Category Archives: Criminal law

Social media and crime: the good, the bad and the ugly

social media and crime

Social media has revolutionised how we communicate. As part of a series for The Conversation, Alyce McGovern, UNSW Australia and Sanja Milivojevic, La Trobe University summarise how social media is affecting crime and criminal justice.  

The popularity of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat have transformed the way we understand and experience crime and victimisation.

Previously, it’s been thought that people form their opinions about crime from what they see or read in the media. But with social media taking over as our preferred news source, how do these new platforms impact our understanding of crime?

Social media has also created new concerns in relation to crime itself. Victimisation on social media platforms is not uncommon.

However, it is not all bad news. Social media has created new opportunities for criminal justice agencies to solve crimes, among other things.

Thus, like many other advancements in communication technology, social media has a good, a bad and an ugly side when it comes to its relationship with criminal justice and the law. Continue reading

Q&A with Professor Katherine Biber – legal scholar, historian and criminologist

Katherine-BiberProfessor Katherine Biber is a visiting fellow at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, where her research explores the handling of criminal evidence outside the courtroom and after the conclusion of a trial. On 11th June she will take part in the Illicit Images workshop at the IALS, speaking on  “Redacted readymades: art from bureaucratic secrets”.

She kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her work….

Tell us a bit about yourself and your work ….
I am a legal scholar, historian and criminologist at the University of Technology Sydney, in Australia. My research focuses on criminal evidence, particularly visual evidence. I study that way that photographs and other visual sources are used and interpreted within the legal process, and also how evidentiary materials continue to proliferate outside of, and after, the trial.

How does your work relate to information/communication law and policy?
Some of my research looks at principles and practices of open justice. It investigates the processes by which users might access evidentiary materials from courts. I have found that whilst some of this material is released following a judicial decision – where the principles of open justice might be considered explicitly – a great deal of this material is released in the shadow of the law. It might be released by court registrars, court information officers, court media officers, or by some other kind of processes, which are highly variable, and which are also very difficult to research.

What have you done while you have been at the IALS? What have been the most valuable activities?
I have been working on a book manuscript. I am writing a book [provisionally] titled In Crime’s Archive: The Cultural Afterlife of Evidence, due to be published by Routledge in 2016. I’ve been speaking to curators, scholars, artists, playwrights, poets, lawyers and judges about how criminal evidentiary material continues to ‘live’ after its probative value has expired. I’ve been attending exhibitions and events, as London is an incredibly rich and inspiring place to see creative and curatorial work.

Tell us about the Illicit Images event and what that’s about ….
Illicit Images is an opportunity for four scholars to have a dialogue about how legal images might be examined and understood. Each of us draws upon a different group of images from specific times and places, and each of us will set out some of the questions raised for legal and cultural scholarship by ‘difficult’ images. These are questions about the making of these images, their display, their manipulation and how their meanings might change with the passage of time. Three of the speakers are legal scholars, and one (Peter Doyle) is a curator, crime fiction author, musician and media scholar. It will be a lively event, and one that I hope is the beginning of a longer conversation.

What are your future plans for research?
I am starting to think about writing a legal biography of Jimmy Governor. Governor was an Aboriginal farm worker who, in 1900, murdered white women and children on the Australian frontier. His capture and trial, immediately before Australian Federation, marks his experience of the criminal process as very unusual and distinctive. I am interested in tracing the extent to which Federation provides a context for interpreting his crimes, his capture, his trial, his appeal, and his eventual execution.

Thank you!

For further details about Professor Biber’s work please see her profile at UTS. Sign up for the Illicit Images workshop, organised by the IALS in collaboration with Birkeck, University of London, here.

The challenge of obtaining DNA evidence: exchanges between EU member states and fundamental rights protection

This guest post by Joaquín Sarrión Esteve,  Assistant Professor, University of Valencia and IALS Visiting Fellow, discusses legal issues around biometric data, based on a seminar presentation in November 2014.

Biometric data represent particular challenges in the fight against globalized crime. New technologies help us to identify persons, using fingerprint/palm print identification, iris identification, face recognition or DNA technology, for example.

The exclusivity of DNA facilitates its use for both paternity investigation, and identifying persons in criminal investigation, by obtaining the DNA or genetic profile.

We can use what is called the non-coding DNA for criminal investigation, which provides a characteristic of each individual. It is an anonymous code distinguishing feature and it can be useful for identifying the identity but it does not provide information on the physical or phenotypic traits of the individual (called the coding DNA ), although we also use the sex characteristic provision. The problem is that science allows the conversion of non-coding DNA to coding DNA.

The exchange of DNA data between EU Member States can help a lot in the fight against globalized crime. In this sense, the EU Legal Framework is based on the assumption of Prüm Convention regime: Council Decision 2008/615/JHA of 23 June 2008 (known as Prüm decision), Council Decision 2008/616/JHA of 23 June 2008 on the implementation of Decision 2008/615/JHA; and Council Decision 2010/482/EU of 26 July 2010 on the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Union and Iceland and Norway on the application of certain provisions of Prüm decisions.

Anyway, the goal of using DNA data is to obtain valid evidence for a criminal process [in general, a national criminal process]. And to do it, the DNA evidence must be obtained with respect to fundamental rights and legal guarantees in the three stages: the sample collection, the extraction of DNA profile and its treatment in a criminal database (Cabezudo Bajo, 2011).

Really, the problems in relation to this goal arise at three levels: the technical conditions, the interpretation of the results, and finally the respect of fundamental rights in the realization of the DNA evidence.

The goal of my research is to identify the requirements for the respect of fundamental rights in the use of DNA technology in the third stage, because the exchange of DNA data between EU Member States is located at the third stage. Nevertheless, another problem is that to obtain valid DNA evidence using EU exchange data, we need to respect fundamental rights in the three stages. In other words, it is necessary to look at all three stages to identify the requirements of one in isolation.

Moreover, we live in the European legal space, in a context of legal systems with different levels which are increasingly interlinked (Gómez Sánchez, 2011: 20), and therefore we need to use a European multilevel constitutionalism approach to identify fundamental rights and standards that we need to respect (European Convention on Human Rights, EU Fundamental Rights, EU Member States Fundamental Rights) and in order to achieve the goal of obtaining valid DNA evidence.

More information:

  • Download a Powerpoint presentation of Joaquín Sarrión’s research at IALS at this link


M. J. Cabezudo Bajo (2011): “Valoración del sistema de protección del dato de ADN en el ámbito europeo”, Revista General de Derecho Europeo, 25.

M. J. Cabezudo Bajo (ed) (2013): Las bases de datos policiales de ADN ¿son una herramienta realmente eficaz en la lucha contra la criminalidad grave nacional y transfronteriza, Dykinson.

Y. Gómez Sánchez (2011): Constitucionalismo multinivel. Derechos fundamentales, Sanz y Torres.

J. Sarrión Esteve (2014),  “Derechos fundamentales afectados en la toma de muestras biológicas para la obtención de una prueba de ADN válida y eficaz, desde el punto de vista del Derecho interno y del Derecho de la Unión Europea.”, Revista de Derecho y Genoma Humano / Law and the Human Genome Review, Extra 1.