4: Criminal Justice in Its Place

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In the preceding chapter we examined the stories of those involved in the research, detailing how they came into the criminal justice system – whether as practitioners or as an accused or family member. This included drawing out key themes such as the impact of underfunding on criminal justice institutions and the role played by the accuseds’ level of previous contact with the criminal justice system. We build thereon in this chapter by focusing on the place – south Wales, two decades into the 21st century – adding a further layer of detail that is crucial to understanding the experiences of criminal justice examined in this book. Just as the stories of the participants are important in understanding the experiences that we relay and analyse, so too are the stories that emerge from considering the region in which our research took place.

Criminal justice research has largely neglected the issue of place as a core consideration (Newman, 2016a).1 This may sometimes be due to ethical requirements such as the assurance of anonymity, but it may also arise out of concerns regarding ‘case studies’ being discounted through the desire to demonstrate generalizability.2 Our work is informed by a legal geography approach,3 investigating the co-constitutive but uneasy relationship between people, place and law (Bennett and Layard, 2015). In this chapter – expanding on detail from Chapter 1 (outlining the case for Wales as a site of criminal justice study) and Chapter 2 (describing south Wales and charting some of the impacts of criminal justice cuts) – we focus on the region of south Wales.

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Experiences of Criminal Justice
Perspectives From Wales on a System in Crisis