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The University of Southampton

CRIM3014 The Deserving and Undeserving: Victims and Scroungers in Criminology and Social Policy

Module Overview

Societal sensitivity regarding victims in the UK has grown in recent decades. In the UK new policies and legislation have emerged at all levels in the criminal justice system with the aim of putting the victim at the centre of the criminal justice process. This is happening at the same time as UK governments seek to address social issues relating to 'other' victims, for example, migrants, refugees, the homeless and the unemployed. Many question the public and social support provided to these victims arguing that they are unessentially 'undeserving'. This module explores and compares the criminological research about victims, deserving of public compassion and support, with the social policy literature about how societies identify who is deserving of such support and who is not. It analyses how and why "victims" and "scroungers" are constructed, and how and why policies towards both evolve over time. We relate both areas to dominant political ideologies, such as neo-liberalism, conservatism and social democracy.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Know the literature around victim-status attribution, and whether constituting a victim is as simple as being on the receiving end of harm.
  • Be able to demonstrate the ways that the media and policy represent victims.
  • Be able to assess the benefits and drawbacks of different types of justice (criminal, procedural and restorative) for victims.
  • Know the literature around "deservedness" in social policy. How and why have distinctions been made between the deserving and the undeserving? You will be able to identify these different types of social policies.
  • Be familiar with examples of the policy split between deserving and undeserving recipients of benefits (e.g. migrants, refugees, the unemployed).
  • Be able to relate discourse and policies about victims and the deserving/undeserving to dominant political ideologies (e.g. conservatism, neoliberalism, social democracy).


The module is divided into three parts. The first part focuses on how the "ideal victim" (Spalek 2006) is publicly defined. We explore the popular representation of victims and the ways that it may be problematic. On this basis we reflect on recent policy changes within the criminal justice system that attempt to provide greater power (or at least greater satisfaction) to the victim of crime. This section compares restorative, procedural and other victim-oriented changes in criminal justice, to explore to what extent these changes have actually improved the treatment of victims in criminal justice. The second part of the module explores the circumstances in which governments and social policies distinguish between those deserving of government benefits and those who do not. We explore the politics of such policy activity. In the third part we relate how victims and the deserving / undeserving are seen and treated in the context of the dominant UK political ideologies. For example, we place the victim and the undeserving "scrounger" in the context of neoliberalism, which placed greater responsibility on citizens to identify their personal risk and protect themselves. We explore the implications of such narratives.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The module will be delivered by a series of 15 one hour lectures and 4 two hour tutorials.

Wider reading or practice30
Preparation for scheduled sessions32
Completion of assessment task65
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Walklate, S. (2007). Handbook of Victims and Victimology. 

Bottoms, A., Roberts, J.V. (2011). Hearing the Victim: Adversarial Justice, Crime Victims and the State. 

Kemshall, H.(eds.) (2012). Crime and Social Policy. 

Katz, M.B. (2013). The Undeserving Poor: America's Enduring Confrontation With Poverty:Fully Updated and Revised. 

Davis, P., Francis, P., Greer, C. (2007). Victims, Crime and Society. 

Spalek, B. (2006). Crime Victims: Theory, Policy adn Practice. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework  (1500 words) 40%
Final Exam  (2 hours) 60%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (3 hours) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase reading texts as appropriate.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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