A Theory of State Crimes Against Democracy (SCADs) in Contemporary Polities

  • Alexandra-Maria Uibariu

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This research was designed in response to the worrying global trends of democratic decline, and the similarly worrying scholarly disinterest in state criminality which occurs in democratic polities. Its primary aim was to create a theoretical model of State Crimes Against Democracy (SCADs), which is fully grounded in a shared understanding of such phenomena by three key publics: scholars, civil society representatives, and citizens of democratic countries. Using an integrated, evolved grounded theory methodology applied to data collected via in-depth interviews and qualitative surveys, the researcher developed a definition and typology of SCADs which are mindful of the political, economic, social, and cultural environments in which such crimes occur.
It was found that SCADs are both actions and omissions to act which undermine democratic institutions and subvert citizen choice, insofar as they are initiated, facilitated, or tolerated by state agents or organs of the state. The typology of SCADs, which was formulated on the basis of participants’ experiences, provides a framework for understanding the confluence of domestic and external factors which are likely to result in SCADs and, by highlighting weaknesses in the democratic system, it identifies potential avenues for preventing and responding to SCADs.
Whilst not all SCADs are ‘crimes’ in the strictest legal sense, participants agreed that the extent of victimisation and the breadth of their consequences, are indicative that SCADs have – just like all other forms of state criminality – the potential to subvert entire nations. As such, participants contended that, whilst the roles of the civil society and academia remain crucial in securing governmental accountability, the international community ought to – and can – do far more to punish the commission of such crimes at the organisational level. The research thus highlights, on the basis of participants’ recommendations, new preventative measures and responses which can better contribute towards upholding the state’s duty of care, encouraging citizen participation, and ensuring governmental accountability post- victimisation, at both the domestic and international level.
Date of Award23 May 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorLisa Sugiura (Supervisor), Paul Norman (Supervisor) & Angela Crack (Supervisor)

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