Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Accountability for Criminal Justice

Accountability for Criminal Justice: Selected Essays

Edited by Philip C. Stenning
Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 533
  • Book Info
    Accountability for Criminal Justice
    Book Description:

    Accountability, the idea that people, governments, and business should be held publicly accountable, is a central preoccupation of our time. Criminal justice, already a system for achieving public accountability for illegal and antisocial activities, is no exception to this preoccupation, and accountability for criminal justice therefore takes on a special significance. Seventeen original essays, most commissioned for this volume, have been collected to summarize and assess what has been happening in the area of accountability for criminal justice in English-speaking democracies with common-law traditions during the last fifteen years. Looking at the issue from a variety of disciplines, the authors' intent is to explore accountability with respect to all phases of the criminal justice system, from policing to parole.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7059-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xi)
    John Beattie

    The idea of accountability in government has a long history. It played an important role, for example, in the political and constitutional history of early modern England. Accountability was at the centre of the conflict between the king and Parliament in the seventeenth century, continued to shape their changing relationships well into the eighteenth, and emerged most clearly in the fundamental structure of the government of the newly independent United States in the Constitution of 1787. In seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England the social elite confronted an increasingly powerful central state that they feared would ultimately threaten their rights and liberties,...

  4. Contributors
    (pp. xii-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    If the decade of the 1960s is thought of, in the Western world-view, as a decade of ʹliberation,ʹ and the decade of the 1970s as one of conspicuous consumption and material consolidation, there is surely a case to be made for thinking of the decade of the 1980s as a decade of accountability. During those years, accountability became a cental preoccupation not just at the level of public and state institutions (Day and Klein, 1987) – whole systems of government were ʹbrought to accountʹ during the 1980s, most dramatically symbolized by the tearing down of the Berlin Wall – but...

  6. Accountability in Social Systems: A Psychological Perspective
    (pp. 15-43)

    It is a truism of social psychology that, when things go wrong, people look for someone to blame. This ʹneed to blameʹ is deeply rooted in human nature (Semin and Manstead, 1983) and may even be adaptive, at least to a point. If we can identify a culprit to whom we can attach moral responsibility, we may be able to prevent recurrence of the undesired outcome. If parole boards release dangerous criminals who subsequently commit violent crimes, we can hold the parole boards (or their political patrons) accountable. If police officers fail to intervene in suspected cases of domestic violence,...

  7. Accountability in the Ministry of the Solicitor General of Canada
    (pp. 44-73)

    The office of solicitor general of Canada is one which dates from the late nineteenth century. In its earliest incarnation it was associated with the office of attorney general of Canada. The solicitor general was the attorney generalʹs ʹsecond in commandʹ and gradually came to assume responsibility for particular aspects of the attorney generalʹs responsibilities (Edwards, 1980: ch. 4; Stenning, 1986: ch. 5). This remained the case until 1966, when the office was transformed from its original position of ʹrelative obscurity to its present day position of high political visibilityʹ (Edwards, 1980: 25). Under the Government Organization Act [1966] the...

  8. Counting the Coppers: Antinomies of Accountability in Policing
    (pp. 74-92)

    Policing issues have moved into the political spotlight in most common law countries in the past quarter of a century. In the United States the 1960s were a decade of multiple social conflicts and changes, with the police in the cockpit of controversy. Similar turbulent currents engulfed Britain and its ʹbobbiesʹ in the 1980s. In Canada, Australia, and many other countries there has been concern about police abuse of powers, discrimination, and ineffectiveness. In all these cases, underlying the disparate dramas and debates, disquiet about policing practices has stimulated concern about the adequacy of channels for democratic accountability.

    Police accountability...

  9. Getting Serious about Police Brutality
    (pp. 93-109)

    The now infamous videotape of Los Angeles police beating Rodney King has once again focused attention on the question of police accountability. This is both good and bad. Good because abuse of power by police officers threatens the freedom of all citizens and undermines the legitimacy of government, as well as the institution of the police itself. Most close observers of policing would probably agree that brutality, as well as corruption, are recurring problems in the United States. As one experienced chief of police said when asked whether his force had a problem with brutality, ʹEvery force has a problem...

  10. Necessary but Not Sufficient: The Role of Public Complaints Procedures in Police Accountability
    (pp. 110-134)

    A public complaints procedure for dealing with civilian dissatisfaction concerning police conduct is only one means of formally addressing the issue of police accountability. Criminal prosecutions, disciplinary proceedings, and civil actions against police officers (Clayton and Tomlinson, 1987) provide other channels for concerns of this nature. In principle at least, there are also political channels for challenging police action and seeking redress (see Jefferson and Grimshaw, 1984; Lustgarten, 1986; Stenning, 1981a). In addition, the media can play a significant role in contributing to the sense of scandal and urgency that prompts other accountability mechanisms into life (Sherman, 1978; Skolnick and...

  11. The News Media and Account Ability in Criminal Justice
    (pp. 135-161)

    News media are central to the process by which peopleʹs sentiments and understandings about government institutions are elicited and organized. News is a discourse of government accountability, of official obligation to describe, assess, justify, excuse, and recommend courses of action. The majority of news sources are government officials (Sigal, 1973; Ericson, Baranek, and Chan, 1991). Usually the official imprint of a government agency is required before something is regarded as news at all, and government agencies predominate in setting the news agenda and sustaining particular versions of events (Molotch and Lester, 1975; Glasgow University Media Group, 1976, 1980; Gitlin, 1980;...

  12. Security Services, Constitutional Structure, and Varieties of Accountability in Canada and Australia
    (pp. 162-184)

    Accountability is a multifaceted concept that has been used in a range of ways by various writers (for example, Day and Klein, 1987; Marshall, 1984). This chapter does not attempt to contribute to theoretical debate about the concept, at any rate not at an abstract level. Instead, I shall treat accountability as synonymous with ʹresponsibilityʹ in the sense well known to public lawyers and political scientists, that of responsible government. That is to say, accountability is part of the process by which the administrative state explains and justifies its actions and ultimately subordinates itself to the elected representatives of the...

  13. The Noble Lie Revisited: Parliamentʹs Five-Year Review of the CSIS Act – Instrument of Change or Weak Link in the Chain of Accountability?
    (pp. 185-212)

    When Walter Bagehot wrote his famous treatise on the English Constitution more than a century and a quarter ago as Canadians were joining confederation, he made a particular effort to distinguish between the realities and the appearances of British politics. In particular, he observed that the idea of a separation of powers protecting British freedoms was a fiction. The ʹefficient secretʹ of the English Constitution, he opined, lay in the fact that executive and legislative powers were almost completely fused and embodied in the Cabinet (Bagehot, 1968: 65–6). No mention was made of measures to ensure that this body...

  14. Accountability for Corporate Crime
    (pp. 213-238)

    Within the global economy as a whole, and within the advanced national economies particularly, very large corporations are now the major economic actors (Knox and Agnew, 1989:192). Thus, for example, in the United States, virtually all businesses are limited liability corporations. The top one hundred of these receive a significantly greater share of manufacturing profits than all of the rest put together (Coleman, 1989: 14) and the top five hundred are responsible for over 75 per cent of all sales, receive in excess of 50 per cent of profits, and own nearly 90 per cent of all assets (Cherry, DʹOnofrio,...

  15. Alternative Accountabilities: Examples from Securities Regulation
    (pp. 239-267)

    This essay attempts to show, by examining accountability in the social and historical location of Ontario securities markets, that the concept of accountability, as it is employed in the criminal justice literature, has been too narrowly defined. It argues for a shift of emphasis to a broader understanding of the phenomenon, with implications for recasting the framework in which issues of who is to be made accountable, for what, and how, are considered. The essay attempts to refocus the agenda of scholars concerned about accountability.

    In the Introduction to this volume, Stenning provides a generic definition of accountability as comprising...

  16. Canadian Public Inquiries and Accountability
    (pp. 268-293)

    The idea that public inquiries can be effective instruments of accountability may seem implausible. The appointment of a public inquiry is often a means of deferring a political problem while the inquiry takes a number of years to hold public hearings and research and write its report. Although the release of a report may focus public attention on a problem, there is no guarantee that the inquiryʹs proposals will be implemented. Inquiries have no formal powers to issue sanctions and no continuing role in investigating the subjects they examine. In responding to past events, prosecutions to impose penal, regulatory, or...

  17. The Office of Attorney General – New Levels of Public Expectations and Accountability
    (pp. 294-329)

    In recent years, several major developments have occurred which challenge the traditional functions and powers associated with the office of attorney general in the countries of the Commonwealth. Some of these have merely added fresh examples of issues explored in an essay which I wrote on this topic fifteen years ago (Edwards, 1977). Others, however, have surfaced for the first time in the intervening years. In some respects, such as the entrenchment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Canadian Constitution Act [1982], and parallel initiatives in many parts of the Commonwealth towards constitutionalizing basic human rights, the...

  18. Prosecutorial Accountability in Canada
    (pp. 330-354)

    The focus of this essay is on the accountability of trial prosecutors in Canada, with particular reference to the practical realities of prosecuting in Toronto in the province of Ontario. Toronto is a congested metropolitan area of some three and a half million people. The concept of ʹaccountabilityʹ does not necessarily imply ʹcontrolʹ (Stenning, 1986: 285–6). If ʹaccountabilityʹ were merely used to refer to an ability to give an account, there would be little meaning in a conclusion that a prosecutor is accountable. Accountability will here rather be used in the sense of a liability or obligation to give...

  19. Judicial Accountability in Canada
    (pp. 355-375)

    Judges do think of themselves as accountable, but not according to the usual standards of line accountability. One of the best descriptions of the lack of line accountability regarding judges has been drafted by R. MacGregor Dawson and Norman Ward:

    The unique functions which the judiciary perform in the government make it imperative that judges should be given a different position from that of the great majority of government officials ... Judicial independence ... involves the removal of most of the punitive influences which surround ordinary officials, particularly for the enforcement of political responsibility, which usually imply the power of...

  20. Achieving Accountability in Sentencing
    (pp. 376-396)

    Individual sentences handed down in criminal cases are criticized frequently and publicly in many countries. In Canada, sentences are most often criticized in terms of level of severity of the sentence. A majority of Canadians have been shown to have a generalized belief that sentences are too lenient (see, for example, Doob and Roberts, 1988). A careful analysis, however, suggests that in Canada, as in some other countries, this generalized belief does not translate reliably to a view about sentences handed down in individual cases. The generalized belief is based in part on misinformation and misunderstanding. A more sensitive view...

  21. Accountability and Justice in the English Prison System
    (pp. 397-421)

    Prisons pose problems of accountability that go beyond those raised by most other state agencies (Day and Klein, 1987). The essence of imprisonment is punishment through loss of liberty. The consequent duty upon the prison authorities to maintain security and prevent escapes necessarily requires that some restrictions be imposed on aspects of prisonersʹ lives and over the flow of information between the world of the prison and the wider community. Prisons are therefore relatively closed and total institutions (Goffman, 1961) within which it is all too easy for accountability to be denied, ostensibly in fulfilment of the prison mandate.


  22. Accountability and the National Parole Board
    (pp. 422-448)

    In 1976, while the Supreme Court of Canada was considering an appeal by a prisoner whose parole had been revoked without a hearing and without notice of the allegations against him, the chief justice was prompted to observe, The plain fact is that the Board claims a tyrannical authority that I believe is without precedent among administrative agencies empowered to deal with a personʹs liberty. It claims an unfettered power to deal with an inmate, almost as if he were a mere puppet on a string. What standards the statute indicates are, on the Boardʹs contentions, for it to apply...

  23. Prospects for Accountability in Canadian Aboriginal Justice Systems
    (pp. 449-478)

    Many Aboriginal communities and regional organizations are currently engaged in investigations that are intended to assist in an assessment of their problems with existing legislation, court procedures, and policing practices. These investigations promise to provide guidance in the design of alternate justice systems that will address Aboriginal needs in a realistic and culturally meaningful manner. Some have begun to shed valuable light on the complex issues involved, and it is our purpose here to examine aspects of these investigations to better understand what might be meant by ʹaccountabilityʹ in an alternate Aboriginal justice system.¹

    The challenges that face us are...

  24. Cases
    (pp. 479-482)
  25. Statutes
    (pp. 483-486)
  26. References
    (pp. 487-530)