Crime and its causes


Sir, – It was good to see that in her Opinion & Analysis contribution on October 26th (“Humphries case should not be treated as an aberration”), Susan McKay took care to avoid sweeping generalisations about the nature of sex offending: “Here the clamour begins: Not all men are rapists! Note: I did not say so.”

Can the reader look forward to future reflections by the same contributor on the complex factors involved in serious criminal activity? Perhaps a review of the disproportionate number of people from economically deprived backgrounds in Irish prisons, with the clarification, “Not all poor people are delinquents! Note: I did not say so.” Or an analysis of the large ethnic and racial disparities of those incarcerated in US prisons with the comforting reassurance, “Not all African-Americans are criminals! Note: I did not say so.” Or appending to a discussion on the relatively greater number of people with mental health problems who end up in the criminal justice system, a jaunty comment, “Not all mad people are dangerous! Note: I did not say so.”

Attempts to understand and prevent the most serious types of criminal offending are hindered rather than helped by making sweeping claims that link people’s background characteristics with their proclivity to commit crime. – Yours, etc,


Associate Professor,

Lecturer in Psychology

and Crime,

School of Psychology,

University College Dublin,


Dublin 4.