Justice, but not as ‘we’ know it

Anticipatory risk, pre-emption, and ethics

Authored by: Gabe Mythen , Sandra Walklate

The Routledge Handbook of Criminal Justice Ethics

Print publication date:  July  2016
Online publication date:  July  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415708654
eBook ISBN: 9781315885933
Adobe ISBN: 9781134619450


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This chapter focusses on the ethical questions posed for criminal justice systems by the processes of security regulation that have swept across the West in the early twenty-first century. The 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States produced a range of institutional responses which have produced sizeable effects on criminal justice and human rights. The so-called ‘9/11 effect’ (Roach 2011) has been both broad and wide, ranging from tiers of domestic counter-terrorism legislation to international military interventions. One of the remarkable features of this recent phase of securitization has been the interventionist and activist nature of policy-making. Following the tone set by George W. Bush in the aftermath of 9/11, a strong emphasis has been placed on pre-emptive methods of regulation designed to avert an attack of such scale in the future by proactive intervention. Bolstered by the 9/11 Commission’s (2004) summation that ‘the most important failure was one of imagination’, the logic of anticipatory risk has driven a range of new modes and techniques of regulation, from Internet data mining to electronic tagging and biometric scanning. In a world in which the terrorist threat is pronounced, pre-emptive methods of intervention may seem eminently sensible. If the threats are grave, the risk of inaction is sizeable. Thus, intelligence and security services need to intervene, even in circumstances in which the evidence may be patchy and incomplete. Thus, the 9/11 effect has involved a tangible shift in the calculus of risk, away from post hoc probabilistic assessment to pre hoc imaginings of upcoming threats. What Vedby-Rasmussen (2004) has alluded to as the ‘presence of the future’ in considerations about domestic and international security has produced profound consequences.

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