Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Keele Criminologists in print

Two recently published books have been authored by Criminologists at Keele. One is an edited collection featuring the research of many current and former Keele Criminologists, while the other is aimed at students studying Criminology.

‘Existentialist Criminology’ (edited by Ronnie Lippens and Don Crewe) captures an emerging interest in the value of existentialist thought and concepts for criminological work on crime, deviance, crime control, and criminal justice. This emerging interest chimes with recent social and cultural developments - as well as shifts in their theoretical consideration - that are oriented around contingency and unpredictability. But whilst these conditions have largely been described and analysed through the lens of complexity theory, post-structuralist theory and postmodernism, there exploration by critical criminologists in existentialist terms offers a richer and more productive approach to the social and cultural dimensions of crime, deviance, crime control and, more broadly, of regulation and governance. Covering a range of topics that lend themselves quite naturally to existentialist analysis - crime and deviance as becoming and will, the existential openness of symbolic exchange, the internal conversations that take place within criminal justice practices, and the contingent and finite character of resistance - the contributions to this volume set out to explore a largely untapped reservoir of critical potential.
Highlights include:

‘White-Collar Offenders After the Fall from Grace. Stigma, Blocked Paths and Resettlement’, Ben Hunter (PhD student, and now Teaching Fellow at Keele)

‘Towards Existential Hybridization? A Contemplation on the Being and Nothingness of Critical Criminology’, R. Lippens (Professor of Criminology, Keele)

‘The Seductions of Conformity. The Criminological Importance of a Phenomenology of Exchange’, S. Mackenzie (formerly lecturer in Criminology at Keele),

‘‘We Just Live Day-to-Day’. A Case Study of Life after Release Following Wrongful Conviction’, S. Farrall (formerly Senior Research Fellow, Keele) and

‘Will to Self Consummation and Will to Crime: A Study in Criminal Motivation’ by D. Crewe (PhD, Keele),

Existentialist Criminology is published by Routledge-Cavendish.

Also recently published is ‘A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book About Studying Criminology’ (published by Sage). Written in a lively and conversational style, it introduces and familiarizes students with a set of basic notions which are essential to the study of crime and its control. The book explains the background to the ideas that underpin current debates about crime. It explores the interplay between philosophical and criminological theories to provide a stimulating and insightful overview of the subject. It offers students a fresh way of thinking about crime, giving them an opportunity to develop their understanding and to hone their critical skills.

Both texts are available from all good bookstores!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Purdy Case - update

By Professor Philip Stenning

Ms. Debbie Purdy, an MS sufferer, lost her appeal today in her bid to have the courts require clarification of the law concerning the vulnerability to prosecution of someone who assists someone else to travel overseas to obtain an assisted suicide. Ms. Purdy had asked the court to require that prosecutorial authorities give a clearer indication as to when they would, and when they would not, prosecute such a person for assisting a suicide under Section 6 of the Suicide Act, 1961. A person convicted of such an offence is liable to up to 14 years’ imprisonment. Ms. Purdy’s lawyers had argued that the lack of clear guidance on this constituted a violation of her right to a private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In rejecting her appeal, the Court of Appeal said that the Director of Public Prosecution’s public explanation of his decision not to prosecute the parents of 23-year-old rugby player Daniel James last year in similar circumstances, together with the published Code for Crown Prosecutors, which provides Crown Prosecutors with detailed guidance on how to exercise prosecutorial discretion in such cases, provided Ms. Purdy’s lawyers with “ample material” on which they could advise her and her partner in her particular circumstances. The Appeal Court also emphasised that even if a person who assisted someone to seek an assisted suicide in this way were prosecuted, a court would most likely take the view that a prison sentence would be inappropriate punishment for the crime, and might even criticise the Crown for pursuing such a prosecution in the first place.

After learning of the judgment, Ms. Purdy is reported to have said that she was satisfied with it, and that she felt she had won her argument even though she had lost the appeal.
A newspaper account of the Court of Appeal judgment can be found at and the Court of Appeal decision itself can be found at
The DPP’s public statement on the James case can be found at

Friday, 13 February 2009

Postgraduate opportunities in Sociology and Criminology at Keele

It's that time of year when third year students are getting their heads down on their dissertation, worrying about finals and whether there will be any jobs left in a few months (now that the merchant bankers have destroyed the economy...). Some of them, crazy though it might sound, are even wondering if they might carry on studying, now that they're only just working out what it is all about. Now (and we mean right now) is the time to get your act together if you would like to do some postgraduate study.

So what are the opportunities in Sociology and Criminology at Keele? Well, if you want to study Sociology, you might like to take our Masters in Research in Sociology, which offers ESRC-recognised research training with the chance of taking some advanced specialist modules in research-led fields. Sociology (with colleagues across Keele University) will shortly be advertising a Masters in Urban Futures (subject to University final approval, this course should be available from Autumn 2009 - please check back on this blog and the Sociology homepage for updates). Criminology also has a Masters' and Postgraduate Diploma in the Ethics of Policing and Criminal Justice, which is taught jointly with the Centre for Professional Ethics. This course is particularly useful for those already working in the areas of policing and criminal justice such as police and probation officers, magistrates etc, but applications are welcome from anyone with an interest in this field.

Often students take the MRes as a first step towards doing a Doctorate. PhD training is perhaps one of the most difficult but most rewarding postgraduate routes and if you've got a lot of dedication, a real niggling research question you'd like to solve (perhaps something you've been wondering in your dissertation but haven't been able to follow up...?) and you're prepared to work hard to apply for funding or help support yourself through it, you're probably the right person. You will need to work up a research proposal for a project you'd like to do, and be supervised by someone who is a specialist in that area or related area. Have a look at the research interests and specialist supervision areas of the Sociology group for a better idea of the fields we're interested in. You can also take a similar programme in Criminology and you can see the research interests and specialist supervision areas of the Criminology group here. A PhD is a route into a number of careers, notably professional social research in say Local Authorities, charities and thinktanks, an academic career in research and teaching, or as a 'career' researcher working on different and new projects.

So why Keele? You might start by having a look at the previous blog entry about Keele's success in the recent Research Assessment Exercise, in which staff in Criminology and Sociology had their research rated Internationally Excellent. This blog also gives some reasons why Keele is a great place to study. We particularly welcome International students to Keele - there is a thriving International student community at Keele with visitors from around the world. You can find some information mostly intended for undergraduate International students here but much of it applies to postgraduates also.

But the big question is all about the money. There's no doubt that funding for postgraduate courses and research is a very limited pot and it is highly competitive. It is particularly difficult to get external funding for a taught Masters' and if you can support yourself, you have a much stronger chance of fulfilling your ambitions. You need to have or expect a good (2.1 or above) degree to have a hope of applying for funds. You will also need a decent idea for a research project, even if you're going to apply for the 1+3 route (that is, taking the MRes first) and you will need to get your skates on as most of the deadlines are the end of February! The ESRC application deadline is later but you need to work with us to submit a good application and to have a chance of internal funding, so contact someone as soon as possible.

There are some (very competitive) options for funding at Keele, for example what is called a 1+3 route for Sociology - if you want to apply for this route, you need to get in touch with us NOW to help formulate your application: only the best candidates with the best ideas will get put forward.

If you're interested in Criminology or certain areas of Sociology, there are a few more options. The Institute of Law, Politics and Justice - which hosts all of the Criminology staff and some Sociology - has some dedicated studentships for priority areas plus a +3 scholarship (ie for someone who already has an appropriate Masters') - you can find more details on this link (look at the LPJ details). However, in all cases, we will be encouraging potential students to submit applications to external bodies such as the Economic and Social Research Council - so please have a look at their requirements and deadlines also.

All staff in Sociology and Criminology would be happy to advise you on specific issues to do with your areas of interest, but if you want to enquire more generally, could you please contact the following people:

MRes (Sociology or Criminology): Dr Lydia Martens
MA Urban Futures: Dr Mark Featherstone
MA Ethics of Policing and Criminal Justice:
PhD (including 1+3 options) for Sociology: Dr Lydia Martens and for Criminology: Prof Anne Worrall,

The postgraduate Taught course (Masters') prospectus is here - although it is not updated as frequently as this blog or our School homepage. You can also contact the Graduate School for information on applying for postgraduate Research degrees (PhD) at Keele. The Postgraduate Research Prospectus is here - although this information is not as frequently updated as this blog.