PhD Scholarship: Understanding the declining charging rate in homicide offences in England and Wales

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Title of research

Understanding the declining charging rate in homicide offences in England and Wales


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.  


About the project

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).


Scholarship details

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.


Eligibility

  • Successful completion of an undergraduate degree in criminology/criminal justice or policing or aligned discipline (2:1 or above) and ideally completion of an MSc in Criminology or an allied discipline.  
  • The successful applicant must be skilled in and have experience of using qualitative and quantitative research methods and analysis.
  • UK applicants only


Applications and enquiries

  • Details of how to apply can be found here
  • Applicants should contact Jane MacCuish in the Graduate School for advice on the application process [email protected]
  • Applicants are welcome to contact Professor Fiona Brookman to discuss the project ahead of formal submission of an application. [email protected]
  • The closing date for applications is 31st March 2022 and the expected start date is w/c 25th April 2022.  
  • The successful applicant will initially register for an MPhil/PhD.
  • Why choose USW for your PhD?




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