crime

Should we do more to help paedophiles?

By Rebecca Roache

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Luke Malone has published an extremely moving, disturbing, and distressing article in Medium, entitled ‘You’re 16. You’re a pedophile. You don’t want to hurt anyone. What do you do now?’ (warning: Malone’s article contains a graphic description of child abuse). The article focuses on ‘Adam’, a young man who, aged 16, was horrified to discover that he was sexually attracted to children. Disturbed by his sexual desires, and desperate to avoid acting on them, he suffered depression and initially used child pornography as an outlet for his feelings. (He subsequently stopped doing this.) Adam describes how he eventually went to see a therapist, who was unsympathetic, inexperienced in this area, and ultimately of little help. It turns out that, despite the fact that paedophilia is recognised as a mental disorder, there are major obstacles to helping people who, like Adam, are desperate to avoid harming children. Malone summarises some of the main problems: Continue reading

Taking Rape Allegations Seriously: How Should We Treat the Accused?

Last week, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that it would not pursue further action against Oxford Union president Ben Sullivan, due to insufficient evidence arising from an investigation into the two accusations of rape and attempted rape made against him. In early May, Sullivan was arrested and released on bail, prompting a chaotic six-week period for the Union as the Thames Valley Police investigated the claims made against him. After Sullivan refused to resign, a number of high-profile speakers, including the UK director of Human Rights Watch, the Interpol secretary-general, and a Nobel Peace prize winner, pulled out of their speaking commitments as part of a larger boycott of Union events.

In an open letter (which has since been taken down) calling for the boycott, students Sarah Pine, who is Oxford University Student Union’s Vice President for Women, and Helena Dollimor wrote, “Remaining in his presidency continues to offer prestige and power to someone who is being investigated for rape. This undermines the severe nature of allegations of sexual offences.” In contrast, Oxford professor A.C. Grayling penned a response to the letter refusing to cancel his scheduled talk at the Union, noting, “I simply cannot, in all conscience, allow myself to act only on the basis of allegations and suspicions, or of conviction by the kangaroo court of opinion, or trial by press…” In this post, I look at the spectrum of responses in the wake of Sullivan’s arrest, of which these two examples represent the poles. More broadly, I consider how we ought to respond – both as individuals and a society – when those in positions of power are accused of rape or other sexual offences. Continue reading

Is this the real life, is this just fantasy? When should we act against disturbing imagination

A British nurse has been arrested for claiming online to have eaten two women, with the police digging up his garden. This is the latest twist on the Gilberto Valle case, where a New York policeman stands accused for plotting to kidnap, rape, murder and cannibalize womenThe case hinges upon whether the disturbing online discussions between Valle, the nurse and others are actual evidence of planning crimes, or just vivid shared fantasies. When should we act when encountering disturbing fantasies?

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Psychopaths should not be punished

Lincoln Frias – member of the International Neuroethics Society, Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (CAPES, NEPC-UFMG), Brazil. 

Please focus: now, imagine a cute little child with her curious big eyes, her surprising funny remarks, and out of blue kindness. But now imagine her being kicked in the head to death, blood all over the place, despite her helplessness and her painful screams. If you really imagined this scenario, you probably experienced a revulsive feeling in your guts, tension in the jaw and maybe even a bitter taste in your mouth. Now, change the perspective: now it is you who is kicking her, causing her teeth to break, and all the blood coming out of her little body while she cries with a squeaky voice. This new vision probably brought even more aversive feelings, something similar to disgust, and it is possible that you are frowning right now, maybe even considering stop reading. To make things worse, imagine that your mother saw you doing that. This elicits a powerful feeling composed by anxiety, horror and intrusive thoughts of guilt and inadequacy, leaving you in a submissive state of mind. Continue reading

Treating ADHD may reduce criminality

Pharmaceutical treatment of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is associated with reduced criminality according to a study published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study of over 25,000 Swedish adults with the disorder found that men undergoing pharmaceutical treatments had a 51% chance of committing at least one crime in a 4-year period compared to 63% for those not in treatment. The risk of criminality for women with ADHD was 25% for those taking medication, and 31% for those not in treatment. It’s possible, of course, that the reduction in criminality associated with treatment was due not to the treatment itself, but to other factors, such as desire to improve behaviour, which could have both motivated treatment and reduced criminality. However, even when the investigators adjusted for likely confounders, they found that treatment was associated with significantly reduced criminal offending. Thus, their findings are at least suggestive of a causal relationship between medication and reduced crime.

It will be interesting to see how such a relationship, if it can be further supported, will be viewed by the general public and medical profession. Will it be seen as strengthening or weakening the case for ADHD treatment?

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Let’s get rid of Heaven, Hell is what we need! (?)

In the beginning of this week, PLoS ONE published an interesting article suggesting that a country’s crime rates depend on the religious believes its population holds: Societies that believe in heaven are more criminal than societies that believe in hell.

For this study, Azim Shariff (director of the Culture and Morality Lab of the University of Oregon) and Mijke Rhemtulla analysed data on people’s beliefs the World Values Surveys collected over 26 years on 143 197 participants from 67 countries. In these surveys, participants were presented a list of concepts – including “heaven” and “hell” – and asked to indicate whether or not they believed in each of them. Shariff & Rhemtulla compared these belief data (using a series of linear regression equations) to standardised crime rates which they derived from statistics the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime collected on crimes like homicide, robbery, and burglary.

 

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Surrendering to big brother might be the least bad option

We’re probably approaching a point where blue-collar crime could be eradicated, one way or the other. But the way does matter: we could eradicate crime through ubiquitous surveillance, or through drug treatments/targeted lobotomies to remove the urges to criminality, or through effective early identification of potential criminals and preemptive measures against them, or through skilled large scale social manipulation of attitudes, or even through reducing all human interactions to tele-presence.

All these methods are unpleasant and undermine our current notions of democracy, but persistent fear of crime (despite the persistent reduction in actual crime) means that politicians will find it extraordinarily difficult not to implement one of these measures, were it to work. Humanity will likely find itself in a crime-free society; the question is how.

To my mind, ubiquitous surveillance is the least unpleasant of the possibilities – it’s non-discriminatory, doesn’t interfere with people’s inner motivations, doesn’t involve sinister manipulations of social norms or loss of human interactions. Assuming we can’t hold the line, that’s where I would want it to be broken.

But we might have more influence if we surrender early. Saying “we’ll allow surveillance, but fight you tooth and nail and claw on the other methods” would make it much easier to ensure those other methods were not implemented. In exchange for cooperation, we could also push the surveillance state into more positive implementations of the policy – maybe achieving 360 degree transparency (we watch the rulers watching us) or treating recording akin to electronic medical records, only allowing them to viewed in specific circumstances.

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