- Category: Frontpage Articles
- Last Updated: Monday, 01 May 2017 08:53
- Published: Thursday, 14 October 2010 11:35
- Written by Frank Pearce and Steve Tombs
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This column is concerned with those activities of powerful institutional and individual agents that significantly harm individual citizens, communities and, indeed, the very social fabric of our societies. Some of these acts are, in theory at least, subject to the criminal law. Others may be sanctionable by administrative or civil law. Yet others, while not currently illegal, may violate clearly enunciated moral norms that inform the legal ideas behind existing law. There are many instances in which advocates of greater social protection have shown convincingly how such legal principles could be elaborated and existing laws widened to subject the conduct of these privileged agents to the equivalent degree of control exercised over the average individual. That such changes rarely occur is more to do with the political influence of those that they might “interfere with” than with the potential of the law itself.
When we write about crimes of the powerful we think of the pillaging of pension funds, the fleecing of investors, misleading advice and fraudulent contracts, the poisoning of communities, the maiming of workers and the selling of dangerously defective goods to consumers. Typically, the perpetrators of these acts are business enterprises and in the contemporary world these are usually limited liability corporations. But they are by no means the only culprits, the military has left a swathe of destruction and poisonous waste across massive areas of often pristine countryside - weapons production and testing leaving contaminated land and animals and humans. Military personnel, their allies and their enemies, often unbeknown to themselves, have been, and still are, exposed to damagingly high levels of intense radiation. Given that state agencies are the key actors in these areas, these are accurately defined as state crimes, a subgroup of which – given the symbiotic relations that exist in “military-industrial complexes” - may be further specified as state-corporate crimes.