Letter: The death of James Bulger; imprisonment of young offenders; causes of criminality

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The Independent Online
Sir: J. R. King, believing that criminals are born and not made (letter, 16 February), cites differential social class fertility as 'evidence'. The smart, law-abiding middle class are having fewer children, while the indigent and depraved working class are having more.

This is very old hat, recycling eugenic myths from the early 20th century that have long since lost scientific credibility. In fact, some eugenists had a more sophisticated understanding of the interaction between heredity and environment than does Dr King.

Moreover, if criminals are 'born', how does one explain the fact that before the present phase of social disorganisation, Eastern European societies experienced low levels of such crimes as street violence and theft, relative to Western countries, whereas in post-communism rates for these crimes are rising? A case of spontaneous genetic mutation, obviously.

Yours sincerely,


Lancaster University


The writer is a senior lecturer in sociology.