Critical Criminology

Critical Criminology

CRJ305 – Criminology

Colorado State University – Global

Critical criminology is dynamic; it takes a wide range of perspectives and theories of crime, and looks for ways to provide alternatives to the ways crime and the discipline of criminology are explored.Critical criminology consists of five major types of theoretical approaches: Labeling, Conflict, Feminist, New Critical and Radical (Hagan, 2017). These theoretical approaches are used to categorize criminals and criminal behavior. When considering a criminal such as Harold Shipman, a well regarded medical professional who took the lives of many of his patients, the critical theory that best fits the way he operated is new critical criminology. Within new critical criminology is the postmoderism theory which suggests that crime is the ability to impose one’s will on others (Hagan, 2017). A man in Shipman’s position definitely had the opportunity and the means to impose his will on his patients.


It is believed that Harold Frederick Shipman was raised a household full of tension (Gunn, 2010). Never really having a close relationship with his father, Shipman stuck close by his mother, who, when Shipman was 17, died of cancer. Gunn (2010), continues on, stating that Shipman, being very close with his mother, would be present when his mother receive injections of painkillers to ease her pain. These injections were given to her in their home, frequently, by their family doctor.

During Shipman’s early career, his downward spiral towards crime, was beginning to take place. After exhibiting signs of what looked like epilepsy, Gunn (2010) explains, it was soon discovered that Dr. Shipman was actually stealing pethidine from the practice he worked for. His licence to practice was suspended but later reinstated on the condition that he continued follow-up care after rehabilitation (Gunn, 2010).


While not completely sure, it is assumed that Dr. Shipman began taking lives in 1971, after getting his licence to practice medicine back (Gunn, 2010). Dr. Shipman was an Organized Serial Killer. Hagan (2017) mentions that an organized serial killer is one that plans his offenses, transports their victims, and are normal in appearance and socially competent. Additionally, according to Lee and Choi (2014), killers enjoy the power and control they hold over their victims and enjoy watching their suffering and pleas for mercy. In the case of Harold Shipman and his victims, he typically selected those who lived alone. After visiting him for surgical consultations, the doctor would recommend a full examination that would take place at their home. For his victims, the conclusion to these examinations would be an injection; a lethal dose of heroin (Gunn, 2010).

Dr. Harold Shipman was a well respected practitioner in the town of Hyde. People trusted him. Being as well known and as well respected as he was in the community, it is likely that nobody really questioned his actions.


As stated before, the theoretical approach of postmodernism, while typically associated with literature, suggests that crime is committed in an effort to display power and control over others (Hagan, 2017). Doctors are in a power position; they have access to easily disguised methods of murder and some are attracted to the medical field because of the power they have over life and death (Kaplan, 2007). Postmodernism in new critical criminology best the way in which Dr. Shipman operated because he had the power, the influence and the means to control who lived and who died.


Gunn, J. (2010). Dr Harold Frederick Shipman: An enigma. Criminal Behaviour & Mental Health, 20(3), 190–198.

Hagan, F. E. (2016). Introduction to criminology : Theories, methods, and criminal behavior. SAGE

Kaplan, R. (2007) The Clinicide Phenomenon: an exploration of medical murder. Australasian Psychiatry 15: 299–304.

Lee, J.-L., & Choi, K. (2014). Serial Murder: An Exploration and Evaluation of Theories and Perspectives. American International Journal of Contemporary Research , 4(3), 99–106. Retrieved from

OpenLearn. (n.d.). Introduction to critical criminology. Retrieved December 20, 2019, from

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