Research, theory and crimes of the powerful
In this audio interview, Steve Tombs discusses some of the tensions and difficulties associated with researching crimes of the powerful that he and Dave Whyte examined in ‘Unmasking the crimes of the powerful’. The interview highlights the importance of power in constructions of harm and in defining what is ‘criminal’. To do so, he draws on experience researching and writing about a particleboard factory in Liverpool owned by Sonae Industria.
Working with local community members and campaigning groups, Tombs and Whyte sought to raise awareness of the harm and health concerns associated with the operation of this factory, but their research was challenged and they were threatened with a libel suit by Sonae. This example provides a useful illustration of the way the powerful can sometimes use their influence and resources both to challenge and to silence, thereby preventing scrutiny of harmful practices. Sometimes it is only when major incidents occur that wider public and political attentions are drawn to such practices. As Tombs suggests, by thinking more carefully about the importance of power, the way it operates, and the considerable resources that the powerful have at their disposal, the imbalance of criminal justice and problems of social harm become more clearly observable.
You should now listen to the audio below, ‘Research, theory and crimes of the powerful: an interview with Steve Tombs’.