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Disaster Crime and Crisis Management

Academics at Edge Hill University have been at the forefront in establishing the place of major disasters within criminology. This originated in the 1990s with research led by Professor Phil Scraton which formed the original basis for what developed into the Hillsborough Justice Campaign and the questioning of official responses to disaster more generally (Coleman et al., 1990; Davis and Scraton, 1997; 1999; Scraton, 1999; 2007). Professor Scraton continued to support the Hillsborough campaign after moving to Queen’s University Belfast and has been the major figure in the establishment and operation of the historic Hillsborough Independent Panel (2012). According to Edge Hill Senior Lecturer Dr Howard Davis, Scraton had:

“contextually located the disaster within a historical disregard for football supporters and stadium safety, uncovered the failure of official agencies to respond humanely and efficiently, and delineated and critiqued the politics of blame and the systematic misshaping of truth and denial of justice. The contribution of the research, in the face of longstanding official and media adherence to myth, misinformation and partial truth, was very ‘public’ criminology”

(Davis, 2013a: 378)

Howard Davis has developed disaster research around two main themes. First, he has explored the difficulties of providing an efficient and sensitive response to bereaved people and survivors in the immediate aftermath of disaster. Drawing upon data from major disasters in the late 1980s and 1990s, and upon smaller-scale incidents in the 2000s, this research sought to understand the problems faced at a local level by teams of crisis support workers (Davis, 2011; 2013b; 2017). Second, Dr Davis has developed the idea that some disasters should be treated as crimes of power (Davis, 2007). He has proposed a new theoretical model for the criminological understanding of organisationally based acute civilian disasters (OBACDs) through their several phases (Davis, 2013a).


  • Coleman, S., Jemphrey, A., Scraton, P. and Skidmore, P. (1990) Hillsborough and After: The Liverpool Experience First Report, Ormskirk: Edge Hill College of Higher Education.
  • Davis, H. (2007) ‘Taking crime seriously? Disaster, victimisation and justice’, in A. Barton et al. (eds.) ‘Expanding the Criminological Imagination: Critical Readings in Criminology’, Cullompton, Willan.
  • Davis, H. (2011) ‘A critical evaluation of crisis support arrangements in a UK local authority’, Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 19(9) 124-135.
  • Davis H. (2013a) ‘Making sense of disaster: Towards a contextual, phased understanding of organisationally based acute civilian disasters’, British Journal of Criminology, 53(3) 378-400.
  • Davis H. (2013b) ‘Contextual challenges for crisis support in the immediate aftermath of major incidents in the UK’ British Journal of Social Work, 43(3) 594-521.
  • Davis, H (2017) ‘Organisational challenges in UK post-disaster “crisis support” work’, Disasters, 41(1) 55-76.
  • Davis, H. and Scraton, P. (1997) Beyond Disaster: Identifying and Resolving Inter-Agency Conflict in the Immediate Aftermath of Disasters, Research Report for the Home Office Emergency Planning Division, Ormskirk: Edge Hill College of Higher Education.
  • Davis, H. and Scraton, P. (1999) ‘Institutionalised conflict and subordination of “loss” in the immediate aftermath of mass fatality disasters’, Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 7(2) 86-97.
  • Hillsborough Independent Panel (2012) The Report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, HC581, London: The Stationery Office.
  • Scraton, P. (1999) Hillsborough the Truth, Edinburgh, Mainstream.
  • Scraton, P. (2007) Power, Conflict and Criminalisation, Abingdon: Routledge