Tuesday, 18 October 2016

A2 Crime & Deviance Case Study - The Spalding Murders

The recent high-profile criminal case where a mother and daughter were murdered in their beds by a pair of fourteen year-old children, has been shocking both because of the age of the accused pair and also because of the unprovoked, graphic and callous nature of the premeditated killings.

The dubious label of "Britain's youngest ever couple to be convicted of murder" means that the media have found the case to be both unusual and sensational. But while the obvious comparisons to 'Bonnie and Clyde' are being made, just how much do we understand about this case? In cases where there is no apparent strong motive for a crime, how do we go about establishing an explanation?

As Sociologists, we seek to understand and explain the often complex relationship between variously motivated social actions and the resulting criminality and deviance.

At the trial, one expert witness offered 'a Bonnie and Clyde-esque scenario' as part of a possible explanation for the murders: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lincolnshire-37648195

Expert witness Dr Philip Joseph, a consultant forensic psychiatrist, said she was not suffering from a mental disorder as she had claimed and the key to the murders was the relationship between the young couple.
"If they had not had this intense, toxic relationship this would never have happened. It is the relationship that is behind the killings," he said.
"When you have two people together like that, the group dynamic can lead on to a course of action that would otherwise never have taken place."
He told the court it was a Bonnie & Clyde-esque scenario of "us against them".
The court heard the girl first became aware of the boy in 2013, but they did not become a couple until May 2015.
After the killings, the girl told Dr Joseph the relationship meant she "felt happy for once", adding that they had a lot in common.
"He was my first serious boyfriend. We started having a sexual relationship. It was the first time for both of us," she said in interviews.
"I felt very close to him. It was the closest I've ever felt to anyone.
"Nobody else liked him because he was annoying. Until he came along no-one ever listened to me."

The same article also discusses various theories as to why the murderers might have carried out their crimes, including a discussion on shifting norms and values among small groups of people: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lincolnshire-37648195

Prof Francis Pakes, a criminal psychologist at the University of Portsmouth, said: "Group behaviour differs from individual behaviour in a number of ways.
"One factor can be that responsibility for the groups' actions is not necessarily as clear when more than one individual engages in criminal behaviour.
"Another factor is that of shifting norms and values.
"If there is an intense relationship between two or more impressionable individuals, notions of what is normal and what's right are more easily shifted; there's a bigger chance of small groups developing more extreme ideas.
"It can be a case of people shifting their thinking from regular norms and values or it can be that their values do not shift but they find it easier to justify behaviour that they commit when under the influence of another."

 At the commencement of the trial, the boy entered a guilty plea to both counts of murder; but the girl denied murder and instead admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. Although she did not physically take part in the killings, the court heard that she was "the driving force in the killings" and that "if she had said no then it would never ever have happened" which makes her "as guilty of murder" as the boy: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lincolnshire-37680917

The girl was eventually found guilty of both murders. The court heard details of how the couple meticulously planned the murders and carried them out to the letter: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lincolnshire-37648195

Mrs Edwards, 49, was pinned down on her bed and stabbed eight times, including twice in the neck, her blood spattering across the walls. The boy had purposely attacked her in the throat to damage her voice box.
Why? To ensure her daughter was not woken by screams or cries for help.
and after the murders acted in a cold and callous manner: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-37693103

Jurors had heard how the teenagers meticulously planned the murders before carrying them out "to the letter"...
 Drawn together by suicidal thoughts, they convinced each other over a McDonald's meal that the solution to the grudge she had against 49-year-old Liz Edwards was to kill. Intense planning followed where the murder of Ms Edwards' daughter was also approved...
Following the killings the couple shared a bath, had sex and watched four Twilight movies before they were arrested.
The court heard the teenagers had planned to commit suicide after the killings but decided not to go through with that part of their plan.
Sentencing took place on 10th November 2016, where both the boy and the girl were given life sentences with 20-year minimum terms: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-37941236

How would you go about constructing an explanation for these crimes, if you were tasked with compiling a report as a Sociologist? Would you, for example, find the Bonds of Attachment theory useful in explaining the couple's sense of detachment from social norms? What about the other theories that we have covered so far on the course?

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