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Self-Help, Policing, and Procedural Justice: Ghanaian Vigilantism and the Rule of Law


  • The author wishes to thank the Economic and Social Research Council (United Kingdom) for generous financial assistance, which made the preparation of this article possible (Grant Number: PTA-026-27-1875). He is grateful to Tony Bottoms, Larry Sherman, K. E. Boakye, and Leonidas Cheliotis for their comments on earlier versions of this article, and to the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments.

Please direct all correspondence to Justice Tankebe, Institute of Criminology, Cambridge University, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3 9DA, United Kingdom; e-mail:


Public recourse to vigilante self-help has often been attributed to a lack of effective state intervention; less attention has been given to the character of this intervention. Using the Tylerian procedural justice perspective, I argue in this article that perceived procedural injustice contributes to increased public support for violent self-help mechanisms such as vigilante violence. The current study tests this theoretical argument using survey data of 374 residents of Accra, Ghana. The results show that age, education, and police trustworthiness were the most significant predictors of support for vigilante self-help. The impacts of procedural fairness were found to be embraced within police trustworthiness, but perceptions of police effectiveness and experience of police corruption were not statistically significant predictors of vigilante support.

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