How I Stepped Up to Level Five

Shabana Butt completed the Step Up to HE programme at Staffordshire University and is now starting level 5 of her Criminal Justice with Offender Management degree (second year of a three year degree and third year with a foundation year degree). Shabana shares her experiences of studying the Step Up programme and how it helped prepare her for further study. 

From a young age I was always fascinated with the law and the criminal justice system and toyed with the idea of becoming a solicitor working in the criminal justice sector. I left school with some GCSEs but did not progress to further or higher education. Fast forward in time to 2019, and my children were now of secondary school age and I felt that the time was now right for me to ‘do something for me’ and take up studying in higher education.

I saw an ad on my sister’s FaceBook for the Step Up to HE at Staffordshire University. I went onto the Staffordshire university website and started to research how to enrolL on the the ‘Step Up’ programme. I completed an online application form and then had an interview with Ashley Cotton who was running the programme.

I received an email letting me know that I was successful in the interview; I was offered a place on the step of programme and enrolled on the course, which started in April 2019. I was excited and a bit nervous of what I was letting myself in for. I had face to face sessions with Ashley and Judy Rimmer, and we were given sessions on study skills, essay writing and academic referencing. I was shown how to set out an academic piece of work and how to use Harvard (a referencing system).  We were involved in some basic group discussions and some simple presentations. The whole purpose of the Step Up to HE seemed to be to preparing us for study in higher education and we had the opportunity to write an essay about a subject of our choice. We were asked to complete an assignment discussing a medical situation; I wrote about diabetes.

I submitted the assignment on Turnitin on Blackboard; we had been shown how to use Turnitin on the programme. I knew that if I was successful, I would be able to progress to a full degree at Staffordshire university. I was excited and really pleased, because I had worked very hard and got 70% on my assignment. It was the first time I had undertaken an academic piece of writing since I was at school, but the help of Ashley and the other tutors my experience was absolutely fantastic and really built my confidence. Ashley and the tutors put on a graduation ceremony for us, and we had a buffet, pictures were taken and we were made to feel very special by Staffordshire University.

I was still interested in law and the criminal justice system, so I enrolled on the LLB with a Foundation Year (FY). I had a great time on the foundation year and received a lot of support and met a lot of really nice friends, some of whom I still I’m in contact with and are on the same course as me now. It was far more intense undertaking the full-time foundation year as we had four modules and were required to be in the university for a lot longer.

I had a lot of support by my tutors on level three on the foundation year and I could see how there was a natural progression from the ‘Step Up’ Programme to the FY year. Both programmes provided me with ample support and the opportunity to develop my skills and build my confidence as I approached the full three-year programme. I really enjoyed my criminal law and criminal justice modules in the foundation year.

A level four student called Farida Zerglaine was on a course called Criminal Justice with Offender Management and she told me how she was really enjoying it. She said that she had a fantastic time on the level four and recommended that I go on to that because I liked the criminal side of my studies. I spoke to the course leader who was also the tutor my FY module – Louis Martin. He explained to me that the course was about people who are interested in working in the criminal justice sector working with offenders and young offenders. I was interested in working with young offenders in Stoke and had some experience of the youth offending service. I decided to transfer onto the Offender Management course, and I had a fantastic first year.  All the support and guidance provided by Staffordshire university over the last two years really prepared me for success on the Offender Management course.

So here we are! I write this now as I start on level 5 and have already done some research for my research project on youth offending and I wrote a blog about this earlier on in the year. I can’t wait to start in October I’m really looking forward to it.

For more information about studying Offender Management with us, visit our Criminology course page to read more about our new Criminology with Offender Management pathway. 

 

 

Former Forensic Investigation Student appointed Crime Scene Manager.

Craig Ratcliffe graduated with an MSCi in Forensic Investigation in 2015 from the School of Law Policing and Forensics.

At the end of his degree year in 2014 he was selected to undertake a 6 week placement with Staffordshire Police through the Staffordshire Forensic Partnership. During his placement he worked on a joint project entitled The Use of Immersive Digital Technologies for Police and Forensic Services in 21st Century.

It is what we would now call Virtual Reality and was clearly ahead of its time, as it is really only in the last couple of years that police forces have started to seriously look at VR as a means of delivering realistic practical training for officers and staff.

Craig’s first role after graduation was with West Mercia Police working as Digital Forensic Investigator which saw him capturing CCTV from both residential and commercial crime scenes. A year later he joined Staffordshire Police as a Digital Forensic Investigator which involved recovering CCTV evidence and attending and taking photographs at post mortems to assist police, the coroner and where required the court.

In 2017 he was appointed a Forensic Investigator (CSI) within Staffordshire realising a long held ambition.

His role was and is to attend (mainly) volume crime scenes to recover forensic evidence such as DNA, fingerprints, and footwear impressions. Craig attributes his degree and experience from Staffordshire University as giving him the basic skills and confidence to start a career in the police.

Earlier this year after some four years experience as a Forensic Investigator, Craig was appointed a Crime Scene Manager within Staffordshire Police. He is the youngest person in the force to hold the position. Whilst he remains an FI on a day-to-day basis, when it comes to major or complex crime scenes the role sees Craig directing and tasking other Forensic Investigators to carry out scene actions relating to the incident they are dealing with. The CSM also creates a scene and crime specific forensic strategy to ensure that best evidence is preserved.

The role is also a liaison one, linking in with Senior Investigating Officers, attending briefings and working with the Forensic Coordinator to ensure that the correct resources are available.

Craig is also using his experience to help develop the next generation of forensic specialists studying at Staffordshire University as he has joined the Staffordshire Forensic Partnership as a work stream lead. He hopes to be able to attend lectures and mentor students undertaking a placement project very much as he did in 2014.

Here is Craig speaking in 2019 of his student experience with the SFP at the 3rd year celebrations of the partnership.

 

 

Criminogenic Dynamics of the Construction Industry: A State-Corporate Crime Perspective

Dr Jon Davies’ paper in the Journal of White Collar and Corporate Crime “contributes to the state-corporate crime agenda by demonstrating how discussions on criminogenic industry structures provide critical links between organizational processes and broader political-economic dynamics, which is crucial for developing a criminological discourse.”

Read ‘Criminogenic Dynamics of the Construction Industry: A State-Corporate Crime Perspective’ here

Fault lines of food fraud: key issues in research and policy

Jon Davies’Criminology and Sociology Lectuer – co-authored article with Nicholas Lord, Cecilia Flores Elizondo and Jon Spencer is now available. 

“This article analyses three key areas in the literature on food fraud where we see fault lines emerging: 1. food fraud research orientations; 2. food fraud detection and prevention (and the dehumanisation and decontextualisation associated with analytical testing); and, 3. food fraud regulation and criminalisation. We argue that these fault lines raise questions over the plausibility of knowledge on food frauds and in some cases produce specious arguments.”

Read ‘Fault lines of food fraud: key issues in research policyhere

Working, living and dying in COVID times: perspectives from frontline adult social care workers in the UK

Working, living and dying in COVID times: perspectives from frontline adult social care workers in the UK, is available to read here. The co-authored article written by Luke Telford – Criminology and Sociology Lecturer are Staffordshire University – Daniel Briggs and Anthony Ellis aimed ‘to explore 15 UK adult social care workers’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.’ 

Luke said that it is “based on qualitative research with care workers during the pandemic, outlining the state’s failure to adequately protect both staff and vulnerable residents in care homes”

Procedural justice as a reward to the compliant: an ethnography of police–citizen interaction in police custody

Dr Leanne Savigar-Shaw‘s – Lecturer in Policing – author journal on Procedural justice as a reward to the compliant: an ethnography of police–citizen interaction in police custody is now available on Taylor and Francis here

The “paper contributes to the literature on Procedural Justice Theory (PJT) by exploring its capacity to explain the dynamic interactions between police and citizens within the context of police detention.”

The application of tape lifting for microplastic pollution monitoring

Professor Claire Gwinnett (lecturer in Forensics and Director for the Centre for Crime Justice and Security), Amy Osborne (PhD Researcher) and Andrew Jackson (Emeritus Professor) have had paper published, called ‘The application of tape lifting for microplastic pollution monitoring.

Claire said it ‘is a study where we have tested the use of a tape created and patented at Staffordshire University for forensic crime scene work for the us of microplastic recovery’.

 

You can read ‘The application of tape lifting for microplastic pollution monitoring’ on Science Direct, here

First year Offender Management Student Visits Stoke Youth Offending Services for Research

Shabana Butt is a first year Criminal Justice with Offender Management student at Staffordshire University and is interested in working with young offenders when she graduates. In order to prepare for her second year research project, Shabana visited the Stoke-on-Trent Youth Offending Services and she shares how informative the visit was. 

My name is Shabana, and I have just completed my first year on the BA (Hons) Criminal Justice with Offender Management course. To prepare for my second year I decided to make an early start on my research project, which I need to do in semester one in September. I had to choose a topic connected to criminal justice and undertake some research to write the research project. I am interested in working with young offenders, so I went to visit Liberty House, Marsden St, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, which is the Youth Offending Services local office. Fortunately, I was offered a warm welcome and promised a meeting with Rob Morray who is one of the managers of the Stoke on Trent Service.

I was a bit nervous, so I asked my academic mentor, Louis Martin, to come along with me for some support and to take notes for me during the meeting.  I met with Rob and he explained how youth services are delivered in Stoke on Trent. Rob told me the history of how the youth service developed in Stoke and some of the interventions provided for young people who had been referred by the police, social services, and the Court. The team even visited young people in YOI (Young Offender Institution) Werrington. Rob explained how important it was that young people are diverted away from criminal behaviour and substance misuse. He was very experienced and saw the benefits of children being treated like children and not stereotyped as deviant or simply criminals. The team works with young people and takes them out on outdoor activities such as mountain climbing and potholing. Rob emphasised the importance of sports and healthy activities to distract the young people from gangs and getting involved in dealing controlled substances and county lines.

I spoke to Dianne and Keith who were members of the Youth Offending Team and were currently working as court officers. Their main roles included:  helping young people at the police station if they were arrested, writing reports, and supporting young people and their families at court, supervising young people serving a community sentence and visiting young people if they are sentenced to custody.

Dianne and Keith talked about their experiences working in YOIs and going to Court for the Youth Offending Service. The team were very experienced and explained the process where their aim was to keep children out of the criminal justice system. The team at Stoke are very caring and passionate about their job and the service they provide. I would like to use the knowledge provided by my course at Staffordshire University to work with children and young people in Stoke on Trent after I graduate. I am really pleased that I had the courage to walk into Liberty House and ask for some information. I think many students will be surprised how helpful professionals who work in the criminal justice sector can be in sharing information about their roles and what they do. For readers who are interested in this area of criminal justice here are some links I have been using to find out more information about Youth Justice:

 

 

The UK Parliament on the International Day of Parliamentarism

The 30th June is the International Day of Parlimentarism. Established by the United Nations and celebrated on this day every year, the day ‘is a time to review the progress that parliaments have made in achieving some key goals to be more representative and move with the times, including carrying out self-assessments, working to include more women and young MPs, and adapting to new technologies (un.org).’ In relation to this, Dr John McGarry, Senior Law Lecturer, discusses the UK Parliament.

On International Day of Parliamentarism it is appropriate to recognise the central and preeminent role that the UK Parliament plays in the legal and political landscape of the country. Parliament comprises three bodies: the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Monarch. It is sometimes, more formally known as the Queen in Parliament. The House of Commons is made up of 650 directly elected MPs. The House of Lords consists of 700-800 peers which include appointed Life Peers, up to 92 hereditary peers and up to 26 Bishops of the Church of England.

Parliament has a number of roles. First and foremost, it is the UK’s primary legislature which means that it legislates, it creates law. Its powers here are unusual (though not unique) in that it is sovereign which means, in this context, that it may make any law whatsoever. That is, there are no restraints on the legislative power of Parliament. If an Act of Parliament is enacted in the correct way then, regardless of how improper, immoral or unconstitutional it is considered to be, the courts cannot overrule it or strike it out. As I say, this is unusual. In many countries, the law-making competence of the legislature is constrained by the constitution. For instance, in the US, an Act of Congress (roughly the equivalent of an Act of Parliament) may be struck down by the courts if it breaches the Constitution.

Another important role of Parliament is holding the Government to account – obliging the Government to explain and defend its actions and respond appropriately to any criticisms. It is worth emphasising here that Parliament and the Government are two distinct bodies exercising distinct functions. This fact is sometimes lost because it is a rule of the UK constitution that all Ministers – the main political actors of Government – must be a member of either the House of Commons or the House of Lords. Moreover, the Prime Minister must be a member of the House of Commons (rather than the House of Lords) and is the person who commands – and must maintain – the majority of support in the House of Commons.

This requirement – that the Government is formed from Parliament and must maintain the confidence (the majority of support) of the Commons – is why the UK system of government is parliamentary in nature. It may be contrasted with a presidential system where the head of government is directly elected by voters.

The importance of Parliament’s role in holding the Government to account is demonstrated by it being one of the bases of the Supreme Court’s decision in 2019 that the Government’s attempt to prorogue Parliament for five weeks was unlawful. The Court held that parliamentary accountability – Parliament holding the Government to account –is a fundamental constitutional principle and that this principle would be frustrated by such a lengthy prorogation. So, unless there was a reasonable justification for the five week prorogation, it was unlawful.

The accountability of Government to Parliament occurs in many ways. Undoubtedly, the most well known is Prime Minister’s Question time when the Prime Minister answers questions from MPs about the Government’s actions and decisions. This accountability is facilitated by a number of non-legal rules governing how members of the Government ought to behave. One of the most important is that Ministers must be honest with Parliament. The Ministerial Code – which sets basic standards of ministerial behaviour – states: ‘It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity’. Without this obligation of honesty, Parliament would be seriously hampered in its ability to hold the Government to account.

This, though, raises questions which I will state but not answer. As I have indicated, many of the most important obligations under the UK constitution are non-legal in nature. As such, they rely on those in power knowing, and adhering to, the rules of the game. This is sometimes known as the ‘Good Chaps’ theory of Government – that those in power will act like good chaps (or chapesses) and comply with the non-legal rules. Yet, what happens when those in power no longer feel obliged to comply with these rules? Can Parliament exercise its function of holding the Government to account if the Government no longer feels obliged to, for instance, give accurate and truthful information to Parliament? As I say, this is not a question which I will attempt to answer here. It is, however, an important question and it is one that my colleague Donna Graham, Staffordshire University lecturer, is currently looking at as part of her PhD.