What is Restorative Justice?

Restorative justice (RJ) is argued to have begun around the 1970’s and is derived from mediation techniques.┬áThe aim of RJ is for all of those involved in a particular offence try to resolve issues through a discussion process talking about what will occur now and planning for the future. It aims to aid in the prevention of cases going to court where appropriate, and places great focus on the community. The hope is to rehabilitate offenders through the introduction of the victim of their crime and giving both the victim and offender the opportunity to give their opinion, share their grievances and discuss whatever they feel appropriate in a controlled environment and supervised by a trained professional. Although the majority of cases where RJ is implemented occur before an offence comes to court, and so is used as an alternative to attending court, it can also be used at any stage of the criminal justice process – even after conviction. At the moment RJ is most commonly used with young offenders but also is used in cases of low level offending and where the public is not seen to be at risk.

It is an opportunity for victims to explain to the offender the result and impact that the crime in question has had on their lives as a whole and is a healthy and safe way to express feelings and thoughts that many victims of crime wish they had the opportunity to say which often is unable to happen in a court setting.

Do I think RJ is useful? Absolutely! I think more clear, concise and simple information about RJ needs to be available to the wider public and anyone who may be involved in the criminal justice system, be it an offender or victim. This would allow for more people to fully understand the process of RJ along with all of the benefits – particularly at a time when saving money is high on the agenda! The current prison system isn’t working and in my opinion more alternatives to incarceration need to be utilised, where appropriate, such as RJ. Listening to both victims and offenders and involving them in the process as much as possible is surely a more appropriate way for us to move forward?

Waiting for results and final thoughts…

I started this blog mainly to document the journey through my degree in criminology and psychological studies. I am now in the position of waiting for the results of my final module to come out. They should arrive by December the 5th and it will be the result for the final module, DD307 Social Psychology: critical perspectives of self and others. In theory, I can then enter all of my module results into the degree calculator on the student website and find out the classification of my degree however I think I am going to play it safe and wait until I receive my classification officially! This is most definitely the most nerve-racking wait for a result so far as, providing I receive over 40 for my last exam, that is my degree finished. Over. Done.

It’s such a strange feeling knowing that there is nothing more I can do and it’s now all out of my hands. I thoroughly enjoyed the criminology modules I completed and always felt pretty confident with my work however with both of the psychology modules I had to complete, DSE212 and DD307, I found it impossible to even guess if I was on the right track with essays but even more so with both of the psychology exams. I did in parts really struggle with these modules and I know my final classification won’t be as strong as if I had done solely criminology but nevertheless I have really enjoyed the four years I have spent studying and I feel that the voluntary experience I have gained throughout my degree is just as beneficial if not more so with regards to my career path.

I have learned that with regards to psychology it is criminal psychology I have a passion for rather than psychology as a whole and my interest in criminology has only grown stronger throughout. I am still determined to go on and complete a masters and I now know that I will focus on criminology and criminal justice rather than take psychology to the next level. I do however want to have a break before embarking on another educational journey as I would like to put my knowledge and voluntary experience into practice and hopefully move on and gain employment in an sector I am extremely passionate about.

Where to find housing?

As a mentor to male offenders upon release from HMP I would estimate that out of every 10 who come to us 9 need help and support with accommodation. Some rather urgently. In the past we have worked alongside individuals who have been released at 2pm on New years eve with no accommodation – not the best situation to find yourself in!

When we find ourselves working alongside an individual who is released with no conditions, probation officer, curfew or in many cases a place to stay, our first port of call is to head down to the local housing office. In the majority of cases temporary accommodation, usually in a hostel, is found for the individual which gives them a roof over their head and time for us to support them in applying for more secure and appropriate accommodation. In some cases bed and breakfast is provided for the individual usually on a night by night basis and for a very short period of time.

The majority of individuals who we work with come out of prison and go straight into an approved premises which are approved under section 13 of the Offender Management Act. NAPA is the National Approved Premises Association and these premises were formally known as bail hostels (and often still are!). They provide accommodation and are managed, in most instances by probation, but in some cases by voluntary organisations. They enable, in most cases, 24 hour surveillance of those living within the premises and aim to aid in the reduction of further offending behaviour from individuals residing there and helping in the protection of the public. Usually support is provided through key workers and outside agencies whilst living in the premises which supports individuals to move on and secure further accommodation when the time is right.

Shelter, Crisis and the Citizens Advice Bureau are charities which we use in all other circumstances.

Below I have listed some useful websites:




Neuroscience and Psychopaths

In numerous posts I have talked about TED talks and thought I would share with you the latest talk I have been enjoying.


This talk, given by Daniel Reisel, discusses his work at Wormwood Scrubs high security prison. Reisel was part of a team of researchers from University College London who were studying a group of individuals at Wormwood Scrubs all who had been clinically diagnosed as psychopaths.

Jean Piaget, Introduction to the Four Stages of Development

Piaget is a renowned name in developmental psychology and his work is key for anyone studying psychology or child development etc. Gaining his PhD in natural sciences at the age of 22, Piaget has gone on to produce some key works in his field including The Moral Judgement of the Child, The Psychology of Intelligence, The Origins of Intelligence in Children and The Psychology of the Child. His work is recognised worldwide and he has been awarded with numerous prizes for it. Piaget had three children with his wife and these children became the subjects of many of his studies and observations of cognitive development.

Running through Piaget’s work is the notion that children’s cognitive processes are undoubtedly different from those of an adult and he states that children go through four stages of development. These stages, as Piaget proposes, occur naturally and independently and they are as follows:

1. Sensorimotor
This stage is where Piaget proposes babies learn about their surroundings, environment and the world around them by using touch and their other senses.

2. Pre-operational
This is the stage where logic begins to come in and children will start to arrange objects etc. logically.

3. Concrete operational
Children then progress through to the third stage and which is where they begin to realise that quantities and amounts can take different forms.

4. Formal operational
The developments which occur at the formal operational stage include the ability to reason verbally and manipulate ideas in their heads.

Piaget doesn’t claim that particular stages are reached at particular ages however all children do pass through these stages and they do so in the same order without one being missed out. Piaget also claims that these four developmental stages are universal and so all children in all cultures will go through the same process.

Naming Jack the Ripper

Jack the Ripper is a case known by all and is the best known serial killer as a result of his numerous killings in Whitechapel, London in 1888. Much fascination lies around Jack the Ripper as he remains to be unidentified. Although I have a keen interest in criminology, the Ripper case has never been one which interested me a great deal. Living in the North East of England I often struggle to find public events discussing crime and psychology etc. but around two years ago at my local library I came across a talk being given by an ex scene of crime officer focussing on Jack the Ripper. I went along as it was, as mentioned, one of few events of it’s kind locally to me expecting to have an evening out which I would come away feeling as though I knew one or two facts about the case and have a brief understanding, as admittedly I had never previously paid to much attention to the case. However the talk was fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed it and it left me wanting to find out more about Jack the Ripper. Many events are either a great success or leave you feel rather deflated due to the individual holding them and the contemporary twist the speaker put on the event really helped in my opinion. He was engaging and informative and even presented us with pictures from crime scenes he had attended which showed how blood spatter occurs in different ways depending on how the individual was attacked and used pictures as close to some of the Ripper murders as possible to demonstrate.


So now that my degree is complete and I have greater time to read and research areas of interest, I have begun reading a book specifically about Jack the Ripper. I have never read anything solely about him before and so it is all pretty new to me! The book is written by Russell Edwards and has only just been published this year. Russell Edwards is now linked to the Ripper case and is in the distinctive position of owning a shawl. The shawl in question supposedly belonged to Catherine Eddowes, one of the Ripper’s victims, and is the only piece of physical evidence from one of the crime scenes. Of course I have yet to read the book and so have very little more I can give however once I have finished I will be posting a full review and in the mean time I would be keen for recommendations of books, papers or readings to look at for someone who knows little about Jack the Ripper.

Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol is everywhere. On billboards, television adverts, every restaurant, bar, supermarket etc. It is available 24 hours a day. I think that most people understand what it means to be an alcoholic however amongst many I know, and I can only imagine many others, there seems to be confusion as to what is meant by alcohol dependence. When this ‘label’ is used it often conjures up images of an individual highly intoxicated unable to function in any coherent manor however this isn’t the case. It can be difficult to define alcohol dependence and it is often described slightly differently depending on where you look. It can be argued that someone who feels, perhaps unknowingly, that alcohol is a prominent part of their life is alcohol dependent. For instance someone who is unable to go out with friends and socialise without having a drink, someone who has a glass of wine every night or someone who always stops for a drink at a pub after work every evening may be alcohol dependent. This type of dependence is predominantly a psychological one and drinking at this level is likely to cause long term damage and health implications, however this often doesn’t become apparent for a vast period of time. Many individuals who perhaps have a glass of wine or two every evening have rich and healthy diets, a positive lifestyle, good general health and a warm home getting enough sleep and exercise etc. All of this makes a difference as to the effect that a glass of wine would have upon the individual in comparison with someone who drinks at the same level but has no access to healthcare, a poor diet, inadequate living conditions etc.

There aren’t a great deal of statistics, which of course should be taken with a pinch of salt, surrounding alcohol dependence as of course it is rather difficult to measure and a great deal of people are unaware that their drinking habits could be defined as ‘alcohol dependent.’ However there are some statistics surrounding the likelihood of dependence running in families and there appears to be a positive relationship in that if a parent is alcohol dependent their child if four times more likely to develop a dependence however it is important to note that this is highly influenced by the nature ‘v’ nurture debate and there are a great deal of outside factors which influence this.

Key Dates in British Forensic Science

287 – 212 BC – Forensic science is said to have begun with Archimedes around this time

1784 – Edward Culshaw was murdered in Lancaster and this well documented case used very basic forensic to aid in the investigation

1805 – In England the bureau of criminal statistics was set up and this was used to collate information about crimes that had been committed

1835 – Henry Goddard, who was one of London’s original Bow Street Runners, was involved in a case were bullet comparison was used for the first time to catch a murderer

19th and early 20th century – Prevalent punishment and prison reforms were taking place

1794 – 1846 – James Marsh, an English pharmacist, released information that the had developed, in 1836, about a way he had found which allowed for processing arsenic from boy tissue

1843 – M’Naghten/McNaughton Rules were created which allowed for establishing if at the time of a crime being committed, insanity is the cause of an individuals behaviour

1854 – Maddox, who was an English doctor, developed ‘dry plate photography’ which was useful for photographing prison inmates

1856 – Sir William Herschel, who was a British officer but based in India, began to use thumb-prints on documents as a signature

1901 – The Galton-Henry system of fingerprint classification became the official system of fingerprinting to be used at Scotland Yard

1851 – 1931 – Sir Edward R. Henry was an English police officer who then went on to become the chief commissioner of Scotland Yard

1901 – Sir Edward R. Henry then went on to improve the previous fingerprint classification system and his way is still used over the world

1930 – Sir James Mackenzie, an English heart specialist, created the ink polygrpah

1935 – The Metropolitan police laboratory was fully established and available for use

1950 – Alec Jeffreys developed the first DNA fingerprinting and profiling techniques

1960 – In this year voiceprints began to be used in criminal and forensic investigations

1991 – The United Kingdom’s forensic science service is opened in London

2007 – Footwear Intelligence Technology (FIT) was brought into use in Britain

2008 – Leicester University’s Forensic Research Centre introduced a new method of being able to take fingerprints from a crime scene

Book Review: Ultimate Hard Bastards

Ultimate Hard Bastards is the first book I have read since completing my degree. It’s published by John Blake publishing and written by Kate Kray, wife of the infamous Ronnie Kray. The book is a compilation of interviews, conducted by Kate herself, with a variety of some of Britain’s ‘hard bastards.’ When Kate’s husband, Ronnie, was sent to Broadmoor prison she kept a copy of his address book which resulted in the majority of contacts for her future book. Each interview is presented in the same way with a brief summary and then the interview questions, each the same for each individual. Kate asks questions such as is prison a deterent?, what would have deterred you from a life of crime?, toughest moment? and what makes a tough guy?


It is interesting to hear the thoughts, stories and opinions of some of the familiar, and some not as familiar, ‘faces’ of Britain’s ‘hard men.’ One thing I particularly liked about the layout of the book was that the same questions were put to each individual Kate spoke with, allowing for a comparison as such between their ideas. For instance one thing which was extremely prevalent was the opinion of at least three quarters of the guys featured in the book that capital punishment should be brought back for those who commit offences such as rape or offences towards children. The book also dips into the background of each individual before commencing with the interview questions.

The 497 pages in the book were quick and easy to read and as it is broken down into each of the individuals featured in the book. It is a good book for someone who doesn’t have a great deal of time to read as if I had a spare 20 minutes I would read a couple of sections and it was very easy to put down and pick up again as there is no ‘plot’ as such to keep track of. It is a book based on opinion rather than fact which also contributes to it being a light read.

As many of these books tend to be it can be rather over dramatic in places and, at times, it can feel as though you are reading a fiction book and although I certainly wouldn’t say it is a must read it was enjoyable.

Drastic drop in prison officer numbers in North East prisons

Being a mentor for male offenders upon release from a North East prison I take an active interest in what is going on (or isn’t!) in our prison system. Recently some shocking statistics have been released about the reduction in prison officers across North East prisons. It is suggested that this decrease is due to staff from the North being sent to cover shortages in prisons in the South. These shortages are worrying considering the current state of our prison system, including the rising documentation of assaults on prison officers, prisoner on prisoner attacks and the very recent article published by the Guardian discussing the figures surrounding suicides in prison – http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/oct/17/-sp-inmate-suicide-figures-reveal-human-toll-prison-crisis
Some of the current statistics for North East prisons are:

Previously 311, currently 160

Previously 178, currently 120

Holme House
Previously 336, currently 200

Previously 604, currently 420

Low Newton
Previously 141, currently 100

It proves difficult, possibly unsurprisingly, to find any government acknowledgement of the rising issues and the general consensus seems to be that our prison system is fit for purpose. For further information regarding these statistics and the prison system as a whole visit, http://www.howardleague.org/