Professor Peter Squires
It was a conversation with Tim Newburn, at Belfast Airport, in the wake of the 1997 annual BSC conference that prompted me to become more involved in the work of the BSC. Long before the current imperatives around ‘impact’ or the ‘public criminology’ agenda, I’d always thought that criminologists should be contributing more to the debates about crime and criminalisation, bringing a little more light and evidence to debates too often driven by heat. In due course, I was co-opted as ‘chair’ of the public relations committee, although I was never clear that it had very many other members. One of our first initiatives was to draw up a new BSC ‘experts’ database to allow us to respond more effectively to journalistic inquiries. Over the next few years, I undertook a variety of executive committee roles and we even established a ‘break-away ‘Southern Coastal’ regional network. In 2015, I was nominated to stand as BSC president, prompting an election, the first for a fair few years in the society. The main themes arising over the four years of my presidency concerned: managing the consequences of the uneven expansion of criminology teaching and research; trying to address the ‘visibility’ and identity issues facing criminology arising from, first, the REF and, later, the TEF; and thirdly, trying to establish the ‘National Criminology Survey’ by which we might gain a clearer picture of the state of contemporary criminology: what criminology was being taught and researched, where, by whom, and under what conditions. We presented the first results from that initial survey at the 2019 BSC conference at Lincoln.
A longstanding interest in social control and specifically ‘criminalisation’ has continued to shape my academic work, although it was primarily framed within social and public policy rather than criminology, as such; my PhD was a study of the ‘policing’ of the benefits system and the criminalisation of poverty. As opportunities arose to move more towards teaching and researching in criminology, policing, youth crime, later anti-social behaviour, and surveillance became major topics of interest. Serendipity also played a major part, and it was only a chance decision, around 1994, to take a look at the rising incidence of gun crime in the UK, that led to the work programme that probably most defines my academic career. Consistent with my enthusiasm for a ‘public criminology’, I like to think of ‘my finest hour’ as a 60 minute live TV debate with NRA executive vice-president Wayne La Pierre. It went so well that the NRA never up-loaded the film to their website. Impacts can be had in various ways. I took voluntary severance from the University of Brighton in 2019 after 33 years of working there (long enough, I think) and I’m now looking forwards to a new career phase as a ‘freelance criminologist’ seeking interesting opportunities.