What is Crime?

David Scott, The Open University

Crime is an essentially contested concept.  There is no universally agreed definition of what a crime is.  However, the most straightforward way of thinking about crime is to look at it in terms of a legalistic perspective – from this approach a crime is an act which is illegal.  It’s against the law.  Specifically it is against the criminal law.  In so doing the act will have certain aspects to it – it will have an aspect of criminal harm and it will have an aspect of criminal blame. 

 Interestingly though, many people have questioned this legalistic definition.  First of all this is because it’s always going to be partial and determined within a very specific and limited set of criteria about what is crime.  If a given act  isn’t illegal, then whilst we might see it as wrong, or problematic or harmful, it’s not going to be something which will be defined as a crime.  Many criminologists  have argued  that it is important to unpack the legal definition, and have questioned the very notions of what is and what isn’t criminal harm.  Criminologists have also questioned notions around criminal blame and both the strengths and weaknesses of a backward looking approach grounded in individual culpability.

Watch Dr. David Scott discussing the question, What Is Crime?

A number of criminologists have even gone as far to say that a crime is a statist category, i.e. that it’s defined by the state and it’s infused with certain interests, ideas and power relations which reflect the interests of the powerful.  For these critics, the state defined categories of crime reflects the interests of those who have something to lose in society, where as at the same time it does not necessarily reflect the interests of those who are powerless or those at the bottom end of society.

Hence, the crime logic is seen as imposed and perhaps even a reconstruction of reality in legalistic and statist classifications.  A crime something which is placed as a specific legal category, as a way of generating meanings and understandings and some criminologists (sometimes referred to as abolitionists)  have argued that this  is a problem in itself and that we shouldn’t necessarily even think about the logic of crime because using the language and logic of crime will lead those who are responding to it down certain pathways which may be considered solutions, such as punishment.


The own-race bias in eyewitness identification

Catriona Havard, The Open University



The own race bias is the phenomenon whereby individuals are better at recognising and differentiating between faces that are the same race as they are, and much poorer with faces of another race.

The issue of the own-race bias has serious ramifications when it comes to eyewitness identification and when a witness is faced with the situation where they have to identify a culprit from a lineup who is of a different race. The innocent project organisation aims to reform the criminal justice system to prevent injustice has exonerated 315 people through the use of DNA evidence. 71% of cases involved eyewitness misidentification, the majority of which also involved a witness identifying a suspect from another race.

There are a number of theories as to why people are better at recognising a face from their own race. One theory, the contact hypothesis, argues that through the high level of contact that individuals have with own race faces, they become experts at recognising such faces (Brigham & Malpass, 1985; Slone, Brigham & Meissner, 2000). On the other hand, the comparatively lower amount of contact with other-race faces, leads them to be relatively inexpert at differentiating between other race faces (Hugenberg, Miller, & Claypool, 2007). According to the contact hypothesis, the more experience that one has with a different racial group the more accurate they should be at identifying members of that particular group (Brigham, et al., 2007).

In our latest research we wanted to see if the amount of contact children had with children of another race would influence how accurately they could identify a culprit of another race from a lineup (Havard, Memon & Humphries, 2017). In our study, we showed a group of Caucasian and a group of Asian children 2 mock crimes, one with a Caucasian thief and one with an Asian thief. After a delay of 1 or 2 days the children were shown 2 video lineups, one for each thief and asked if they could identify the culprits they had seen before.  Each child saw one line-up that contained one of the culprits that had been previously seen (culprit present) and one lineup that didn’t contain the culprit, but someone of a similar appearance (culprit absent). With culprit present line-ups, we were interested in whether the children could correctly identify a person from the line-up and if they were accurate with their own race. Whilst culprit absent line-ups,  were used to simulate the situation that the police have arrested the wrong person, and to investigate whether the children would still pick someone,  and make a false identification, even though the person they have seen previously is not there. We were also interested in whether children would make more false identifications for the culprit that was of another race. A measure of interracial contact was also taken, where children were asked about their contact and relationships with children of another race.

Our findings revealed an own race bias for the Caucasian children, this resulted in more correct identifications for the own race culprit from culprit present lineups, and more false identifications of the other race culprit for the target absent lineups. The Asian children from both age groups showed no own race bias and performed equally accurately for culprits of both races. The measures of interracial contact revealed that the majority of Caucasian children in our study had very little contact with Asian children, whereas the majority of Asian children had high levels of contact with Caucasian children. The more contact children had with children of a different race, the more likely they were to make a correct response when trying to identify someone of another race.

This article was originally posted on the OU Psychology blog at: https://oupsychology.wordpress.com/2017/10/10/the-own-race-bias-in-eyewitness-identification/ To find out more about this research you can access the full article here or contact catriona.havard@open.ac.uk


One law for the poor at Grenfell Tower

Steve Tombs, Open University and David Whyte, University of Liverpool


In austerity Britain, can justice and accountability be served for the victims of the Grenfell fire? Or are our laws already too much shaped to the needs of the business class?


Image source: ChiralJon/FlickrCC BY 2.0


Days after the Grenfell Tower disaster, London Mayor Sadiq Khan expressed the sentiments of many, not least the bereaved, the survivors and the local community at large, when he stated that, “if negligence or other wrongdoing by individuals or companies played any role whatsoever, I will fight for the full force of the law to be brought to bear.” But what exactly is the full force of the law in this case?

One demand has been that those who had the knowledge and ability to prevent what has happened should be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter. And the fire at Grenfell seems exactly the kind of disaster which the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act was introduced in 2007 to deal with. Yet in almost 10 years since it was introduced, the law has only been used successfully 21 times – and in no cases has a large organization been convicted following a multi-fatality disaster. In fact, following the deaths of six people at the Lakenal tower block in 2009, the CPS eventually decided against pursuing a case of corporate manslaughter against Southwark council despite the fact that the council “knew the building posed a fire risk but did not act and had not carried out a fire risk assessment.”

In any case, the scope of this relatively new law was carefully shaped to the needs of the business class rather than ordinary people. Champagne and Pimms glasses would no doubt have been chinking in some parts of Kensington and Chelsea when the Blair government announced in 2006 that the new law would grant a blanket exemption to directors and senior individuals in organizations. This means that the most likely result of any such prosecution is a fine against the organization (and in this case the costs of a fine against the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKC) would ultimately fall on local taxpayers). It is a prime example of what happens so often in our legal system: even the laws that appear to be holding the wealthy to account tend to do nothing of the sort.

Some senior experts have noted that there may be evidence to support a different approach, a prosecution of individuals for the common law offence of manslaughter. We already know unequivocally from the testimonies of the Grenfell Tower Residents Association, that the RBKC was told about the fire risks, and were warned of specific risks on multiple occasions. Yet apparently there was no adequate fire safety assessment.

Here we confront a much deeper problem with the law designed to regulate organizations and businesses. Regulation has been on the back-foot in the UK for some 30 years. Successive governments have virtually mandated a withdrawal from law enforcement in health and safety and in local authority regulation.

When David Cameron pledged to kill off health and safety for good, he followed a long line of governments desperate to prove their pro-business credentials by cutting inspection and prosecution, and stripping back regulations. In most recent years, austerity cuts have taken us to the point that the average workplace can now expect an inspector to call once every 50 years.

Fire protection has been similarly compromised by the cuts. A report by the National Audit Office shows that between 2010 and 2015 funding for stand-alone fire and rescue authorities fell by 28% on average in real terms. Savings came predominantly from reducing staff costs and reducing audits, inspections and fire risk checks. The result: fire safety checks in tower blocks fell 25% in the most recent 5 years. Perhaps most alarmingly in light of Grenfell, the report noted that the government had “reduced funding most to fire and rescue authorities with the highest levels of need….as defined by the social and demographic factors.” In other words, the cuts to fire and rescue services have fallen hardest on the poorest – just like all austerity cuts.

More generally, at local authority level, since the cuts began to bite, campaigns to enforce regulation against business have become almost extinct. This is because most councils, unlike RBKC, have reached rock bottom in terms of their ability to maintain services. As an Environmental Health Officer in Merseyside put it to one of us recently: “it’s going to come to the point where it’s going to affect the residents, the local population, in many ways we are at that point now, public health and protection is being eroded.” Even more galling is that RBKC, the richest borough in London and one of the few councils that remains cash-rich, is choosing law enforcement on behalf of the rich over enforcing the law in the general interest.

We know this by looking closely at what building enforcement officers in Kensington and Chelsea have been doing in recent years. In 2015 RBKC embarked on a major campaign to stop construction companies displaying unlawful and ugly advertisements and messages on the side of the buildings. At the time, RBKC planning policy head Cllr Timothy Coleridge said:

“Unfortunately, some developers ignore the rules and turn their hoardings and scaffolding covers into huge adverts, sometimes in the heart of historic and sensitive residential areas. This is unfair on our residents and it is unfair on those developers that follow the rules and we will prosecute when required.”

In other words, this was a law enforcement campaign aimed at enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the area, and maintaining the successful gentrification of the area, rather than ensuring high standards of building renovation for working class residents.

The public inquiry and inquests will seek to learn how we can prevent another Grenfell Tower happening again. If the police and the CPS are serious about using the full force of the law, it may well be possible to prosecute for corporate manslaughter and for common law manslaughter. Individuals in charge of key decisions can be held accountable for this latter offense if they have acted with gross negligence and have breached a particular duty of care. It is very possible those conditions will be met in the case of Grenfell Tower.

By contrast, a lack of prosecution will send a clear and powerful message: that justice and accountability cannot be served in austerity Britain. But the solution to what happened at Grenfell will not be found in the courts. If there is one resounding lesson that must be learned, it is that any future government must reverse 30 years of attacks on regulation and law enforcement and cease this war against the poor.

This post was first published by Open Democracy on the 21st of June 2017, at: https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/steve-tombs-and-david-whyte/on-grenfell-one-law-for-rich-one-poor

Do new laws on phone use whilst driving fully reflect scientific knowledge?

Gemma Briggs, The Open University


On 1st March, tougher penalties for hand-held phone use whilst driving came into force. Those who are caught now face a £200 fine and 6 points on their licence. On announcing the change in legislation, Transport minister, Chris Grayling claimed that drivers must “take responsibility” for their actions, making phone use behind the wheel as socially taboo as drink and drug driving. This is a message few would disagree with, yet the legislation it relates to misses one crucial point: hands-free phone use is just as distracting as hand-held conversations.

The difficultly with this issue is that people are often unwilling to believe that hands-free phone use is any different from talking to a passenger. I’m often asked if this research means drivers must travel in total silence to avoid distraction, or whether I’ve ever tried to drive with screaming kids in the back of the car – surely that’s more distracting than a simple phone call? Of course, any type of secondary task whilst driving can be distracting, but phone use seems to be qualitatively different due to where both conversation partners are: someone on the phone cannot see what the driver can, and therefore consistently demands their attention. A passenger, on the other hand, can see when the driver is facing a challenging situation and can stop talking, thus reducing the amount of information the driver needs to process.

Our research takes this a step further by investigating which aspects of a phone conversation affect driving. As we all have a limited amount of mental resources available to us when completing any task, speaking on the phone introduces competition between the two tasks for these resources: the cognitive resources needed for driving may also be needed for a phone conversation. When talking on the phone, drivers may create mental images of what the other person is saying, where they are and what they’re doing. If this is the case, the conversation could have a ‘visual’ element to it, meaning some of the resources needed for accurate visual attention whilst driving may already be in use for a phone conversation.

Using a hazard detection test, we measured driver’s reaction times to hazards and their eye movements. Some drivers were distracted by a phone task which sparked their visual imagination, and others completed a phone task which did not require imagery. A final group of drivers completed the task without any distraction. Unsurprisingly, we found that dual tasking drivers reacted to fewer hazards, and took longer to react to those hazards they did notice, than undistracted drivers. But, those who were distracted by a conversation sparking mental imagery were the most distracted. Of more interest to us was the finding that those distracted by imagery took longer than undistracted drivers to react to hazards that occurred right in front of them, in the centre of the driving scene, yet did not take longer to react to hazards in the periphery – to the sides – of the scene. This seemed odd, until we established a worrying trend: very few dual tasking drivers reacted to the peripheral hazards at all, suggesting they hadn’t seen them.

Eye-tracking data revealed that dual tasking drivers looked at an area of the driving scene around four times smaller than undistracted drivers – in fact, they tended to focus on a small area at the centre of the scene, largely ignoring what was happening at either side. But, even though they were looking directly ahead, dual taskers took longer to react to hazards presented at that point, and on occasion still missed them altogether!

Taking hazard detection and eye-tracking data together we were able to identify that dual tasking drivers can look at a hazard yet fail to see it, due to a lack of available cognitive resources.

So, having two hands on the wheel and two eyes on the road isn’t enough if a driver is distracted by a phone call. Essentially, distracted drivers can be ‘cognitively blind’ to important aspects of the driving scene, making them more likely to be involved in accidents which could affect both their own and others’ safety. Phone use behind the wheel should definitely be as socially unacceptable as drink driving, but legislation needs to recognise and acknowledge decades of scientific research which emphatically demonstrates that hands-free phone conversations pose a significant danger.


This blog post originally appeared on the Open University Centre for Policing and Learning blog, at: http://centre-for-policing.open.ac.uk/taxonomy/term/265/blog-do-new-laws-phone-use-whilst-driving-fully-reflect-scientific-knowledge

Britain’s dark history of criminalising homeless people in public spaces

Victoria Cooper and Daniel McCulloch, The Open University


Image source: özge çağla aktaş/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND


Since the onset of austerity in 2010, the estimated number of people sleeping rough in England has more than doubled, from 1,768 in 2010, to 4,134 in 2016. As the number of homeless people increases, while support services and hostels are diminishing, rough sleepers are becoming ever more visible in British cities.

But rather than finding ways to accommodate the homeless, the UK government has sought to criminalise them. From archaic vagrancy laws, to the more recent Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs), governments have been passing new laws and reviving old ones which result in the punishment of people with no fixed abode.

People without access to land or property are denied the freedom to roam, sit, eat, wash or sleep in public spaces. Or, where local authorities do lawfully permit street homeless people to access and use public spaces (for homeless camps, homeless shelters or day centres), these sites are routinely monitored by criminal justice agencies, bringing the homeless under direct surveillance and control.

Modern day vagrants

The criminalisation of the homeless can be traced back to 1824 and beyond, when vagrancy laws were implemented to control the spread of “urban poverty” at the height of the industrial revolution. During this time, land privatisation was being rolled out on a mass scale, and hundreds of thousands of people who lacked the means to purchase property were displaced from their homes and prohibited from accessing the land they once lived on.


Sleeping outlawed. Image source: Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums/Flickr, CC BY


Vagrancy laws criminalised access to land in cases where there was no contractual relationship, which gave police the power to arrest people who were not legally bound to property or land. These individuals were characterised as “incorrigible rogues” and “mobile anomalies” by the law, and punished with flogging, incarceration and even transportation to penal colonies such as Australia.

Fast forward almost two centuries, and these antiquated laws – and imperious attitudes – are still very much with us. In the period from 2006 to 2014, the number of court cases for “vagrancy-related offences” in England increased by 70% – from 1,510 prosecutions to 2,365. The most noteworthy cases involved three men who were very nearly prosecuted for taking food waste from a supermarket refuse bin, and an operation in Sussex involving undercover police, which led to the arrest of 60 rough sleepers for accepting money from the public.

Hostile streets

This is the work of successive governments. Civil orders introduced under Tony Blair to target “street-crime” effectively led to a clampdown on begging, which sanctioned homeless communities en masse. When the coalition government came to power in 2010, these civil orders were amended to give local authorities even greater powers over what people do in public spaces.

In particular, Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs), brought in under the 2014 Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act, allowed local authorities to enforce on-the-spot fines for certain activities. Predictably, local authorities are applying these new powers to target homeless people by sanctioning what they do in public spaces: street drinking, begging, camping in parks, defecating and urinating and in some cases even sleeping.

Not only do PSPOs criminalise the homeless, they also make these tactics appear as a local response to a perceived problem and avoids the exposure and opposition which national measures usually invoke. Yet PSPOs are not a local response: their use is widespread across England, and it’s increasing, with one in 10 local authorities now using PSPOs to criminalise homeless people.

To make matters worse, private owners of commercial land are boarding-up shop doorways, erecting spikes and using possession laws to forcibly remove the homeless from commercial spaces.

The fight for the right to exist

Yet there have been moments of resistance against these anti-homeless measures. Both campaigns by organisations such as Liberty, and individuals like the family who placed cushions over anti-homeless spikes in Manchester, are challenging the punitive measures adopted by local authorities. In some areas this has led to the successful withdrawal of PSPO proposals.

In austerity Britain, these movements are gathering momentum and stirring up indignation about the uneven distribution of wealth, property and land. Some resistance movements are even occupying empty properties to make space for homeless people and homeless communities themselves are documenting their own daily struggle as they fight for the right to exist in public spaces.

Homelessness itself is not yet a crime, but anti-homeless laws and strategies are restricting homeless people’s freedom, and turning everyday activities into punishable offences. Yet survival defines the daily lives of homeless people, and in the face of oppression they will find new ways to expose the violence and prejudice they encounter in the every day.


This article was originally published in The Conversation, at: https://theconversation.com/britains-dark-history-of-criminalising-homeless-people-in-public-spaces-74097

Decriminalising drug use: when will the government acknowledge the harm our current laws cause?

Abigail Rowe

International Centre for Comparative Criminological Research

The Open University

December 2014

At the end of October, amid a flurry of controversy, the Home Office published the findings of an international comparison of the policies adopted by thirteen countries to tackle drug misuse and dependency. The study, which has been widely hailed by commentators as demonstrating that a ‘criminal justice approach’ to drugs is ineffective, was a concession to the Liberal Democrats, who had promised a liberalisation of drugs legislation in their 2010 manifesto and have since been arguing for a Royal Commission on drugs. Several days later, however, Liberal Democrat Minister Norman Baker resigned from his post in the Home Office, alleging that Home Secretary Theresa May had blocked publication of the report for several months, and describing working with her as ‘a constant battle’. The controversy within the Home Office over the report has brought the contrasting attitudes of Liberal Democrats and Conservatives around drugs policy into wider public consciousness, but has also highlighted the uneasy relationship between politics and criminal justice policy.

Although the published study contains no overarching conclusions, the evidence it presents demonstrates that there is no consistent relationship between the severity of a country’s drugs laws and the prevalence of drug use, addiction and associated harms among its population. A comparison between the approaches of Portugal and the Czech Republic exemplifies this. While both have effectively decriminalised the possession of a small amount of any drug for personal use, Portugal has seen improved health outcomes and falls in levels of drug use and drug-related deaths, while in the Czech Republic following decriminalisation, rates of marijuana use remain among the highest in Europe, health outcomes have worsened and drug-related deaths have increased. Sweden, on the other hand, which takes a stringent criminal justice approach to psychoactive substances, has relatively low levels of drug use, although not significantly lower than in some other countries taking different approaches. The Home Office study, then, quite clearly demonstrates that the severity of the sanctions in place for drug possession and use doesn’t determine whether or not a country will have a drug problem. That is, whatever the strengths or weaknesses a country’s drug strategy may have in managing the risks and potential harms of drug use, whether or not the trade in and/or use of psychoactive substances are criminalised is clearly not key to managing the problem.

Despite this, the Foreword to the report – authored, as is usual in government documents, by the politicians who commissioned it rather than researchers who conducted the study – introduces the findings with the assertion that what they primarily show is that different policies work in different contexts and wholesale policy transfer is clearly impossible. More than this, it claims that, read in the context of long-term declining drug use in the UK, the study demonstrates that the Government’s ‘balanced and evidence-based drugs policy’ is sound. This indicates a clear resistance to the opening of a debate around reform of the drugs laws.

Drug use trends - Home Office 2014

Source: Home Office (2014). Despite the government’s claim that a long-term decline in drug use indicates that government policy is working, most of the decline is accounted for by a fall in cannabis use, while the use of Class A drugs has been stable for two decades.

Theresa May has offered little comment on either the report or Baker’s noisy resignation. As the story began to gain momentum in the press, however, the Prime Minister intervened with a clear dismissal of the possibility of any relaxation in the drugs laws. He offered little engagement with the evidence presented in the report, but fell back on clichés of ‘common sense’ and the moral claims of parenthood: the criminalisation of drug use would remain in place because ‘as a father of three children’ he did not want to ‘send a message that somehow taking these drugs is okay and safe’, and that decriminalisation would ‘add to the danger’ posed by psychoactive substances – this last point despite the clear evidence of the report that the ‘message’ sent by the law is not the significant factor in determining the prevalence of drug use. Furthermore, not only would the policy of criminalisation not be relaxed, it would be extended to cover substances currently known as ‘legal highs’.

Cameron’s argument rests on the value of the drugs laws as symbolic, and – supposedly – deterrent. This focus on the immediate harms and risks associated with the consumption of drugs neglects the myriad of other, state-sponsored, harms generated by criminalisation, which range from the violence and instability caused by the illegal multi-billion dollar international drugs trade, to the harms to individuals and communities that come with the imposition of criminal justice sanctions on users. This narrow conception of drug-related harm and the resistance to an evidence-led approach to drugs policy by UK politicians has history over successive governments of different political stripes. In 2000, for example, the Blair government greeted the recommendations of the Runciman Commission to downgrade the classification of ecstasy and cannabis, and to treat possession of the latter as a minor civil offence , with panic, conceding only the downgrading of Cannabis from Class B to Class C when it became evident that The Daily Mail had received the report with approval rather than the expected outrage. Eight years later, however, and against scientific advice, Gordon Brown’s administration reversed that decision and sacked senior drugs advisor David Nutt for criticising the move as being without foundation in evidence. For Guardian commentator Simon Jenkins, who was a member of the Runciman Commission, government resistance to an evidence-led drugs approach to drug use represents a failure of drugs politics rather than drugs policy.

A continuation of current policy means a reaffirmation of the government’s commitment to criminal justice sanctions for those convicted of dealing in, or possessing, illegal drugs. This group accounts for a substantial proportion of the prison population. 2013 Ministry of Justice figures show that 14% of men in prison, and 15% of women were serving sentences for drug offences. This, however, masks the much larger number of convicted prisoners whose convictions were indirectly drugs-related (i.e. not for possession or supply of drugs themselves): in the same year, 66% of female and 38% of male prisoners reported that the offence for which they had been sentenced was committed to fund their own or someone else’s drug use. Not only does it draw very large numbers into our prisons, our current criminal justice paradigm serves those with problems of substance abuse and their communities very poorly. For example, illegal drugs are disproportionately used by minority, marginal and disadvantaged groups – young people, those from ethnically mixed backgrounds, gay and bisexual men and women, and people living in areas of relative deprivation. Meanwhile, while members of Black and Minority Ethnic groups use drugs at a lower rate than the population as a whole, for example, they are more often stopped and searched under drugs laws, and receive more severe sanctions for drugs possession offences when convicted.

Not only is the criminal justice approach to the use of psychoactive substances fundamentally problematic, the government’s reaffirmation of its commitment to maintain the status quo in drugs policy comes at a time of mounting strain in the criminal justice system. At close to 86,000, the prison population in England and Wales is not far from its historic high, and in a context of budget cuts, reduced staffing levels and prison closures, the consequence of this is overcrowding and reduced levels of purposeful activity for prisoners. The prison population is being held in facilities not designed to accommodate their numbers, and concentrated into larger and larger prisons, which are known to be less safe. These conditions cannot ensure basic safety, much less deliver the government’s promised ‘rehabilitation revolution’. The number of assaults recorded against both staff and prisoners has increased and, most worrying of all, suicides among prisoners have risen sharply over the last year: clear indicators of a prison system in crisis. The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, has issued a clear warning: either the prison population must fall or prisons must be better funded. The Home Office report demonstrates clearly that prohibition is not a meaningful deterrent to drug use. Neither is prison an effective place to deal with problems of addiction: drug use (including first use of heroin) among prisoners is high while the current trend towards larger institutions exacerbates these risks, as prisoners in large establishments are more likely to know how to get hold of drugs, but less likely to know where to get help with problems of addiction.

Over the the last month, the Coalition row over the government response to the Home Office report, and the crisis of rising suicides, overcrowding and violence in our prison system have sat cheek-by-jowl in the headlines. We have a bloated prison system that – while public and welfare services are being cut elsewhere – we can ill afford, and into which we channel thousands of men and women each year, disproportionately from marginal and disadvantaged sections of society, where their social disadvantage is compounded and physical and psychological well-being profoundly threatened. While there is no denying the harms generated by substance addiction, all a criminal justice approach can offer us is what Willem De Haan has described as ‘spiralling cycles of harm’. We know better than this, and it is in all our interests to start doing better.