Library Header Image
LSE Theses Online London School of Economics web site

The investigation of murder in France and England: a comparative account

Harris, Charlotte (2008) The investigation of murder in France and England: a comparative account. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Download (1MB) | Preview


This thesis – based on 13 months' fieldwork observing specialized murder squads and justice personnel - examines the processes and practices of murder investigation in France and England. There is relatively little, particularly ethnographic, research in this field and my work is - to my knowledge - the first comparison of how these countries, often contrasted as instances of the archetypal inquisitorial and adversarial criminal justice systems, respond in practice to criminal homicide. The thesis includes a detailed analysis of two similar cases that occurred in the French and English research sites. The cases are followed from the discovery of the body to the end of the trial. Highlighting two emblematic events within each process - the case conference in England and the reconstitution (or reconstruction) in France - I also explore the epistemological and sociological assumptions behind investigative procedures. Although some of the activities observed in the two countries were similar, key differences were also found in the methods by which the investigations were progressed and recorded, the involvement of detectives at various stages of the investigation, the manner in which the media were used, and the way in which the offender and victim were treated - all of which affected how the investigators viewed their work and the nature of what formed the substance of the cases. A key theme discussed is the way the words used to describe similar processes and roles revealed the different ways in which the two countries viewed the criminal justice process. In my conclusion, I suggest that part of the reason for the differences relates to the way the two societies conceive of the criminal. In England the criminal is seen as someone outside of society and this attitude to criminality affects all those who deal with it – including murder investigators. In France, crime and the investigation of murder has an accepted role in 'normal' life.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2008 E. Charlotte Harris
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Rock, Paul and Foster, Janet

Actions (login required)

Record administration - authorised staff only Record administration - authorised staff only


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics