Accessing justice: The impact of discretion, ‘deservedness’ and distributive justice on the equitable allocation of policing resources

Charman, Sarah and Williams, Emma (2021). Accessing justice: The impact of discretion, ‘deservedness’ and distributive justice on the equitable allocation of policing resources. Criminology & Criminal Justice (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/17488958211013075

Abstract

The police are faced with a uniquely important role in the initiation of a process of justice. Through a framework of distributive justice, which examines both processes and outcomes of police encounters and the concrete and symbolic resources at their disposal, this paper seeks to analyse data from three policing projects over a 16-year period. The findings indicate a remarkably consistent story of barriers to justice which preclude the opportunity to access justice or of a satisfactory outcome or indeed any outcome at all. The lack of allocated concrete or symbolic resources was evident in complainants receiving limited time, investigation and voice. This paper argues that there is evidence of an unfair and inequitable distribution of resources to victims and potential victims of crime which is enabled by police discretion, justified by focusing on deservedness and personal choice and encouraged by the cultural language of stigmatisation of people and place.

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