The number of homicide offenders charged with murder, manslaughter or lesser offences, has decreased significantly in England and Wales since the start of 2014-15. The reason for this downward trend is not yet known. The broad aim of this piece of research will be to explore in-depth the possible causes of the new trend in homicide charging outcomes. Specifically, adopting mainly qualitative research methods, this research project would seek to map out and understand the various challenges that prevent criminal justice actors from charging homicide suspects and explore opportunities to improve process and practice.
The number of homicide offenders charged with murder, manslaughter or lesser offences, has decreased significantly in England and Wales since the start of 2014-15. Failure to charge homicide suspects has numerous negative impacts. To begin with, there is no possibility of a court trial and justice for the victim and their family. In addition, the suspect may continue to offend and, at worse, kill again.
Finally, in cases where the police fail to charge a homicide suspect, less is known about the case as investigations do not continue into the post charge (secondary) phases. In order to explore this concerning downward trend, the Home Office have designated this a priority area of research. Together with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the Home Office are undertaking a quantitative survey with police services, asking them to explain instances where homicide suspects could not be charged.
However, additional qualitative research is required in order to provide detailed and nuanced understanding of the various factors that impact charging outcomes in homicide cases (such as lack of witness engagement or challenges due to organisational factors) (see Brookman, Maguire and Maguire, 2019)
Working with Professor Fiona Brookman, Dr Helen Jones (Centre for Criminology) and Olivia Jeffery (Home Office Mentor), the focus of this project will be to adopt quantitative and (largely), qualitative research methods in order to map out and understand the various challenges that prevent criminal justice actors from charging homicide suspects.
The research will also explore opportunities to improve process and practice, which may ultimately help to bring homicide suspects to justice more efficiently and effectively. The findings will be of particular interest to the Home Office, Police and the Crown Prosecution Service. The findings will also be of interest internationally, notably in countries where homicide charging rates have also declined over time (such as the USA).
The studentship will cover the fees for a full-time three-year PhD programme and pay a stipend of £15, 500 per year. USW research students also benefit from extensive free training.