Did you know that years ago it was considered a crime to print anything other than the Bible? Also, in America, it used to be a crime to write a cheque for anything less than a dollar? These were some of the interesting facts that we learned from a criminology conference in Birmingham that a group of sixth form students attended last week.
This proved to be a fascinating day. The sessions gave students a lively and informative discussion about what criminology is and the historical development of criminology. Crime myths were also discussed, and how common perceptions of who commits crime do not always match reality. Our students were especially interested in the case of Darryl Hunt, a 19 year old African American wrongly convicted of murder, despite no physical evidence linking him to the crime.
In the afternoon professors in criminology from Teeside University and UCL discussed more contemporary issues on how criminologists have viewed and studied the riots of 2011 and how criminology has been used to understand terrorism. It seemed fitting that students from our school were engaging in academic debates about whether military action in Syria was an appropriate response to terrorism on the same day MPs were voting on this subject in the House of Commons.
The final lecture was delivered by a man simply named Andrew. It came to light that he was an ex-convict who was arrested and charged for assaulting a man on his way home. Three weeks later the victim died and Andrew was re-arrested, charged and found guilty of murder. He was given a life sentence with a tariff of 12 years, which he has now served, and now he works with organisations telling young people of his experiences in prison. This session proved to be the most interesting and challenging for our students. It challenged some of our views about what types of people commit crime, whether prison is an effective punishment and how society should treat people who have criminal convictions. Our students found it difficult to decide whether Andrew should be allowed to work in the care system (an occupation he longed to fulfil) or if this could never be acceptable due to his past.
Undoubtedly this was a fantastic opportunity for sixth form students to have a taste of what lectures may be like at university and to listen to thought provoking and interesting topics of discussion. I was immensely proud that in an auditorium of 400, it was our students who were the first to answer questions and engage in the debates with the academic speakers. This is an annual conference and one which I am sure St Thomas More sixth form students will be attending again.
"I loved it! It was as an interesting experience that helped me gain further knowledge in a more sociological subject." Laura Avery, 13R
"It made me question whether the prison system works and whether we do have an appropriate justice system in our country." Georgia Doughty, 13O