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Impact of British Counterterrorist Strategies on Political Violence in Northern Ireland: Comparing Deterrence and Backlash Models

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 47 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2009 Pages: 17-46
Gary LaFree; Laura Dugan; Raven Korte
Date Published
February 2009
30 pages
In an examination of the British Government’s strategies to maintain lawful behavior in Northern Ireland, this article argues that governmental responses to terrorism, in particular, may produce both a positive deterrence effect and a negative backlash effect.
Deterrence-based models have long dominated both criminal justice and counterterrorist policies on responding to violence. The models maintain that an individual’s prohibited behavior can be altered by the threat and imposition of punishment. In identifying six highly visible British interventions aimed at reducing terrorist violence by republicans in Northern Ireland and testing their impact on subsequent attacks from 1969 to 1992, it was concluded that three of the six interventions produced backlash effects, followed by an increased risk of future attacks. The only support for deterrence models was a military surge call Operation Motorman, which was followed by significant declines in the risk of new attacks. The basic finding was that the imposition of harsh criminal justice and military interventions to reduce terrorism may be counter-productive (which is not a new finding). The results underscore the importance of considering the possibility that antiterrorist interventions might both increase and decrease subsequent violence. Tables, references, and appendix