A Time for Reflection

Senior Lecturer and Course Leader for the BSc Policing and Criminal Investigation degree, Ian Ackerley reflects on the role of police during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Sunday 19th April 2020 represented nine years since my beloved football team Stoke City played a memorable FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium beating Bolton Wanderers 5-0, an important detail for the near 50,000 Stokies who travelled south to London that day.

At a loss for something useful to do during the current lockdown I watched some footage of the build up to the game revelling in the atmosphere whilst at the same time looking with incredulity at how close everyone was in an age where there was no concept of or need for social distancing. After 34 years as a police officer and more recently as a university lecturer in policing, the images of people celebrating success caused me to reflect on how quickly times have changed.

It is a tribute to the resilience, adaptability and sense of fair play of communities that the police have not had an even tougher job in responding to the new norms of social order which for the most part appear to have been respected impeccably. The service has approached its duties with the pragmatism that those of us who have served would expect. The Service’s strategy of Engage, Explain, Encourage and Enforce is perfectly reasonable combining and passing the Human Rights Act 1998 tests of legality, necessity and proportionality. In addition, where officers have made mistakes whether well intentioned or foolishly the police have responded and apologised with good grace and in a timely manner.

Against this backdrop it is sad that the prevailing narrative has, in some parts of the press, been dominated by a portrayal of the police as idiotic, overzealous and hypocritical. Such approaches at worst deny and at best fail to recognise the commitment of officers and police staff the length and breadth of the country. Whilst crime as a whole may have dropped, the complexity of domestic abuse, child protection and online criminality adds massively to the myriad tasks being undertaken by officers and staff. The service has acted both proactively to identify breaches of the regulations and reactively to multiple calls from the public concerned about individuals and groups not complying with the social distancing rules.  Police officers and police staff have played and continue to play a unique and vital part in ensuring that people stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

Whenever the new normality emerges from the containment of Covid-19 there will, amongst many other things,  be reflections, recriminations, structured debriefs and inevitably a public enquiry. From my knowledge of the Police Service I am certain that it will embrace and respond to their conclusions.


Bear with a Care

Law Lecturer, Kath Harvey and her family have been cheering up local residents (and colleagues) with the appearance of Divoc and Margie the bears outside their house – and raising money for the Donna Louise Trust whilst doing so.

Donation Link


Here is what the bears have been up to so far…


When Divoc made his first appearance on 13th April, he didn’t have his name yet. He paid tribute to all the hard working Key Workers.

“Who needs Elf on the Shelf when you have Bear with a Care”.

The next day, the poor bear was worn out from his shift!

On the 15th April, Bear took a more relaxed approach…

Kath’s children had an art project to do for school work; they made a pond so the bear could go fishing.

On the 17th April, bear took the dogs for their daily exercise.

Who doesn’t love a bit of gardening? 

On the 19th April, Bear tried his hand at baking – wonder who was brave enough to try that pancake! 

A motivational message to all of Staffordshire University’s hard working Law students – keep guying guys! 

The 21st April was someone’s special birthday – HAPPY BIRTHDAY AUNTIE KERRY!

It’s about time the bear had a name. On the same day, the family created boxes for people to post name suggestions, as well as posting on Facebook. 

Going on a bear hunt…

Successful hunting! First date success

It was time for the big name reveal! Kath’s children chose the names: Divoc (wonder what inspired this name) and Margie.

Some important second date prep… Looking marvelous Margie. 

Smooth operator – Divoc picking Margie up in style.

 Divoc and Margie made the most of the sunshine by having a picnic date.


Third date prep!

Should have gone to Specsavers? Divoc testing his artistic talents on the 28th April, for their third date.

Today they are going on their first camping trip (29th April)! Let’s hope the weather stays nice.

What has been your favourite Bear with a Care activity so far?

The link to the Donna Louise Hospice Care is here, if you would like to help Kath’s Bears with a Care raise money.

What will the bears get up to next…

Why Choose Staffordshire University Law Department?

Law Lecturer, Kath Harvey tells us why she is #ProudToBeStaffs teaching our Law students at Staffordshire University. 

I joined Staffs Law Department in 2017  as a part time hourly paid lecturer, delivering skills sessions in interviewing and negotiation. It was an opportunity for me to “dip my toes” before taking the plunge into the world of academia. A world which was unfamiliar to me, a practitioner of almost 30 years specialising in Civil Litigation, Housing, ASB amongst other less exciting areas.  Did I enjoy it? Absolutely! I soon realised that I could contribute something of value to the student experience, a chance to bring the text book to life. With so many life experiences I couldn’t resist basing the exercises on actual cases I had dealt with over my career .The feedback from the students was heartening and encouraged me to take “the leap”.

Joining Staffs full time in 2018 I was tasked with delivering Property Law at undergraduate, Work Experience and Criminal and Civil Litigation on the LPC. Again, I seized the opportunity to bring law to life, sharing my many real life examples (some very embarrassing, but nevertheless it helped the students to remember the legal principle or the case!) to enhance the text book theory.  Not a single property student leaves the module without understanding what title means! (unlike myself who naively informed the Judge that it was “Miss” rather than “Freehold”!! – back in my paralegal days I hasten to add).

Often the students ask “do you prefer teaching or being in practice”? A difficult one to answer. After years in practice I am enjoying the job satisfaction that teaching brings. Winning your case after months of hard work, beating your opponent, getting a just result is rewarding that’s true, but seeing your students grow in confidence, watching them succeed, encouraging them to reach for the stars is a whole new job satisfaction.

So why choose Staffs Law School? Because we care that’s why.

Volunteering to give back – A Special Constable

One of our staff members is currently volunteering as a Special Constable to help the police forces during this difficult time.

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/29108968@N06/2904708084

Why did you decide to join?

I had friends who were joining and explained about it. I thought it was a great opportunity to give back in a practical way, with my forensics and law experience. I spent a lot of time talking to police officers and I thought it was a good opportunity to give back to the police forces.

Why do you think a Special Constable’s role is important?

People don’t tend to see what Special Constables do from the outside and don’t know what it means to be a Special Constable. You get an immense feeling from helping someone. People have seen so much of what the NHS are doing to help [with the current Covid-19 situation] but they don’t always see what the police are doing. Teams are self-isolating or becoming ill, so they are relying on [Special Constable volunteers] who are not working, and it is nice that everyone has come together.

What has changed since Covid-19 in relation to your role as Special Constable?

Evening shifts are different with the night-time economy of bars and pubs being closed. The streets are quiet but lots of people are driving more irresponsibly because of it being quiet. There has been an increase in domestic violence and mental health issues. Services are relying on the police where they are unable to help and domestic violence victims do not have any respite because of lockdown.

Is there anything you would like to add?

It is a brilliant opportunity. I have trained with people from different jobs from banks to teachers. Anyone can do the job; it teaches you a lot about yourself and gives you new skills. I have developed my communication skills and become more confident. It is something you should consider, even if for one day or evening a week.

Level 4 LLB students engage with some critical aspects of mooting.

Some of our LLB (Hons) Law students, at Level 4, took part in a practical exercise in March where they engaged with some of the critical aspects of mooting.

This took place in their module ‘English Legal System and Legal Skills’.

The module teaches student about what the English legal system is, how Laws are made and how the system works. The module then develops students’ negotiation skills, how to present information, debate, conduct research and other skills to purse a successful career in Law.

My Experiences of Microsoft Teams on the Criminal Justice with Offender Management Course

With the move to remote working, due to the Covid-19 virus, our teaching methods have also moved online. Staffordshire University are doing their best to ensure students do not miss out on their learning. Sinead Bowles, a student on the BA Criminal Justice with Offender Management course, takes us through how Microsoft Teams is helping her studies, as well as her own teaching experiences using the programme.

Microsoft Teams is a fairly new platform which can be used in a variety of work or educational settings. Teams is a Microsoft 365 app, which allows members to form teams, broadcast messages, hold video conferences and to communicate with other individuals on a professional basis. As a first-year student at Staffordshire University, I was initially introduced to Teams on the Criminal Justice with Offender Management Degree as this platform was used to convey lecture and workshop materials. As this platform allows for several teams to be formed, I had one for each module including numerous channels for a week by week breakdown of content which made it easy to follow. The messaging function on Teams meant that it was trouble-free to contact lecturers or other students; as a result, it made the introduction to university work extremely streamlined and simple.

As I progressed through my course, I was invited to deliver some teaching about criminal justice to prison officer recruits at HMP Dovegate. Serco had already transitioned over to using Teams as their main platform and this proved to be advantageous to the presenters from Staffordshire University. We created a Team with the training staff at HMP Dovegate, so teaching materials could be created on Microsoft Teams simultaneously by all of the team members. I delivered a session on report writing skills using Teams on a large monitor in the prison’s Training Centre.

“Microsoft Teams has meant that students learning has not been compromised at this unprecedented time”

Teams is available on a comprehensive selection of mobile devices, allowing us to easily keep in contact and access files. Technology has proven to be an issue in the past when teaching at prisons; however, using Teams we were able to provide a problem-free teaching package.

The learners were required to submit essays on a chosen topic, which would then be marked and count towards their apprenticeship, it was decided that this would be done through Teams. The team found that marking the assignments online was more effective and less time consuming as the Word document can be opened in Teams, marked in collaboration and saved automatically. The prison training manager opened up the documents and saw the progress of marking and got an idea of the level of engagement by the officers before the work had been returned back to them. Teams made the teaching and marking experience effective, organised and effortless.

Sinead Bowles using Teams to teach at HMP Dovegate earlier this year

With the recent developments of Coronavirus and the United Kingdom lockdown, Microsoft Teams is more vital than ever. Tutors at Staffordshire University have been holding online lectures through Teams, by using the meeting function lecturers are able to lecture the class live through video call and present the slides which are mirrored onto student’s devices. Whilst using the meeting function, Microsoft Teams can still be used as normal as the meeting is minimised; consequently, workshop exercises can still be completed individually, with the support from the lecturer. Students are able to use their microphone to ask questions, or answer questions, therefore interactive learning is not lost. Microsoft Teams has meant that students learning has not been compromised at this unprecedented time.

Offender Management Experience at HMP Dovegate

Katrina Robinson, a level 4 student on the Criminal Justice with Offender Management degree, and students from the School of Law, Policing and Forensics went on an educational trip to Dovegate Prison last month, with Course Leader Louis Martin and lecturer Dave Simmonds. 

I didn’t know what to expect when walking into the prison, as it was my first time being inside a male Cat B prison.  I was aware of the variety of sentences being served by the prisoners, being high security and I kept an open mind.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by Custodial Manager Brendan, and Prison Custody officer, gym instructor and staff trainer Simon. We all gathered in the reception waiting area where it was explained to us the itinerary for the day. [We then] proceeded to the training room, where current prison officers were undertaking their annual training programme and continued to the security check area where we were all searched before entering the prison grounds.

Once on the grounds, I was surprised to see how big the area was, and the prison itself was set out in different buildings rather than one big building.  We followed the walkway around the buildings and was told to stand aside as an alarm was set off and many prison officers ran towards the alarm. Brendan, after checking on the situation, explained that prisoners inside the visiting area had set the alarm off by accident.

The first building we entered was the gym where it was recorded 45 prisoners were there all using the gym equipment, some of which had use of the facilities 4 times a week due to their being on enhanced level of Incentive and Earned Privileges. 

Once we left the gym, we carried on the walk past the Vulnerable Persons Wing, which we weren’t allowed to enter due to the severity of the risk involved and headed towards the Offender Management Unit.  Within the Offender Management Unit O9MU), it reminded me of a standard office setting, with Multi agency staff all working together.  Here we were met by the Manager of the department who talked us through the daily running’s and what the OMU’s staff responsibilities were, such as sentence plans and rehabilitation plans.

After leaving the OMU, we headed towards the Therapeutic Centre (TC), also known as a prison within a prison which had a completely different feel from the main block. Brendan and Simon explained that we were going to meet and talk to 6 prisoners serving a range of different sentences.  Brenden advised us to ask as many questions as we would like, due to the prisoners being in therapy, anything they talk about they are open and willing to do so.

Here, we learned the reasons why the prisoners committed the crime and their childhood experiences; [they] all showed immense remorse for their actions, and the one thing that was great to see was their attitude towards life and looking forward to their future once released.  All the prisoners that we spoke to all agreed that the therapy that they were having has helped them massively to move forward and towards being a better person.  The conversations were accompanied with lunch that was put on for us all. [It] was a relaxed and calm atmosphere and I felt very safe.

We were then shown the wing in which they live and were lucky enough to see inside one of the cells. The TC wing was segregated from the main block, which I feel was a good choice, as the prisoners at the TC chose to enter therapy and not to get mixed up in any trouble that may occur within the main block.

After leaving the prison and back on the coach, I had time to reflect on the events of the day. I was so happy to have been able to go to Dovegate.  It was a fantastic opportunity for us all, which we’d never have the chance to experience without Louis, Dave, Simon and Brendan for which I’m extremely grateful.




The Significance of Volunteering

Danielle Hackett, a second year student on the Criminal Justice with Offender Management degree, explains the significance of volunteering, how it has helped her course and how the course has helped her volunteering experiences.

I did not understand the significance of volunteering, until I became a volunteer. In my first year of Criminal Justice with Offender Management, I became a volunteer for a rehabilitation charity called CGL. Whilst volunteering for CGL, I was able to use my knowledge and skills from my university course whilst working with offenders and other sectors, and I was also able to use my experience from volunteering in my university course.

Through my volunteering, I have had the chance to work with a range of offenders from prisons all around Staffordshire and have been able to visit prisons such as HMP Dovegate, HMP Foston Hall, HMP Drake Hall and YOI Brinsford. It has provided me with a vast experience of the prison system, as well as the probation service and other important services around Staffordshire as we all work together in a partnership.

I recently applied for a job at CGL, the post is for a year as a volunteer co-ordinator, they oversee the Staffordshire volunteers. I was successful in my application and I am eager to soon start my new job and I believe that becoming a volunteer was a very imminent part of receiving this job. I also have a job as a student ambassador at Staffs University and the job allows me to earn money and gain experience at the same time, it is a perfect job for students as I can choose which hours I work. The job has allowed me to meet different people such as students and staff members, but also other academics and professionals. It has enabled me to develop even more skills such as interviewing people.

I have just spent three days at a Cat B male prison, training to become a key handler. The three days consisted of personal protection training, corruption training, suicide and self-harm prevention and security training. Therefore, I am now able to draw keys at this prison, which is another step in the door in the future, but I am also now able to hold meetings with the prisoners about CGL and what help we can provide them with when they are released. Attending university is important, however, I have learnt that volunteering in the industry is also very beneficial for my future and that it works hand in hand with my course.

Whilst volunteering for CGL, I was able to use my knowledge and skills from my university course whilst working with offenders and other sectors, and I was also able to use my experience from volunteering in my university course.

My First Year as a BA (Hons) Criminal Justice with Offender Management student

Debbie Ball is a Level Four student on our Criminal Justice with Offender Management degree. She has written a blog piece explaining why she chose to study with us and how the degree will help her career. 

In September 2019 I became a mature student of the Criminal Justice with Offender Management course (CJWOM). I have worked for several local agencies for over 10 years across the city. I have worked for many years for a drug treatment service and in the housing sector working to find suitable accommodation for newly released prisoners. I have been privileged to have worked closely with the local prisons, probation service and other third sector agencies in my professional career.

My decision to apply for the CJWOM course was influenced by a female probation officer that I worked closely with to house a vulnerable gentleman with complex needs. This proved to be a difficult task due to his criminal record and complex needs, unfortunately before we managed to find housing for the gentleman he sadly passed away. This experience had a profound effect on me, I felt that I wanted to be able to make a real difference and had a passion for rehabilitation and supporting people wanting an opportunity for change. Working in the public sector can be very rewarding but also very sad, the clients I have worked with have been my greatest teachers over the years but felt that it was now the right time to cement my experiences into academic knowledge.

The Course Leader, Louis Martin, spoke at the open day for the course about gaining experience in the criminal justice sector as he felt that this would help build skills and gain experience. Due to my working relationship with the female probation officer I had previously worked with, I contacted her regarding returning to university and she encouraged me to apply to work at the national probation service approved premises as a sessional worker.

A sessional residential worker is paid employment and you are required to cover shifts for sickness, annual leave or general staff absence. The role includes supporting people with every day requests, general admin and a close multi agency approach with the police, probation and PPU (Public Protection Unit) and more.
An approved premise is for high risk offenders who been assigned to live at an address owned by probation services as part of a licence agreement on their release from prison. Some residents can be released to the premises as part of a ROTL (release on temporary licence) short stay, an alternative to a recall to prison or a longer stay to ensure integration back into society. There are several approved premises located across the west midlands and by becoming a sessional worker I could choose my location, hours and days to fit around my university studies.

The application and clearance/vetting stages are both lengthy processes which I began in June 2019 and finally received my clearance in October 2019, the process includes a DBS and background check. I completed a number of shadow shifts as requested by the approved premises manager over a number of weeks for training purposes and to get a feel for how the AP operates before I was able to complete a shift as a full sessional worker.

I have been at the AP now for 3 months and really enjoy it, it can be challenging and complex at times and I am sure there are a lot of misconceptions regarding violence and the environment but in my own experience I have not found this to be the case. Working at the approved premises has given me a good insight to the probation service but I still have a lot to learn.

An international survey into the analysis and interpretation of microscopic hair evidence by forensic hair examiners

Congratulations to Dr Claire Gwinnett and Laura Wilkinson (PhD Researcher) who have had their paper published, ‘An international survey into the analysis and interpretation of microscopic hair evidence by forensic hair examiners’

“This investigated global approaches to forensic hair examinations in criminal casework – something that has not been done before in this manner and this sets the current scene in the perceptions and methods being used in forensic hair examinations by forensic hair experts. This comes post global scrutiny of such evidence and highlights still the need for change and better standardized objective methods for interpretation.”