Northampton students find out how they are affected by organised criminal gangs

Lecturer, Simon Sneddon
Lecturer, Simon Sneddon

Law students at the University of Northampton have been finding out how they are personally affected by the ruthless world of criminal gangs.

Senior law lecturer, Simon Sneddon says many are surprised when they find out how organised crime touches their everyday lives.

He said: “When students join us and I ask them what they know about organised criminal gangs, invariably they’ll mention the Mafia family in the Sopranos television show, the GoodFellas and Godfather films and the Netflix hit series, Narcos,” said Simon.

“So they can be a little shocked to learn that most people will come into contact with organised crime, but might not know it – it affects us all.

“Organised crime thrives on demand, and we, as consumers are responsible. For example, our students might want cheap vegetables. According to the Gangmaster’s Licencing Authority this demand has led to a rise in migrant workers, some of whom have been trafficked into the UK and are working picking vegetables for gangs – it’s modern slavery."

The module sees undergraduates find out about the history and workings of different criminal gangs around the world, including the Chinese Triads, the Sicilian-American Mafia and South American drug cartels.

The typical crimes carried out by the gangs are also investigated, including the way the crimes adapt to meet demand for a commodity – for example, how better money laundering regulations have led to a rise in the use of stolen works of art as an alternative currency.

He adds: “We also pay more for our insurance premiums because of organised insurance fraud, and one-in-three of us will be affected directly by cyber crime of some type.

“In fact, a 2013 Home Office report estimated organised crime costs the UK economy £24bn a year, and the figures have been similar for the last 15 years, so it is costing everybody in the UK several hundred pounds each – be it for hospital treatment for drug addicts, through to police time.”

“The lines between what is legitimate and what is illegitimate are becoming more blurred, and it’s that blurred area that’s more interesting for lawyers.

“Seeing how criminal gang activity affects people also opens our students’ eyes to another world, which can only help equip them for a fantastic career in law.”