British Society of Criminology
Outstanding Achievement Award
This award is intended to celebrate outstanding contributions made to the discipline.
British Society of Criminology Outstanding Achievement Award 2020
This year there was no conference and the award presentation was conducted online.
2020 winner – Professor Mike Maguire, University of South Wales.
NEW – PODCAST – Professor Maguire was subsequently interviewed by Professor Fiona Brookman on his background in criminology and his academic journey. It is a fascinating account of how theory and methodology have informed the development of criminology and Mike’s belief that the questions inform the methods employed. He covers changes in criminology over the past decades and it really is a valuable insight into the shifting landscape of research and academic freedoms. Find out about the realities of summarising a conference (!), the relationship between academics and other criminal justice professionals and agencies, the luxury of reading for pleasure and working in partnership with one’s own colleagues . As Fiona says: “You are exactly what a proper professor should be”.
There is also a podcast of the award meeting and below the acceptance speech and photos of the award being presented by BSC President Professor Sandra Walklate, to the winner Professor Mike Maguire, University of South Wales.
Also in attendance were the nominators, Professor Fiona Brookman and Associate Professor Harriet Pierpoint.
Well, thank you very much indeed. When I say it was a shock to be told I’d been awarded this, that is a huge understatement. My first thought (apart from ‘this is a wind up’) was that it was rather like the ‘lifetime award’ to an old fading actor at the Oscars with the not-very-well- hidden message – ‘Thanks, but it’s time to go’! But I really am very grateful – it’s a massive honour, as is obvious from looking back through the list of others who have received it in the past and seeing myself in that company. And that includes my long-time colleague in Cardiff, Mike Levi, who was awarded it last year. Welsh criminology is on the up!
Given the sad and unusual circumstances this year, I’m not going to say much now or make a lengthy acceptance speech, as you would expect at the national conference. Instead, I’m going to try and record an interview shortly with my colleague at the University of South Wales, Fiona Brookman – sort of Desert Island Discs or The Life Scientific, she said – and if the technology works, the BSC will post either the recording or a transcript of it on their website.
However, what I do want to do is thank the people who nominated me – I understand it was Fiona and Harriet Pierpoint, neither of whom breathed a word about it to me – and the committee who made the decision. I also want to say what a great institution the BSC has become. When I started my career in the 1970s it was a small, very London-centred organisation, and fairly narrow in its conception of what criminology was. Since then it has expanded to incorporate flourishing regional branches (including an excellent one in Wales), organises large annual conferences covering a very wide range of topics and methodologies – in my view the best criminology conferences in the world (and much more enjoyable than the few American ones I have been to!) – and runs a high quality journal, Criminology and Criminal Justice. It welcomes practitioners and policy-makers as well as academics, and its ‘broad church’ approach has often helped to bridge gaps between groups that at times have become quite hostile to each other – be it between different schools of criminology or government and academics.
So thank you all again. This very attractive piece of glass will have pride of place in my (not very full) trophy cabinet, dwarfing my dominoes and chess awards.
Professor Maguire now joins the ranks of our Honorary Members also added a reflection on the role of the BSC, past, present and future.
As I said when I accepted this prestigious award, I along with many other criminologists have good reason to be grateful to the British Society of Criminology for helping to make the subject what it is today. When I started my career in the 1970s, not only were the relatively small number of academics who called themselves criminologists isolated in ones and twos in different kinds of university departments scattered across the country, but there were quite deep ideological splits and hostilities between criminologists themselves. In the 1980s and 1990s, as the discipline grew, the BSC played a big part in bringing it together and raising its visibility and status. The BSC itself has grown from a small, London-centred body, narrow in its conception of what criminology was, into a ‘broad church’ national organisation with flourishing regional branches (including an excellent one in Wales), promoting the discipline nationally and internationally, influencing policy-makers, running major conferences and editing a high quality journal, Criminology and Criminal Justice. I have particularly fond memories of helping to organise the annual conference in Cardiff in 1993, which brought back together for the first time in years the ‘stars’ of the radical 1973 book The New Criminology, Ian Taylor, Paul Walton and Jock Young, soon followed by an after dinner speech from one of the founding fathers of post-war criminology in Britain, Sir Leon Radzinowicz – a striking case of ‘chalk and cheese’ in the same event, which exemplifies the spirit of the BSC.
For more on the history of the BSC please see our History section
British Society of Criminology Outstanding Achievement Award 2019
Long before the advent of zemiology as a proclaimed master narrative of criminology, all my working life has been concerned with boundaries and their appropriateness: organised crime, white-collar crime, money laundering, tax avoidance/evasion. Boundaries are useful because of what they tell us about our own and others’ stereotypes. My doctoral work – shortened to a still very long book The Phantom Capitalists – was partly about how different streams of the same activity – defrauding business creditors – were identified and proceeded against differently when they were committed by gangsters like the Krays and Richardsons, by professional fraudsters, and by businesspeople who only turned to fraud when business times were hard, as they may well do after Brexit. These opportunities for fraud are always there: but the dynamics of seizing opportunities can shift.
In recent decades, I have been much concerned with the anti-money laundering transnational legal order, which has been developing rapidly to incorporate all crimes great and small: there is thus a broad spectrum of political constituencies to whom it appeals, from left to right and from Green to climate change deniers, many of them less interested than they should be in the empirical aspects of ‘what works’. This presents dilemmas over how to differentiate the laundering of organized crime funds from other sources of criminal income, which include tax evasion, grand corruption, environmental crimes and the financing of terrorism – all of which can sometimes involve committing ‘organized crime’ offences.. For example, the funnelling of perhaps billions of dollars allegedly stolen from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund in the global 1MDB scandal (some of which, ironically, was used to fund the well-received fraud movie The Wolf of Wall Street) was well organized. It is simply that the principal people involved – allegedly the then Malaysian Prime Minister, his wife and step-son and their entourage, on trial there in 2019, plus former senior Goldman Sachs staff and a Malaysian entrepreneur who has not yet been found – would not be viewed (at least then) by many respectable elites or by many police as ‘organized crime actors’. We might extend this boundary problem to the ‘diesel-gate’ falsification of emissions, primarily by the Volkswagen Group. Arguably this involved several actors planning how to commit crimes and get away with them over a long period of time for the pursuit of profit and power: criteria that meet the UN Transnational Organized Crime Convention 2000. Yet notwithstanding the criminal aggravated fraud charges in 2019 in Germany against the former chief executive officer and 4 managers of VW, many readers would balk at the idea of labeling senior executives of major corporations as ‘organized criminals’, though others might complain if we did not so label them for their intentional deception. In countries with jury trials, this raises questions about jury decision-making and the impact of ethnic, religious and/or social prejudice in both directions (for and against defendants) on their adjudication processes, and how we can reduce the impact of such prejudice on the narratives that we tell ourselves about ‘what happened’. Prosecutorial conservatism in anticipating jury reactions remains a live practical issue in fraud as well as in violent/sexual crime cases. (Prejudice is not restricted to countries with jury systems.)
Whether the deaths from the dangerously ill-designed Boeing 747 Max will lead to criminal charges remains to be determined but – zemiologists take note – no-one can seriously argue that the designers and top management wanted people to die in plane crashes, even if it was a foreseeable consequence of their decisions. The subsequent losses from the plane’s grounding and from future civil litigation may lead us to re-evaluate the economic rationality of that allegedly reckless implementation in terms of the shareholders’ and the Board’s values; and it arguably makes little difference to the dead and perhaps to their families what the Board intended. But my plea is that we take account of civil and administrative penalties, and the business careers of those involved in the scandals – when we analyse the impacts of white-collar crimes on all the parties.
The very considerable rise of fraud – especially online fraud – as a mode of crime commission in contemporary societies has muddied the classical distinction between organized and white-collar crime. To some extent, the demarcation issue is our stereotypes of social class and status. The investigative media exposure of Operation Laundromat and subsequent European scandals such as Danske Bank and Swedbank in 2018-19 shows cross-ties between politicians in the former Soviet Union, organized criminals, professional crime enablers and bankers in the Baltic States, and international finance centres including London and New York. Although such linkages may have little impact on the laundering of the proceeds of drugs or human trafficking, the volumes of money involved are huge and this poses both practical and cultural/ideological questions about political and policing boundaries of the term ‘organized crime’.
These are only a few of the many issues I have been fortunate enough to research in my lifetime, and I am aiming to continue to do so for some years to come! I am grateful to the BSC for this honour, and long may the diverse and challenging traditions of British criminology flourish.