Skip to main content

Negotiating 'victim communities': Reflexivity and method in researching high profile crimes

O’Leary, Nicola



Abstract: Certain crimes seem to embody the mood of the times, entering the public consciousness in such an enduring way that they almost become public property. Crimes such as the killing of James Bulger (1993) and the disappearance of Madeleine McCann (2007) have reached such prominence, attracting large amounts of sustained media coverage and popular attention. However, many such serious crimes typically involve a range of harms to multiple victims, not only to individuals or immediate groups, but also often on a broader level to others that live and are connected to the location where the crime took place. This chapter aims to contribute to the discussions of reflexivity in criminological research by detailing some of my own reflective experiences as a qualitative researcher attempting to explore such ‘victim communities’. The research reflections below are based on a combination of semi-structured interviews and observations at two research sites as part of my doctoral research. These communities were witness to two of the most high profile and highly mediatised crimes in recent decades in the United Kingdom; the school shootings in Dunblane (1996) and killings of school girls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham (2002). As a previously un-researched and powerless group who have experienced victimisation, this research attempts to explore how a serious crime event may affect the wider community involved, how they collectively come to terms with the trauma, stigma and aftermath of a highly mediatised ‘signal crime’ (Innes, 2003). Innes defines signal crimes as events that, in addition to affecting immediate participants, impact in some way upon a wider audience (2003: 52). Here and in addition, the notion bears some similarity to ‘moral panics’ and the ‘broken windows’ thesis; where an offence or incident, when experienced or seen, may trigger a change in public behaviour or beliefs).

Publication Date 2014
Journal Reflexivity in criminological research
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Pages 23-34
Book Title Reflexivity in Criminological Research
ISBN 9781349478743; 9781137379405
APA6 Citation O’Leary, N. (2014). Negotiating 'victim communities': Reflexivity and method in researching high profile crimes. In Reflexivity in Criminological Research, 23-34. Palgrave Macmillan.
Keywords Reflexivity, High profile crimes, Victim communities
Publisher URL
Copyright Statement ©2017 University of Hull


You might also like

Downloadable Citations