Two members of the Criminology Programme team will be presenting at the annual Law Enforcement and Public Health conference in Amsterdam this Autumn. Dr Sam Weston will present her ongoing research on police approaches to people with mental health issues, whilst Dr Helen Wells will speak about her contribution to a four-year European grant-funded project on the use of penalties in child health contexts.

Dr Weston’s paper is titled ‘Police approaches and management of situations involving persons with mental ill health’ and is based on research funded by the College of Policing focusing on the need to develop effective mechanisms for knowledge exchange, development and implementation at every level within and between police forces and partner agencies. Drawing on data collected from a Knowledge Exchange Group and one-to-one semi-structured interviews with police officers and partner agencies, the paper aims to explore the ways that the police approach and manage incidents where people exhibit signs of mental ill health. Additionally the training needs of police officers, to ensure that vulnerable people receive appropriate care, are identified and refined.


Dr Wells’ paper is titled ‘When persuasion fails: the use and implications of direct and indirect sanctions for ‘bad’ health choices within healthcare systems’ and is based on her research on the European Grant Funded MOCHA (Models of Child Health Appraised) project. The project, which received 7 million Euro from the Horizon 2020 funding steam, involves 19 scientific partners from 10 European countries, plus Switzerland, the United States and Australia; as well as country agents in 30 European Commission and European Economic Area countries, and seeks to identify optimal models of children’s primary health care.

The paper aims to explore the increasing use of direct and indirect sanctions for patients/their families who make health choices that are seen to be undesirable in terms of their own and the wider population’s health. It will draw on data collected over the summer of 2016 and reflects on a stream of work within that project that explores the use of incentives and, the aspect of particular interest here, penalties in health contexts. In that respect it looks at the use of law and law enforcement methodologies and rationales to secure desirable public health outcomes (rather than, for example, the use of recognised public policing approaches to minimising the immediate risk that might be posed by someone with threatening health issues).

Rather than see public health as a form of crime prevention, the paper will explore case studies from across Europe (and beyond) where patients/their families are involved in adverse outcome encounters (penalised, or denied incentives) with healthcare systems for making the ‘wrong’ public health decisions. In that sense, it engages with situations where public health requirements create rather than prevent ‘crimes’, by favouring sanctions as the method of promoting preferred choices. Examples will include mandatory vaccination programmes and their enforcement and the withholding of services from children who have not been engaged with screening programmes.

Whilst the sanctioning of ‘incorrect’ health decisions is relatively new, the paper will also draw on other contexts where penalties are increasingly being attached to (what are being constructed as) ‘bad’ decisions, and on the wider lessons from criminology about the consequences of responding to individuals in this way.


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