When ideal victims don’t make ideal offenders: the (re)framing of legacy case prosecutions against elderly perpetrators of state violence

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Abstract

This article undertakes a victimological critique of media coverage, social media commentary and parliamentary debate on the prosecution of former British soldier Dennis Hutchings for the death of an unarmed and vulnerable adult in Northern Ireland in 1974. It argues that a careful reframing of events and actors by the media, politicians and veterans movement has obfuscated perceptions of victimhood by creating a climate that favours the perpetrator rather than the victim. While this victimological reframing may reflect the natural sympathy felt towards aged and ailing defendants, it also speaks to the ability to manipulate coverage of the case so that it serves current interests: on the one hand it fits with the UK Government’s socio-political interests in how historic state violence in the North of Ireland should be ‘dealt with’, while on the other hand it also reflects longstanding cultural sensitivities that the British ‘imagined community’ has about its military veterans. This has seen Hutchings being framed less as an ‘ideal offender’ who targeted an unarmed and vulnerable person and more as an elderly victim of a politicised ‘witch hunt’ against military veterans.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalCrime, Media, Culture
Early online date22 Feb 2023
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 22 Feb 2023

Keywords

  • Victimology
  • Crime and media
  • state violence
  • perpetrators

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