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Tightening control does not deter criminal offences

All around us, control is being tightened. Yet offences like the building industry fraud or doping in cycling may still continue in secret for years.

According to professor Henk van de Bunt, this is not because control fails, but because perpetrators are able to keep their forbidden activities effectively secret. This not only applies to closed, hierarchical groups. Groups with many contacts with the outside world can also create an effective wall of silence.

In his inaugural lecture 'Walls of silence', on Friday 7 September 2007, professor Henk van de Bunt will accept the chair of professor of Criminology at Erasmus School of Law at Erasmus University Rotterdam.

In the modern world, control over all kinds of areas (criminality, food, financial sector) has increased significantly. The response to an offence which comes to light after being kept secret for years is to quickly tighten control. For example, the powers of supervisory bodies to gather information for the purpose of control have been extended, and professionals were recently required to notify the police about offences (Disclosure of Unusual Transactions Act - MOT Act) or report misconduct by colleagues (through reporting centres as part of integrity promotion).

According to Henk van de Bunt, who has completed years of research in the field of organised crime, merely focusing on failing control is not advisable. It is more useful to study the effectiveness with which crimes are concealed. Based on the information derived from – among other things - the building industry fraud, the doping scandals in the cycling world and research literature, Van de Bunt provides insight into how perpetrators are able to keep their activities unknown to the outside world (including supervisory bodies).

Van de Bunt distances himself from the idea that mainly closed, hierarchical groups ('secret associations') are successful in this cover-up. Open groups and organisations with many external contacts, too, are particularly successful in concealing their activities. They are successful if they manage to make themselves and above all others believe that their forbidden activities are not as extensive or harmful as they might seem. Van de Bunt defends his argument with examples of these strategies of denial. He also makes recommendations about how supervisory bodies can break through walls of silence more effectively.

This lecture is part of the joint inaugural speech 'Control: about the dynamics between criminality and social control', held by three professors of Erasmus School of Law. Besides Van de Bunt, René van Swaaningen (International comparative criminology) and Pieter Spierenburg (historical criminology) will also be accepting their chairs on this day.

Yvette Nelen | alfa
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