by Costas Skarmeas,
Postgraduate Student of Criminal Law - Criminology
Law Student, University of Athens
Law Student, University of Athens
The Greek Society of Criminology, in celebration of the 30th anniversary since its founding, held on the 18th and 19th of May 2009 in Athens a scientific conference entitled "Criminology and current challenges".
The sessions commenced on Monday afternoon with G. Kellens, Professor of Criminology at the University of Liège and a representative of the International Society of Criminology. Prof. Kellens compared the situation of criminology today with the time of the establishment of the Society, 30 years ago. He mentioned the 8th International Congress on Criminology in Lisbon, 1978, noting that the main issues were genesis of crime (the crimogenic factors), treatment of the offender and the administration of justice; focusing only on the events and the perpetrators; a positivistic criminology. Over the years other aspects have come to the fore, such as social reaction to crime and its victims, up to the 15th International Conference in Barcelona in 2008, which centered on Criminology as a modern scientific discipline, including issues of urban crime, drugs, terrorism, financial crime etc. In closing, Mr. Kellens highlighted the efforts made by scientists and researchers around the world to eschew following "trends" and guidelines set by grants, and instead to focus their research on creating a world with greater compassion and justice.
Mrs. C. D. Spinellis, Emeritus Professor of Criminology at the University of Athens and Vice-President of the Greek Society of Criminology then took the floor. Her main theme was the phenomenology of modern criminals and the tools available to today’s criminologist to identify the extent and type of crimes for a specific place and time. These instruments are: a) police statistics (despite the fact that these are mostly erroneous), b) research from the District Attorney (judicial statistics) and c) research of the press. According to police statistics theft and drug offences were the top offences during the period 2000-2007, with about 400,000 recorded crimes recorded yearly. The District Attorney obtained 724.040 indictments in 2007 (from which we may subtract 36,791 cases that were filed). This leaves approximately 200,000 cases a year that are not included in police statistics! At European level, the research is made either through EU criminological journals (in particular the "European Journal of Criminology") or through the EU statistics. The statistics identify the major European area offenses are drugs, economic crimes against the EU, environmental, illegal immigration, crimes against property and crimes under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. European figures for the period 1995-2006 also show a rising crime rate of 3% for Greece, whilst Portugal has increased by 1%; meanwhile there are countries with reduction in crime, such as Finland -1% and England with -3%. Finally, Mrs. Spinellis noted the importance of globalization, rapid socio-economic and political developments and developments in human biology for criminology. At the same time she highlighted the necessity for multidisciplinary solutions and policy partnerships between relevant bodies, a unified statistical base and an assessment of all programs and reforms that are made.
Later, Mrs. F. Tsalikoglou, Professor of Psychology at Panteion University, spoke about the psychology of violence. She began with an assumption of psychology that some may find controversial: that procedures involving violence used for creative ends are perfectly normal. She used the example of "organizational-rational" violence in the psychosexual development of a child during development of speech and cognition, and for differentiating it from the mother and father. Also the inherent violence in the process of creating personal identity, and the creation of our culture in general, which according to Freud requires the violent repelling of primitive instincts. The other face of natural violence is pathological violence, which does not accrue to a specific "life projection" and seeks only destruction. Mrs. Tsalikoglou also presented some very interesting research which shows the calmest and coolest citizens may resort to extreme forms of violence. She also presented surveys of American cases where people who witnessed a rape failed to notify the authorities; not because they have a "criminal personality", but by external factors (assuming someone else has already called the police, indifference, etc.). Most importantly, said Ms Tsalikoglou is that we should never consider violence as being without cause: the root of all aggression stems from the denial of vital needs of individuals or society at large, and it is psychologist’s mission to identify these vital needs.
In a similar tone, Mr. N. Courakis, Professor of Criminology at the University of Athens and Director of the Center for Penal and Criminological Research, spoke about school violence and what we can do of tackling it. Mr. Courakis mentioned the importance of the Special Committee on School Violence, which operates under the Commission on Human Rights. He went on to argue that violence in schools is not necessarily negative, helping to form the identity of young adolescents, provided it is practiced occasionally and without malice. The negative manifestation is bullying, which is malicious and targets ill or weaker children. Parental over-protectiveness, authoritarianism or indifference plays a formative role in children’s victimization by not allowing the symmetrical development of the child’s personality. On the other hand, the bully also has problems communicating with its parents, and has often suffered emotional, verbal or physical abuse. They employ violence to acquire any identity, even a negative one. This is supplemented by surveys from 2008 that show these children have reduced levels of cortisol, a substance that helps to contain impulses. Worthy of note is that 35-40% of "bullies" display delinquent behavior up to the age of 24, whilst their victims apart from suffering low self-esteem and maladjustment, may sometimes erupt with explosions of anger, such as the fatal school shooting in Columbine USA, Finland and in our case, the case of a 19 year-old vocational student of the Greek Employment Service (OAED). In Greece, the observed rate of "bullying" in schools lies at 6-8%. In closing, Mr. Courakis made some proposals for tackling the problem, including replacing expulsion with more creative disciplinary measures, educating teachers in "crisis management", strengthening the institution of Youth School (called in Greece “second-chance schools”)2 which are doing very important work with juvenile offenders, and an emphasis on sports and play areas for children, who lack the time and space for such activities as never before.
Mrs. E. Symeonidou-Kastanidis, Penal Law Professor at the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki, closed the session on a different note, speaking on the recent European Union positions on terrorism. Ms. Symeonidou-Kastanidis noted a shift towards a more preventive criminal law that treats suspects as pending defendants, and explained the recent provisions on terrorism, organized crime, but also institutions such as Europol, the newly drafted Article 253a of the Criminal Procedure Code and others. A discussion followed between the audience and speakers.
The second day of the conference the first speaker was C. Zarafonitou, Professor of Criminology at Panteion University who developed the theme of reciprocal relationships and restorative justice, including mention of some important reformative efforts in tackling crime.
B. Papatheodorou, Professor at the University of the Peloponnese, spoke about the (in) security and rights under surveillance, referring to the recent issue of criminalization of hood-wearing youths (prompted by the December 2008 riots3). In addition, Mr. Papatheodorou reported Ms. Marangopoulos proposal for punishment as idionymon crime4 the presence of hood-wearers at protests, something mentioned by the latter the end of the third session.
Thereafter, I. Farsedakis, Emeritus Professor of Criminology at Panteion University, analyzed a contemporary and disturbing issue of today: "Cyber Crime and its Prevention." This burning issue was explored in a slide presentation, which contained related analyses and statistics.
The end of the session heard concerns on the issues raised. Specifically, Ms. Marangopoulos expanded her position on the criminalization of "hoodies" and her proposal for imposing community service sentences for those offenders with an existing criminal record, instead of imprisonment. There were several concerns and objections about the extent of the punishment, prompting several minutes of discussion.
After a short break, the fourth session of the event commenced.
The first speaker, Ms. M. Kranidioti, Assistant Professor at the University of Athens, analyzed the issue of changes in prevention of criminological theory.
She was followed by Ms. A. Pitsela, Professor of Criminology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, who cited preventative practices regarding juvenile delinquency, an issue of particular concern today. Ms. Pitsela used the example of truancy, and responsive measures.
The last speech of the fourth session was delivered by Ms A. Tsitsoura, Professor Emeritus at the University of Brussels and Head of Criminological Problems of the Council of Europe, who discussed in detail the crime policy of the Council of Europe.
The close of the fourth session was followed by questions from the audience on the topics presented by the speakers, with an emphasis on juvenile delinquency and the quasi-revolt of young people.
The fifth session, entitled "Key issues of criminal justice and its auxiliary institutions”, began with an introduction by Mr. S. Bayas, Deputy Public Prosecutor of Appeals and president of the Greek Association of Prosecutors. Mr. Bayas approached the issue of tackling crime from a "judicial perspective”, stressing that the long-term goals and orthodox planning are vital prerequisites for the functionality of a law and for reshaping the area of Justice. Asked about the usefulness of alternative forms of sentence, (e.g. community service), he replied that he considers them useful, yet difficult to apply; not because of social resistance, but above all because of poor planning by the State.
The scheduled presentation by lawyer and chairman of the Association of Greek Penal Practitioners, Mr. Ch. Argyropoulos, concerning the ΄lawyers΄ view΄ on the same subject was not delivered. The floor was then taken by lecturer in Criminology at the University of Thrace and criminologist in the men’s Greek prison of Korydallos, N. Koulouris, who presented the problems of the penal system: the shortage of staff and inadequate education and training of prison officials, the bureaucratic inertia and lack of public dialogue on the role assigned to it in the prison system today. All this, combined with the deterioration in social status of incarcerated individuals essentially makes the state prison create the conditions under which prisoners will return to them after their release.
The director of the Youth School which operates inside the special institution for young offenders in Avlona, Mr. P. Damianos, presented a summary of the school’s operation since 2003. The school has elementary and secondary departments and follows the same program as that of public schools in the country. He identified the difficulties of such a project, including the staffing of schools and correctional institutions with adequate and qualified staff, the issue of respect for the human rights of prisoners and, finally, the existence of criminal records, which stigmatize former convicts as they attempt to reintegrate into society.
The session continued with the examination of the role and problem faced by the Greek police. First was the Criminology lecturer at the University of Teesside, Mr. Papanikolaou, who described the problems and prospects of research on the Greek police. Having referred briefly to the advances of sociological disciplines made in police forces abroad, mainly in Anglo-Saxon regions, he added that similar developments are noted in our country, as evidenced by the growing number of relevant monographs, scientific articles and doctoral theses. However, investigators of the Greek police are still facing serious difficulties, such as gaps and delays in the flow statistics and difficulties in collecting basic data for research. In conclusion, Mr. Papanikolaou said that it is necessary to set a target to achieving unimpeded criminological and sociological research in the police.
Associate professor of the School of Social Administration, University of Thrace, Ms. S. Vidali, analyzed the concept of "effectiveness" of the police force. This concept, as she explained, is not limited to the practice of suppression in tackling crime. Instead, it concerns the inter alia good relationship between the police and citizens, and fostering a sense of security. Therefore, focus should be on police training, whilst it is time to embark on an open and sincere dialogue to identify the role of the police in an era of ever-changing conditions.
The police perspective was presented by the Police Major Mr. A. Stamatakis, who gave a detailed presentation outlining the redefined role and modus operandi of the police force: the internationalization of crime, the weakening of informal social controls, globalization and the emergence of multicultural societies, the perception of security as a legitimate private good, the victim approach to crime. Mr. Stamatakis also presented the key priorities of the Greek police (the fight against drugs, organized crime, terrorism, human trafficking) and some measures already taken or to be taken to enhance its effectiveness.
The sixth and final session, entitled "Criminology as navigator in formulating and implementing anti-crime policy", began with a brief introduction by chairman Mr. Stavropoulos, vice chairman of the Greek Council of State and President of the Association of Greek Judges and Public Prosecutors for Democracy and Liberties, and concluded with some comments by Ms. A. Yotopoulou-Marangopoulou. Specifically, Ms. Yotopoulos-Marangopoulos emphasized the existence of a wider and deeper social problem: we seek the "reintegration" of former prisoners into society, but what kind of society is it? What are the standards of living? How can we be surprised by crime when corruption and violence are endemic social phenomena, and where fundamental values such as respect for human rights have been sidelined in the interests of achieving wealth and "success"? All these questions must be answered if the formulation and implementation of an effective policy against crime is to be successful.
2. Second Chance Schools have been legally established in Greece since 1997 (art. 5 L.2525/1997), within the framework prescribed by the relevant European Union authorities. A common goal of all Second Chance Schools is to promote employment and social integration of young, unskilled people, who have an incomplete education and lack training and vocational skills. There are 48 Second Chance Schools operating in Greece today.
3. The 2008 Greek riots started on 6 December 2008, when Alexandros Grigoropoulos, a 15-year-old high school student, was fatally shot by a police officer. The death of Grigoropoulos resulted in large protests and demonstrations, which escalated to widespread rioting, with hundreds of rioters damaging property and engaging riot police with Molotov cocktails, stones and other objects. Demonstrations and rioting soon spread to several other cities, including Thessaloniki, the country΄s second-largest city. While the unrest was triggered by the shooting incident, commentators described the reactions as expressing deeper causes as well, especially a widespread feeling of frustration in the younger generation about specific economic problems of the country (partly as a result of the global economic crisis), a rising unemployment rate among the young generation and a perception of general inefficiency and corruption in Greek state institutions.
4. The term idionymon ("special illegal act", delictum sui generis) was defined by a Greek law, voted in 1929 (Law 4229), after being introduced by the Eleftherios Venizelos government. It was a law "concerning safety measures for the social establishment and protection of freedom". It was aimed at penalizing "insurrectional" ideas, in particular against communists and anarchists, and to repress union mobilizations. The law prescribed a penalty of over six months imprisonment for anyone "who tries to apply ideas that have as an obvious target the violent overthrow of the current social system, or who acts in propagandizing their application...". It was the first legal measure against the Communist Party of Greece and initiated a series of emergency legislative acts by the Greek state against the Left.
According to the Greek Penal Code an idionymon crime is characterized by an illegal act that does not exhibit the characteristics of a crime, but the typical characteristics of another felony. It usually applies to actions that constitute an attempt or preparation t commit a basic felony (crime), and is sanctioned by a specific sentence.