What are you currently researching?
I am doing a qualitative research project investigating the experience of 10-17 year olds when they are detained in police custody after arrest. I am interested in how children are treated in the police station, what they understand about, and think of, what happens to them, and the extent to which they are able to participate effectively in the procedures.
Why did you choose this area of study?
Many more people spend time detained in police custody than ever find themselves in court. For many young people, in particular, it is their first sustained experience of the criminal justice system. In addition, what a suspect says or doesn’t say in a police interview is often the most critical evidence in a case.
Yet, police custody is a corner of the criminal justice system that has been significantly under-researched, and there is little oversight from the criminal courts. When I practised as a criminal lawyer, I was often frustrated by how vulnerable people, particularly young suspects and defendants, are dealt with in the criminal justice system, particularly in those parts of the system which are not regularly scrutinised by judges and magistrates.
Police cell blocks are very adult places. They can be frightening, noisy and unpredictable environments. I think it is critical we have a better understanding of the extent to which this difficult environment is adjusted to cater for child detainees, and whether the protections put in place for them are effective.
How will your research improve or have a wider impact on society?
I am hopeful that by helping to build a clearer picture of the experience of children in the police station, my work can contribute to policy change in this area. Additionally, I hope my work will add to wider debates in youth justice around the minimum age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales, and the suitability of our adversarial system for the youngest suspects and defendants.
What do you hope to do career-wise, long term?
Good question. I’m just enjoying research, writing and teaching for the moment.
Can you provide any advice to prospective students about the most effective way to approach research and keep stress levels down?
Doing a PhD is a long journey. It seems to me the key to success is choosing a subject for your research about which you are really fired up. Believing wholeheartedly in the value of the topic you are working on is the only way to get through the frequent frustrations of qualitative research, and those inevitable long stretches of transcription and coding.
I find that talking with other PhD students is an absolutely vital tool for relieving stress. It is easy to get bogged down in your research data, and important to get away from it and share the pitfalls and successes of research with fellow sufferers.
What resources are available at LSE to help young researchers?
We are extremely lucky to have fantastic resources – from our own dedicated PhD Academy, to tailored courses and support. There are simply too many to reference here.
In a few words, what is the best thing about studying at LSE?
Of course there are fabulous facilities, but for me the standout feature of LSE is the extraordinary expertise within our departments.
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