The Royal College of Physicians suggests around 40,000 deaths each year in the UK are attributable to outdoor air pollution
In this research podcast, criminologist Professor Fiona Brookman explores the different ways in which corporations kill us and why, despite these vast and deadly harms, corporate homicide is not considered to be ‘real crime’.
Hello and welcome to Sixty Seconds Spotlight. I’m Professor Fiona Brookman, a criminologist at the University of South Wales. My research focuses on violence and homicide and this Podcast considers corporate homicide.
Corporate homicide refers to illegal acts or omissions within a corporation that result in death. It causes more deaths worldwide than any other single category of homicide. To give a sense of this scale - the number of people who die from air pollution in the UK is at least 30 times higher than those who are killed in what we conventionally think of as a homicide.
But corporate homicide comes in many more guises. For example, we can die by consuming food, water or medication that is harmful (for example e-coli deaths) or as a result of receiving contaminated blood (such as the HIV infected blood scandal), or as the result of travelling on deadly transport (remember, for example, the two fatal Boeing MAX 8 aircraft crashes), or in ‘accidents’, or through exposure to noxious chemicals (such as asbestos) in work. Alternatively, we may be killed due to exposure to contaminated land or when the building that we live in is ravaged by fire due to ineffective construction, such as the Grenfell Tower fire.
Despite the deaths caused by corporations, corporate crime is generally not considered to be ‘real’ crime. It attracts little attention from politicians, is poorly regulated and often only derisory punishments are meted out when corporations are fully investigated. Why is this? In some cases, the harmful activities of corporations fall beyond the law – they are, what criminologist Nikos Passas (2005) calls, “lawful but awful”. In other cases, governments have vested interests in the success of the company and so fail to adequately control their harmful activities.
Whatever the reasons for this neglect, as I unpick its scale and consequences, I have to conclude that tackling the deadly harms caused by corporations, is amongst our greatest challenges.
Fiona Brookman is Professor of Criminology at the University of South Wales, UK. She has over 20 years of experience in teaching and research in the fields of policing, violence and homicide. Using mainly qualitative research methods, her research focuses on the dynamics and causes of homicide and violence, violence prevention and the investigation of homicide.
She has extensive experience of conducting in-depth interviews with violent offenders and of interviewing and shadowing homicide detectives and forensic scientists (in Britain and America). Her research is helping to enhance police practice and directly informing violence reduction initiatives. She currently leads a Leverhulme-funded project exploring the role of forensic science and technology in homicide investigation.
Fiona is Director of the Criminal Investigation Research Network (CIRN), a member of a Home Office Expert Advisory Panel on Serious Violence Policy and invited member of the National Police Chiefs Council Transforming Digital Forensic Research Working Group.
Fiona has over 70 publications including those in international journals as well as numerous chapters in edited collections, including The Oxford Handbook of Offender Decision Making (Oxford: 2017), the Oxford Handbook of Criminology (Oxford: 2012), In Their Own Words (Oxford: 2013), Narrative Criminology (New York: 2015) and The Handbook of Qualitative Criminology (Routledge: 2015). She is lead editor of the Handbook of Homicide (Wiley: 2017) and author of Understanding Homicide (Sage: 2006). She is currently writing the second edition of Understanding Homicide.
You can see Professor Fiona Brookman's research outputs here. To discuss collaborative research, please contact USW Exchange.