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In her article, Caroline Miles strives to create a link between intoxication and homicide. In her view, drug and alcohol abuse forms part of the factors that act as key contributors to homicide incidents. In her research, Miles chooses to focus on a more localised geographical region, choosing England and Wales as her area of choice. However, the author also notes that most of the current research bases its data on the immediate relationship between intoxication and homicide by analysing cases in which the perpetrators or victims prove intoxicated during the occurrence of a homicide.
However, in her view, a background of intoxication for the perpetrators and the victims contribute to the occurrence of the crimes1, a point that she seeks to prove in her research. She states that a contextual view of the problem, inclusive of the background, creates objectivity and makes her research unique in nature. She further states that her research seeks to prove that intoxication of the victims makes them better targets and enhances their vulnerability to homicides2.
The author applies the use of data analysis and interviews in the compilation of her research. Her sources of choice are the Homicide Index data and police files regarding the topic. The main advantage the use of Homicide Index data is that it portrays a larger picture on the issue as the data represents countrywide results from both England and Wales. In essence, the data shows the severity of the problem, creating emphasis on the significance of the research and the resultant findings. Miles chooses to use data between the years 1995-2005 from forty-three police forces, ensuring that findings from the same indicate more than just technicalities and one-off anomalies.
However, although the Homicide index data has much to contribute in terms of its breadth of coverage, the source lacks in-depth information on the matter. For instance, insight into the background of the offenders and their victims and circumstances surrounding the incidents is critical to enable the researcher to understand the data better. Another disadvantage concerning the data is that some cases change the status from homicide, depending on the outcome of court proceedings. However, the same cases still appear on the listing as intoxication-related homicide, which would require the researcher to filter the data before applying it to his or her research. The filtering process makes use of Homicide Index data inadequate and tedious with regard to holistic research information.3
The author’s use of police files to supplement data from the Homicide Index partially remedies the negative aspects of the homicide index, making her findings based on data analysis more credible. Witness accounts from the reports further enhance her viewpoint on the topic as they offer background information and circumstances surrounding the incidents that would ordinarily be absent in other data sources as is the case with the homicide index. Forensics reports and post-mortem reports also aid in the in-depth analysis the research requires for objective results4. However, the application of police files is not without criticism with some scholars contesting against its application citing institutional bias on the topic.
The author also chose to use police files from one police force, a decision that may have negative implications on the objectivity of the whole process. Lastly, the author also conducted personal interviews with some of the perpetrators of homicides in the country in order to get first-hand accounts into what the incidents entail, including information on how the background of a perpetrator is likely to affect his or her likelihood to be a homicide offender. Although the interviews make the outcome of the research plausible, it is worth noting that Miles used information from male homicide offenders creating the perception of personal bias on the issue. 5The author also admits interviews from homicide offenders without a history of intoxication, which provides a comparison for analysis but also limits the number of cases applicable to the research.
Analysis of conclusions
The author makes her conclusions on the data she presents in the research. The conclusions are plausible and appeal to logic, making the research worthwhile. However, her work indicates the presence of bias that has the effect of negating some of her objectives for the study.
The most prominent of the author’s conclusions are that intoxication-related homicide is a complex multi-dimensional issue that requires extensive research in order to obtain an objective conclusion. The author proves this point through her application of multiple research methodology in order to ensure that her findings are relevant, concise and relatable. Mile’s conclusion is plausible as it lays a basis on extensive research and appeals to logic. For instance, the author’s argument that the background of the perpetrators and victims contribute to the development and eventual occurrence of incidents of intoxication-related homicides explains why some homicide incidents appear spontaneous and involve individuals with little or no prior knowledge of each other’s existence.
The argument also sheds light on reasons why some of the incidents occur without the involvement of drug consumption in the situational equation.
Secondly, the author concludes that although alcohol and drugs are not solely responsible for violent behaviour leading to homicidal tendencies, alcohol and drugs greatly contribute to such behaviour6, especially for perpetrators with a background of drug and alcohol abuse. She notes that this conclusion constitutes immediate factors that lead to the occurrence of such incidents. She also indicates that this conclusion is the basic finding in most research that scholars conduct on the subject, leading to one-dimensional perspectives on the subject. Her focus on the background of the incidents, social-economic factors, and other circumstances surrounding the incidents make her perspective multi-dimensional.
Her conclusion is justified based on her evidence on confessions from homicide offenders during her interviews. Some of the offenders state that their usage of alcohol and drugs over the years led to the development of their temperamental nature that eventually culminated in a fatally violent crime, homicide. Alcohol and drugs such as cocaine and heroin have psychopharmacological effects that alter the normal functions of the body, leading to poor judgment of situations and decisions7.
For instance, drugs that act as hallucinogens cause people to perceive false realities, causing reactions to which an individual would not ordinarily resort. Perceptions of persecution or cruelty by an intoxicated individual would be likely to cause reactions of violence from a perpetrator in use of such substances8.
However, it is also worth noting that in her research, Miles indicates that it is common for perpetrators to justify their actions in a manner that reduces their culpability for their actions. A look at the interviews from the perspective of possible bias, it is possible that some or most of the information she uses in her research from the interviews contains some form of bias that reduces the objectivity of the findings. However, the bias does not negate the author’s efforts to prove the importance of applying numerous research methods in order to obtain multi-dimensional views that result in objectivity in resultant findings.
The author also concludes that focus on pathways leading to intoxication-related homicides creates a better understanding of the problem, including its occurrence and possible solutions. One of the issues she isolates as part of the pathways is an individual’s childhood9. She explains that childhood experiences play a big role in ways in which individuals grow up and the choices they make in adulthood. Various other studies, independent of the research, support this concept, including Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of moral development. Kohlberg explains that children learn from older members of society, emulating their actions and basing their decisions on such members of society.
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Gordon Allport, a proponent of the traits theory, suggests that individuals possess central traits, which form as part of norms to which societies are ascribed. In her research, Miles indicates that most homicide offenders act in a manner fin the family, deprivation, and abuse. In some cases, offenders who experienced violence in their childhoods portray a history of violence in their adulthood, which eventually leads to their portrayal of violence during the homicide incidents10.
Miles also concludes that intoxication contributes to homicide incidents forming part research on the issue to which most researchers do not pay attention. According to her research, intoxicated individuals appear more vulnerable, making them easy targets of violence. In essence, therefore, a victim’s intoxication makes a substantial contribution to the occurrence of homicide incidents in England and Wales11. Although her conclusion seems logical considering the fact that alcohol and drug abuse usually results in impaired judgment and disrupts physical response, it is worth noting that she fails to give appropriate proof of the same in her article. The author gives little information regarding the theory in comparison to her extensive investigation on homicide offender intoxication.
Some issues also arise in her paper that forms the focus for criticism on her general conclusion on the issue in question. First, the author’s personal bias is evident in the investigation, bringing the finding of her research to question. One example of such bias is her choice to interview white, adult, male homicide offenders bringing to question her consideration of factors such as age, race, gender and social status in her research. Her exclusion of such factors creates doubt on the authenticity of her conclusion and findings. It also makes her research seem one-dimensional, negating her objective to provide proof that the research should be multi-faceted.
Overall, Mile’s conclusions based on her assessment of statistics available in the research are most plausible, with only a few criticisms applicable. However, her overall conclusions on the matter appear clouded with bias making them questionable. The main reason for such questionable overall conclusions is her omission of major aspects of the research that would make it more plausible and subsequent conclusions more objective in nature. For instance, her research indicates the focus on white, adult male homicide offenders with little or no financial stability, ruling out women, other races and restricting the age group to adults. The research thus lacks the generality her objectives claim.12
Although most social research emphasises on the social dimension of an issue, sometimes a political dimension into the main agenda is perceivable, as is the case with Miles research. The political dimension of her research mainly concerns policymaking. The author mentions that her research involves a macro-aspect which means that it involves research into elements outside the scope of the main problem but linked to it albeit indirectly.
Government policies on alcohol and drug accessibility and permissible levels of consumptions play a huge role in intoxication -elated homicides. Most governments are in charge of setting the age limit at which alcohol and specific drugs are accessible to individuals in their territory. Lower age limits allow more individuals access to alcohol and drugs resulting in a potential rise in cases of intoxication-related homicides13. Teenagers, for instance, predominantly make questionable decisions as part of their self-discovery process. Hormonal changes in their bodies further make them prone to mistakes that adults with more experience would not normally make. With that in mind, policies that allow such individuals access to drugs and alcohol increase the potential for homicide occurrences.
Policies on the penalties for drug and alcohol-related offences, including homicides, also contribute to some extent to the occurrence of intoxication-related homicides. Penalties on offences serve to punish offenders but also act as deterrents to individuals in circumstances that may result in homicide. The higher the penalty, the more the policy seems to provide deterrence for the offence. A good example of such a scenario is the effect capital punishment has on crimes that warrant it, such as murder and robbery with violence14.
Ethics describe a particular code of conduct that suits specific circumstances. Research ethics dictate how individuals should behave in the conduct of their research in order to prevent the performance of activities that may result in the potential infringement of the rights other individuals possess under law. One of the basic rights prone to infringement by research activities is the right to privacy. Every individual has a right to keep certain information about his or herself without the threat of someone else prying, obtaining it and using it for personal gain.
Research involves the publication of information the researcher obtains and therefore, the publication of information concerning individuals that they consider private would go against the code of ethics and cause reason for legal action. For instance, the publication of personal information an interviewee volunteers during an interview would go against research ethics, possibly causing complications that may lead to the nullification of the entire research project. 15
Research ethics also ensure that researchers do not go beyond their mandate in the expression of their freedoms through acts such as the expression of opinions that mount to incitement. This rule mainly applies in interview scenarios where the interviewer and interviewee usually engage in face-to-face conversations. Research code of conduct ensures that the interviewer protects the interviewee’s private information by filtering information he or she collects before the same is available for public access.
The existence of research ethics assures an interviewee that his or her private information remains private. The importance of this aspect of the research is that it makes the research process possible, ensuring the availability of valuable information for the enhancement of knowledge of important issues affecting society.
Possible issues and solutions the research
One of the issues that may have arisen in the conduct of this research is the maintenance of privacy of the interviewees. Even though the names of the interviewees do not appear anywhere in the research, sometimes revealing substantial details about offenders, victims, or incidents can expose them albeit unintentionally. For instance, Miles’ use of direct quotations does divulge information some of the offenders and witnesses provided may be unique to specific cases, revealing the individuals upon extensive research. It was therefore important for the researcher to ensure the filtration of any information she chose for publication as part of the research.
Another issue that may have arisen during the research is the formulation of ways to approach the issue when interviewing offenders. The researcher had to ensure that her approach was sound enough to encourage homicide offenders to volunteer information that would be useful to the research. As Miles notes in her article, sometimes offenders try to hide their faults by justifying their behaviour through various means. A prudent researcher needs to have the ability to discern instances where offenders give honest information and differentiate it from information offenders give as a means to justify their actions. One of the ways a researcher can handle such instances is through verification from sources such as case files.
In cases where the researcher faces ethical dilemmas, it is vital to apply research ethics and consider the overall outcome of a situation before determining which course of action to take. An example of some of the ethical dilemmas that researchers are likely to face is an offer for information in exchange for a bribe.
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- E Dobash & P Dobash, ‘What Were They Thinking? Men Who Murder an Intimate Partner’, Violence Against Women, vol. 17, no. 2, 2011, p. 135.
- P Stretesky, ‘National Case-Control Study of Homicide Offending and Methamphetamine Use’, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, vol.24, no. 6, 2006, p. 919.
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- E Dobash, P Dobash, K Cavanagh & R Lewis, ‘Not an Ordinary Killer—Just an Ordinary Guy: When Men Murder and Intimate Woman Partner’, Violence against Women, vol. 10, no. 8, 2004, p. 600.
- C Miles, ‘Intoxication and Homicide: a context-specific approach’, British Journal of Criminology, vol. 52, no.1, 2012, p. 877.
- I Rossow, ‘Alcohol and Homicide: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of the Relationship in 14 European Countries’, Addiction, vol. 96, no. 4, 2007, p. 79.
- S Darke, J Duflou & M Tork, ‘Drugs and Violent Death: Comparative Toxicology of Homicide and Non-Substance Toxicity Suicide Victims’, Addiction, vol. 104, no. 5, 2008, p. 1004.
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- Jones, S. Understanding Violent Crime, Open University Press, Buckingham, 2000, p.74.
- S Martin, ‘The Links between Alcohol, Crime and the Criminal Justice System: Explanations, Evidence and Interventions’, American Journal on Addictions, vol.10, no. 3, 2002, p. 146.
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- S Wright & H Klee, ‘Violent Crime, Aggression and Amphetamine: What Are the Implications for Drug Treatment Services?’, Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, vol. 8, no. 3, 2001, p. 79.
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