As a man who lives in constant fear of walking over the Millennium Bridge while an ITV news camera covertly records my waistline in HD close up to use as stock footage for a news report about obesity – "And in breaking news," James Mates is saying, his caterpillar eyebrows jousting at one another for supremacy of his forehead, as my stomach and slightly-too-tight T-shirt combo oscillates enormously behind him, "British men are fatter than ever, dying in their droves, the men, just falling over hugely in the streets, their gigantic carcasses making a wet sort of slapping sound on the ground where they expire" – I am buoyed today by the news that, according to science, overweight people are generally perceived as being "too fat" to commit crimes. I am going to use this knowledge to shoplift Kit Kats, which I will then greedily consume. I am going to use my fatcloak of invisibility to lift the heart medicine I will one day inevitably need out from the hands of pharmacists without paying the prescription fee.
A study by South Bank University has found that just 10 percent of overweight people were regarded as being likely or capable of committing a crime, while we assume muscular people are far more likely to beat us up with baseball bats or grift us on some tarmac or whatever.
Researchers came to this conclusion by showing participants two videos of a reconstructed violent robbery and then asking them to look at a police line-up of possible subjects – an overweight one, a muscular one, some skinny fuckers, a real grab bag – none of whom were the actual video criminal. The face of the criminal was disguised in the video and the faces of the potential suspects were all randomly assigned, so all of the vague inklings of suspicion were based almost exclusively on body type.
And hey, guess what: 51 percent of participants accused the muscular criminals of being the perp, 37 percent said those in the normal weight range were the criminals, and just 10 percent finger the fatty. Finally, being hench is bad. Take that, Roy from my gym! You can't "beat me in an arm wrestle" your way out of prison, can you! You can't "bench press a gigantic weight using just the raw power of your fantastic, oiled arms" while you're doing 8 to 10 for aggravated assault, can you! Actually, being fat is good! Consuming protein instead of doughnuts is bad!
Senior criminology lecturer Dr Julia Shaw reckons these overweight people are messing with the fine and upstanding name of UK justice – overweight people just barging their huge torsos through the windows of expensive cars and driving off in them scot-free, overweight people laboriously climbing up some stairs to do some PayPal fraud, overweight people taking three tries to throw a brick through the window of an estate agents because the upper arm strength just isn't happening today – and it's just not on. "Stereotypes about body type may be getting in the way of justice," she said. "Our findings suggest that if you are an innocent suspect of a crime but happen to be muscular, you may be at a significant disadvantage.
"Body type is often overlooked as a basis for discrimination, and has rarely been examined in legal contexts. The present research is evidence that the body type of a suspect can impact the partiality of eye-witness accounts."
Anyway, in short: next time you need to rob a bank or something, forget the balaclava and just stick a pillow up your jumper. Yell something about how difficult it is to find jeans that fit you on the high street while you sprint to the getaway car. Eat a couple of eclairs really quickly while firing a spray of bullets into the air. The police will never find you.
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