) IS DEFINED AND COMPARED. THE UNITED STATES EXPERIENCE IS CITED WHERE THE DECENTRALIZED ADMINISTRATION OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE HAS LEGITIMIZED SHIFTING EXPRESSIONS ON PUBLIC OPINION. CRIME CONTROL HAS CORRESPONDINGLY FLUCTUATED BETWEEN PERIODS OF PATTERNED EVASION OF THE LEGAL NORMS, THROUGH CORRUPTION OF PUBLIC OFFICIALS AND PUBLIC APATHY, AND PERIODS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT HYSTERIA. THE SOCIAL STRUCTURE OF CRIME AND CONTROL IS DESCRIBED, IN TERMS OF THE ENGLISH EXPERIENCE, AS CONSISTING OF A NUMBER OF AUTONOMOUS AND SEMIAUTONOMOUS LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENTS (E.G., POLICE PSYCHIATRISTS, BAILIFFS, MEMBERS OF THE JUDICIARY, CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS, POLICE OFFICERS AND DETECTIVE ASSOCIATIONS); THE BUREAUCRATIC POLICIES OF CRIME CONTROL MUST BE BASED ON DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS BETWEEN LEGISLATORS AND THE COMPONENTS OF THE LAW ENFORCEMENT WORLD. THIS STUDY ALSO ATTEMPTS TO DEFINE THE CONCEPT OF CRIME, WHICH, IN ITSELF, IS NEVER A SUBJECT OF DISCUSSION OR CONTROVERSY IN ENGLAND, WHERE THE GOVERNMENT IS BASICALLY REGARDED AS A MORAL ENTERPRISE, AND RADICAL REFORMING GROUPS (E.G., ADVOCATES OF HOMOSEXUAL RIGHTS, PROPONENTS OF LEGALIZATION OF DRUG USE, AND RADICAL CRIMINOLOGISTS) ARE CONSIDERED POLITICALLY IRRELEVANT, AND NOT AS COMPONENTS OF RESPECTABLE PUBLIC OPINION. HOWEVER, WHEN ESTABLISHED RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS, SUCH AS THE HIERARCHY OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND, INTERVENE ON BEHALF OF SOME RADICAL REFORMS SUCH AS THE DECRIMINALIZATION OF HOMOSEXUAL ACTS BETWEEN CONSENTING ADULTS (BASED ON THE WOLFENDED REPORT), THIS TYPE OF INTERVENTION HAS A STRONG IMPACT ON THE CRIMINAL LEGISLATIVE PROCESS. THE STUDY ALSO NOTES THAT THE INTERACTION BETWEEN PUBLIC OPINION AND CRIMINAL LAWMAKING IS SOMETIMES UNPREDICTABLE, AS IN THE CASE OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT, WHICH WAS ABOLISHED BY LAW IN ENGLAND DESPITE STRONG OPPOSITION VOICED BY SEVERAL SEGMENTS OF PUBLIC OPINION. FOOTNOTES ARE INCLUDED. FOR RELATED ARTICLES, SEE NCJ 66980. (LGR)
Index Term(s): Abortion; Criminal codes; Drug laws; England; Homosexuality; Law reform; Political influences; Public Attitudes/Opinion; Social classes; Social control theory
To cite this abstract, use the following link:
http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=66983

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.