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Research Projects

Current 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.