Please tell us a bit about your background.
I grew up in London and had a somewhat unorthodox route into academia. I didn’t enjoy my London comprehensive school and left early under a bit of a cloud. A series of evening classes followed by an access course at Birkbeck College led to undergraduate study at the London School of Economics in my mid-20s. I found myself drawn to the study of crime and punishment in society and from that point on I stayed in academia, including a total of fourteen years at LSE going on to study for my PhD, a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship, and working as a lecturer for a couple of years. I started working at Oxford in the Centre for Criminology and St Hilda’s College ten years ago. I am Professor of Criminology and currently Director of Graduate Studies and Assistant Director of the Centre. I live in a village in the outskirts of Oxford with my teenagers (one now at university) and my Jack Russell dog, Daisy.
What are your research interests and why have you chosen those particular areas?
Most of my research has focused in various ways on the intersection between crime, justice, and the family, which has included research projects on the families of serious offenders, prisoners’ families, parenting expertise in youth justice, and adolescent to parent violence. The family is an important institution in society (whatever shape it takes), and yet it is fairly novel for criminologists to think about the ways in which it intersects with crime and justice ‘in the round’, rather than dividing this into a number of stand-alone substantive areas. I’m interested in the cross-cutting themes as well as the individual topics.
For example, the relationship between the family and the state and the way in which the state intervenes in family life take particular shape around the problem of crime. The family is constructed in various ways in formal policy responses to crime and informal responses such as stigmatization and shaming. Other common themes include the wide-reaching impact of crime and its consequences and how this travels through kin ties; the family as a site of both support and conflict; the construction of kin relationships and the ways in which we understand what it means to be, for example, a mother or a son; the ties that bind family members together and the ways in which responsibility for kin manifests morally, ethically, and in some cases legally; and the ‘problem family’ as site of politics or social reform.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have several current projects. One explores filial violence, or violence towards parents across the lifespan, and much of this work is collaborative with Caroline Miles from the University of Manchester. Over the Summer we completed a project on the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on families experiencing adolescent to parent violence. We are writing about parricide, an under researched form of domestic homicide, and starting to research violence from adult children towards parents.
I have been working on the topic of prisoners’ families for over two decades and have recently developed a Global Prisoners’ Families research group which includes more than 40 scholars worldwide active in prisoners' families research. We are currently focusing on global approaches and working with Global South scholars in the field. I have published an article in Theoretical Criminology this year, with Shona Minson, exploring how the impact of imprisonment on families and the harms they experience might be conceptualised, and I’m also writing with Harry Annison from the University of Southampton on the families of prisoners serving an IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection) sentence and the pains of indeterminacy.
Finally, I am co-investigator on a large interdisciplinary ESRC-funded project based in the Department of Education at Oxford which aims to advance an understanding of the political economies of school exclusion, and how more equitable outcomes can be achieved for pupils, their families, and professionals. I am focusing on the connections between school exclusion and youth involvement in criminal justice.
What is your favourite thing to do in your spare time?
My main love is travel – I love experiencing new cultures, seeing new places, and meeting new people – and look forward a time when we can return to doing this. I also enjoy art and visiting exhibitions, food and eating out, gardening, cinema, and theatre. I enjoy walking in the countryside and have open fields, woods, and the grounds of Blenheim palace all a few minutes’ walk from my house - long walks are appreciated by Daisy much more than my teenagers!
What charity do you support and why?
I support a number of charities, but one in particular is Phone Credit for Refugees and Displaced People, a volunteer-run organisation which supports asylum seekers and refugees separated from their families by war and conflict, providing mobile phone top-ups so that they can get in touch with their families, communicate with support agencies and stay safe.