DOES PROFESSIONAL CRIME PAY?—A CRITICAL COMMENT ON MACK

Publication Date01 Sep 1977
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1977.tb02442.x
AuthorAndrew Sanders
DOES PROFESSIONAL CRIME PAY?-
A CRITICAL COMMENT ON MACK
THE spectre of professional criminals escaping their just deserts in
court was raised by the Criminal Law Revision Committee
(CLRC)l
and Sir Robert MarkY2 in 1972; struck down by Zander in 19743;
and resuscitated in
1976
by Mack.4 Since evidence was lacking in
1972, one wonders how Sir Robert could state
so
forcibly that few
suspected professionals who were acquitted were
innocent in the
true sense of the word.” The police can, and frequently do, use
their discretion when considering the arrests of su~pects.~ Often an
arrest will take place only after
a
“careful evaluation that
the
suspect
is
guilty
and an arrest
is
therefore
just.”
In
Westley’s
words, “Once he has made such
a
judgment, he finds it difficult
to admit that he is wrong, for this would indicate uncertainty
.
.
.
The policeman, needing the security of past judgments for future
judgments tends to rationalise away the decisions of the court.”
Thus Sir Robert’s view, of
a
type generally possessed by police-
men, results from external pressures: for instance, the barrage
of
criticism to which they are often subject; they must develop an
unfailing confidence in their ability to make correct decisions. The
strength of such beliefs may even manifest itself illegally, such as
in
the
planting
of evidence in drug cases
*
and the intimidation of
a
mentally retarded boy.g The point here is not the abuse or other-
wise by police
of
their powers, but the demonstration that police-
men (1) hold strong beliefs, sometimes erroneously, sometimes
selectively, about the criminality
of
suspects-or the
nature
of
their
criminality, as was seen in the cases of George Davis and Patrick
Meehan
lo;
(2)
will be influenced by such beliefs when they exercise
their discretion to investigate, arrest and charge.
In
other words,
police beliefs and activities are
problematic ”-not to be accepted
as necessarily representing reality-and it is from this view of law
enforcement that not only can Sir Robert’s remarks be understood
~
1
Criminal Law Revision Committee Eleventh Report-Evidence (General)
2
Sir Robert Mark,
The Disease
of
Crime-Punishment
or
Treatment?
(London,
3
M. Zander,
Are too Many Professional Criminals Avoiding Conviction?
4
J.
Mack, “Full Time Major Criminals and the Courts” (1976) 39 M.L.R.
5
See
generally
A.
K.
Bottomley,
Decisions in the Penal Process
(London, Martin
(London. H.M.S.O.), Cmnd. 4991 (1972).
Royal Society
of
Medicine, 1972).
(1974) 34 M.L.R. 26-61.
241-267 (referred to
as
Mack
in the text below).
Robertson, 1973), Chap. 2.
D.
81.
6
A.
Reiss,
The Police and the Public
(New Haven, Yale
UP.,
1971), p. 135.
7 W.
Westley,
Violence and the Police
(Cambridge, Mass., M.I.T. Press, 1970),
8
J.
Young, “The Role of the Police
as
Amplifiers
of
Deviancy,” in S. Cohen
(ed.),
Images
of
Deviance
(Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1971).
See
R.
v.
Lattimore and Others (The Times,
Oct. 18, 1975).
10
See
The Times,
May
12
and
20,
1976.
553

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