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The Harm and Evidence Research Collaborative (HERC) draws its membership from a number of departments, including Social Policy & Criminology, Psychology, History and Sociology. As such, its research expertise is widely distributed. However, in addition to the individual research being pursued by members, HERC runs an interdisciplinary programme of events and hosts specific research seminars and conferences around two main research strands.

Members have strong research interests in policing, homelessness, immigration, corporate crime, health and safety regulation, zemiology, eye witness memory, forensic cognition, sexual violence, prisons and punishment, youth justice, young people and welfare.

Research Projects

HERC research falls into three main categories: Justice – Policing – Evidence

In terms of ongoing research HERC has two main 'strands' where research is being located at the moment; 'Policing and evidence' and 'Youth justice'.

Research Highlights

LGBTQ+ Lives and the Women’s Prison

Very little is known about the life experiences of LGBTQ+ people working or incarcerated in women's prisons.

This new research project is interested in the life stories of people who identify as lesbian/gay, bisexual, trans*, queer or intersex, and have either served a prison sentence or worked as a prison officer in a women's prison in England.

Policing and Evidence

PhotoFit Me

One of the projects under policing and evidence is a project called PhotoFit Me. It is essentially a programme that allows you to make a photofit picture, i.e. a face constructed from the features of other faces. It links to a website about our research on face recognition and eyewitness identification, which in turn links to the relevant social sciences curriculum, such as Discovering psychology (DSE141) and Exploring psychology (DSE212).

PhotoFit Me enables the user to 'Create a PhotoFit' of themselves, or of someone they know, by choosing from a selection of hundreds of features including eyes, noses, mouths, hair, jaws and even facial hair and spectacles. They can see how accurate it is by sharing it with friends through email and Twitter or by posting it on Facebook. It also includes a 'Famous PhotoFit' challenge to recreate the faces of celebrities like Stephen Fry, Will Smith, Fearne Cotton, James May and Oprah Winfrey and vote on their favourites in the Celebrity Gallery. However, their real features aren't included – that would be too easy! The widget itself can even be embedded on a user's own website or blog using a simple embed code.

It was inspired by Prof Graham Pike's work helping the police to develop more intuitive way of helping witnesses produce images of criminal suspects. As he explains, "The challenge with a photofit is that we do not recognise faces feature by feature. Instead we remember the whole face and therefore find it difficult to construct faces one feature at a time. The psychology of facial recognition can be surprising and has wider implications in the areas of criminology and law as it has led to many miscarriages of justice".

As a result of this research Online Marketing/The Open University has developed an exciting online widget called PhotoFit Me. The widget has also been launched as an iPhone and iPad app, developed with the support of Knowledge Media Institute (KMI).

PhotoFit Me has been created to promote The Open University's Social Sciences modules with input from ICCCR's Prof Graham Pike, who says: "As well as being very engaging and innovative (and addictive!), it demonstrates how difficult it is to create an accurate photofit construction of a face from an album of features".

The widget features on OpenLearn and the OU's website for young students.

Police Codes, Conduct and Corruption: Ethics and Integrity in Action

The second project under the policing and evidence strand is a study concerned with police corruption. ICCCR's Dr Louise Westmarland in collaboration with Prof Mike Rowe, University of Northumbria, is currently surveying police officers across the UK about their attitudes towards behaviour that may break or bend rules, laws and cultural norms. Four police forces involved so far and around 5,000 questionnaires have been distributed.

Results are due to be disseminated nationally in early 2012 with a series of 'Corruption Roadshows' to which practitioners and policy makers will be invited to contribute.

Youth Justice

Contingency and Discretion: Localism in Youth Justice

The current study being conducted under this second strand is directed by Dr Deborah Drake and Prof Ross Fergusson and is entitled, Contingency and Discretion: Localism in Youth Justice. They have developed a youth justice network consisting of professionals in Milton Meynes and a London Borough. The projects team is investigating factors that can lead to the desistance of offending behaviour and is interviewing professionals and young people. An ESRC bid is due to be submitted in December 2011.

The aim of the project is to understand how centrally-defined strategies of youth justice are realised locally, and whether current policy prescriptions for extending professional discretion and fostering greater diversity between local services significantly alter the character of provision and its delivery. Central to the research will be representations of young offenders' experiences of the service, and the relative benefits of greater diversification alongside priorities of consistency and equity of treatment. The core project team consists of Dr Deborah Drake (PI), Prof Allan Cochrane and Ross Fergusson and is supported by an established Steering Group which includes service providers, and by colleagues from the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies.

Current Research Projects 2016-

Avi Boukli
Title: Queering Victimology (with Dr Alex Dymock)
Description: "Queering Victimology" examines the effects of marketisation on victims' services and the Victims Code on LGBTQ populations.
Contact: Dr Avi Boukli, Dr Alex Dymock

Avi Boukli
Title: Reconnecting Crime and Social Harm (with Justin Kotzé)
Description: This edited collection (forthcoming by Palgrave, Critical Criminological Perspectives) aims to challenge the given dichotomy between crime and harm, criminology and zemiology.
Contact: Dr Avi Boukli,

Avi Boukli
Title: Zemiology and Human Trafficking
Description: This monograph (forthcoming by Routledge) examines the contours of the alleged "trafficking explosion" and its subsequent anti-trafficking assemblage. It reveals that dominant sources of evidence are not robust enough to sustain claims of an international trafficking explosion by what can be described as a harmful congregation of criminalisation stratagem.
Contact: Dr Avi Boukli,

Avi Boukli
Title: Poetic Rhetoric of Harm
Description: This project brings together and analyses structurally induced harms, in their poetic manifestations. It analyses poetic representations of austerity and of neoliberal politics, while cultivating, reflective, projective and transformative production.
Weblink:  (Posts from July 2016 on Harm & Evidence Research Collaborative)
Contact: Dr Avi Boukli,

Nicola Brace
Title: Exploring the communication needs of young offenders: identifying norms for knowledge of concepts related to time 
Description: A number of researchers in the UK, US and Australia have identified rates of young offenders with language and communication difficulties that far exceed those reported for the general population. Their difficulties encompass all aspects of understanding and expressing language. Studies have also identified difficulties with attention and recently speech and language therapists working in one youth offending team have observed among some of their clients difficulties with concepts related to time. These therapists have created a screening tool (a Time Screening Assessment), along with a set of therapy resources that can be used to help develop an understanding of time concepts. Currently there are no norms for this screening tool, and hence no information on how many young people in the general population might have difficulties with time concepts. The aim of this project is to collect such data.
Contact: Dr Nicky Brace,

Victoria Canning
Title: Gendered Experiences of Social Harm in Asylum: Exploring State Responses to Persecuted Women in Britain, Denmark and Sweden
Description: This research aims to disaggregate the effects of the socio-political contexts of three case study countries in their responses to women seeking asylum; namely Britain, Denmark and Sweden. It will explore examples of social harms, which encompass physical and mental harms (such as inadequate food, preventable illness or death, homelessness, little/no access to mental health support); autonomy harms (such as limited access to finance or travel, confinement, or reduced capacity to make decisions due to external factors) and relational harms (which limit one’s ability to actively participate in society). Key long term agendas include creating positive change in asylum systems, and informing civil society of the implications of socially harmful practices that may affect women seeking asylum in varying forms and regions.
Research Grant Award / Commissioner: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Future Research Leader Award
Contact: Dr Victoria Canning,

Vickie Cooper
Title: The Violence of Austerity
Description: This is an edited collection (forthcoming, 2017, Pluto Press) by Vickie Cooper and David Whyte. It brings together a wide range of leading commentators and social justice campaigners, to produce an analysis of the devastating effects of austerity policies in contemporary Britain.
Contacts: Dr Vickie Cooper, / Prof David Whyte,

Vickie Cooper
Title: Evictions in 21st Century 
Description: Working in partnership with Dr Kirsteen Paton, this project captures a diverse range of eviction experiences from individuals and communities directly affected by evictions and forced moves.
Contacts: Dr Vickie Cooper, / Dr Kirsteen Paton,

Vickie Cooper & Abigail Rowe
Title: Women, Prison and Harm
Description: This project involves various sees the development of a harm model that captures the harmful effects of imprisonment on female prisons. Using a social harm perspective, it sets out to capture the institutional and societal effects of imprisonment on women, their families and communities.
Contacts:Dr Vickie Cooper, / Dr Abigail Rowe,

Lynne Copson
Title: Establishing the sociology of harm
Description: This research investigates the concept of harm in order to establish a sociology of harm.  It employs Levitas’s (2013) ‘utopia as method’ as a means for identifying ‘harm’ as it is variously deployed in academic disciplines, political programmes and social policies in order to extrapolate their respective implications for realising the ‘good society’.
Contact: Dr Lynne Copson,

Trina Havard
Title: Putting research evidence into practice using the Mystery Face procedure
Description: The aim of the current project was to determine what barriers there might be to implementing the findings from research and the recommendations into police practice. Two specific factors were focused on: whether research evidence is being communicated to policing personnel effectively; and whether the methods used by researchers in this area lead to effective application. These factors were based on previous research evaluating the problems encountered when trying to translate research on visual identification procedures into practice at the time of the last major change to Code D of the PACE Codes of Practice, which regulates visual identification evidence, in 2003.
Research Grant Award / Commissioner: Centre for Policing Research and Learning.
Contact: Dr Catriona Havard,

Trina Havard
Title: Improving investigations through utilising technology, community and psychology
Description: Social media is being used more frequently as a tool for amateur investigations by members of the public. However, there is little evidence about the effectiveness of social media as a means of tracking down perpetrators, or of whether its use may lead to incorrect identifications of innocent individuals. If a witness goes into a police station with a photograph and name of a would-be perpetrator claiming that this is the person who committed the crime, the police must still conduct the standard police investigation using a lineup identification, even though it may have been compromised by the witness’s engagement with social media.  The aim of the research is to investigate whether social media can be used to correctly identify a culprit from a witnessed crime, and whether intervening social media use influences later line up identification.  The study will show participants a non-violent mock crime, then after a 24 hour delay they will look on a bogus social media site to see if they can find the perpetrator of the crime. Whilst viewing the social media site the participants will receive a bogus text message giving them some vague information about the perpetrator to aid in their search. A week later participants will be asked to try to identify the perpetrator from a lineup.
Research Grant Award / Commissioner Police Knowledge Fund - HEfCE and Home Office
Contacts: Dr Catriona Havard, / Prof Graham Pike,

Trina Havard
Title: The influence of background image colour in own race and other race lineup identification.
Description: In the UK, identification lineups have a standard background, either grey for VIPER lineups, or green for PROMAT lineups. However, as lineup fillers and suspects are filmed under a variety of lighting conditions, there can be a large variation in the colours of the background on which lineup members are presented, potentially causing some faces to appear more salient than others. Using the 1-in-10 face recognition paradigm (Bruce et al., 1999), we investigated whether manipulating the background colour of faces influenced identification for target present (TP) and target absent (TA) arrays. The first experiment used faces that were the same race (SR) as the participants, and found the colour manipulation significantly increased accuracy for TP lineups. The second experiment investigated the relationship between this effect and the own race effect (ORE). The ORE predicts individuals are more likely to correctly identify SR as compared to OR faces from TP lineups, and falsely identify OR faces from TA lineups at a higher rate to SR faces (Brigham, Bennett, Meissner & Mitchell, 2007). Results are discussed in terms of the implications for the creation and use of lineups and the relationship between background colour variation and the own race effect (ORE).
Contact:Dr Catriona Havard,

Steve Tombs
Working Title: Ongoing research into corporate and state crime and harm
Description: I continue to address the following, related issues in my work, both emprically and conceptually. How can we document and explain corporate and state crime;
How can we understand trends in the regulation of corporations and the (non) enforcement of law against them; To what extent is there utility in thinking of none-enforcement of law as state facilitated harm? How can we understand state – corporate relationships through ‘regulation’; What is the relative utility of operationalising a concert of ‘harm’ as opposed to crime? How are we to unpack the relationships between criminology, critical criminology, social harm and zemiology – or do we even need to do so?
Weblink: For further details:
Contact: Professor Steve Tombs,

Zoe Walkington
Title: Specialist training regarding security threats: Police Knowledge Fund: Better Policing Collaborative
Description: This project aims to provide ‘top up’ training to police officers who have been trained in counter terrorism interviewing in the UK. This ‘top up’ training aims to build on skills developed in the initial training course but also to embed reflective practice amongst practitioners and reduce reliance longer term on ‘expert’ psychological input by transferring skills of reflective practice and observation to the practitioners. This project is being delivered by both The Open University and Liverpool University as part of the Better Policing Collaborative.
Research Grant Award / Commissioner: The Police Knowledge Fund
Contact:  Dr Zoe Walkington

Zoe Walkington
Title: Analysis of Facebook sites: Improving investigations through utilising technology community and psychology
Description: This study aims to understand how the police and the public engage online to talk about crime and policing. Specifically the study aims to qualitatively analyse the use of social media (Facebook pages) managed by police forces. The research recognises that increasingly, through the use of Facebook, ‘networked narratives’ (Georgakopolou, 2007) are constructed collectively by multiple narrators (both the formal police posts, and the comments of the public). Given the ability of narrative (or story) to both ‘tell’ and ‘sell’ a version of events, and of social media to perform ‘identity in interaction’ this research will, consider the networked narratives constructed on the sites of two police forces, and consider how the police forces are positioned, and repositioned by this activity on social media.
Research Grant Award / Commissioner: Police Knowledge Fund as part of the OU police consortium
Contact:  Dr Zoe Walkington

Zoe Walkington
Title: The impact of narratives and transportation on empathic responding to offenders
Description: Empathic responses frequently emerge as an important factor in successful work with offenders. This research aims to investigate the mechanisms which predict empathic responding to a non-positive, role model who is accountable for his own fate. Participants (N = 240 undergraduate students) were asked to read either a narrative (chapters from a book) or non-narrative (newspaper report) text about an offender. Participants completed questionnaires measuring perceived similarity to, and identification with, the protagonist; transportation (immersion into the text); and self-reported empathy.  A final measure recorded the amount of empathic questions selected for use in an interview with a hypothetical offender. Mediation analysis is being used to analyse the results of this project in order to establish what, if anything, predicts empathic responding.
Contact:  Dr Zoe Walkington