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Assessing the feasibility and viability of Restorative Justice interventions for serious sexual offending

   School Of Social Sciences, Education And Social Work

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  Dr A Percy, Dr Michelle Butlter  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

CAST Studentship: Restorative Justice interventions for serious sexual offending. CAST (Co-operative Awards in Science and Technology) PhD Studentship in association with the Department of Justice (NI) and the Crime and Social Justice Research Group, QUB.

Title: Assessing the feasibility and viability of Restorative Justice interventions for serious sexual offending.

Supervisors: Dr Andrew Percy (SSESW) and Dr Michelle Butler (SSESW).

Context: Restorative Justice, where victims meet offenders in a face-to-face setting, has been shown to be effective in reducing reoffending and improving victim satisfaction. Northern Ireland is a world leading proponent of restorative justice services for young offenders and their victims. To date, Restorative Justice (RJ) has tended to be targeted at low level offences, such as criminal damage and minor assaults. However, evidence is emerging that RJ is also effective with more serious offences, particularly where the experiences of victims within the Criminal Justice System (CJS) are less than optimal and where current approaches may result in poor reoffending outcomes, such as the case with serious sexual offences.   

The Gillen Review into Law and Procedures in Sexual Offences (published in 2019), recommended that the Department of Justice consider the development of RJ services for serious sexual offences. Specifically, Recommendation 243 requested a victim led RJ scheme within the CJS dealing with serious sexual offences where the offender has admitted their guilt, the victim has requested RJ and the perpetrator has agreed to be involved. In addition, Recommendation 244 requested a victim-led voluntary self-referral RJ service to resolve certain serious sexual offences where the victim may not wish to participate in the formal CJS.

This PhD will examine the feasibility and viability of addressing these two recommendations. The research will assess the extent to which RJ may provide better outcomes for victims, offenders and society in relation to serious sexual offending. The PhD will:

(i) undertake a systematic review and meta-analysis of RJ interventions for sexual offending,

(ii) assess the views and opinions of victims, offenders and CJS practitioners regarding the provision of Restorative Justice services for serious sexual offences,

(iii) determine and describe the implementation and operational challenges associated with enacting these recommendations,

(iv) document current provision for victims and perpetrators of serious sexual offences, specifically in relation to locating the proposed schemes within existing services, and

(v) provide guidance on ways forward to address the two recommendations.

This research builds on an existing collaborative relationship between Department of Justice and the Crime and Social Justice Research Group in the School of Social Science, Education and Social Work. The project aligns with current research priorities regarding the development and evaluation of complex CJS interventions, improving systems for the control of crime, and promoting social justice for victims and offenders, and draws on the group’s expertise in RJ, desistance, and implementation and evaluation research.

This research is of international significance. This work will have direct policy and practice impact not only on the Northern Ireland CJS, but also in relation to international developments in adult RJ and interventions for victims of serious sexual offending.   

The studentship: The successful student will be embedded within the Reducing Offending Policy Unit of the Department of Justice for the entire duration of the study. In addition to their academic supervisors (Dr Percy and Dr Butler), they will work closely with the Head of Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Reducing Reoffending, and alongside policy colleagues, with the aim of assisting in the development of the evidence necessary to enable the Department of Justice to progress the recommendations outlined by Sir John Gillen. This will provide the student with a valuable insight and first-hand experience of the processes involved in the formulation and delivery of this key area of criminal justice policy.

The Department of Justice are committed to providing dedicated office space, equipment and parking for the student for the duration of the scholarship, as well as staff time and sharing staff expertise afforded through the direct location of the student within the Reducing Offending Policy Unit. 

Given the importance of this project, we are seeking an outstanding applicant who can not only demonstrate knowledge and skills but also a strong passion and commitment to work in this area. 

Application process:

To apply, please log onto Queen’s University Belfast Direct Application Portal, select the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work, select ‘Sociology’ for the subject area, and then select the degree of ‘Criminology (Doctor of Philosophy)’. Complete the required sections, and submit your application by 28th May 2021. It is anticipated that interviews will take place the week commencing 7th June 2021. Cite reference APMB21 in your application if you are applying for this studentship.

Applicants are required to submit a two-page statement outlining their suitability for the project and how their current skills and experiences make them the ideal candidate for this project (please upload this document to ‘proposal’ in place of a standard research proposal). Within this document, we encourage applicants to draw particular attention to any experiences or skills they may have in relation the following criteria:

  • Knowledge of the Criminal Justice System and Restorative Justice services.
  • Work with sensitive topics such as sexual victimisation
  • Research skills, particularly in relation to interviewing or policy analysis.

Shortlisted candidates will be asked to take part in a brief interview. We expect this position to be very competitive.

Please ensure that you meet the entrance criteria for the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social, found here.

Contact us

If you have any queries on the studentship, please email Dr Andrew Percy [Email Address Removed] or Dr Michelle Butler [Email Address Removed].

Funding Notes

This project is funded via a Co-operative Awards in Science and Technology (CAST) studentship. The industrial sponsor is the Department of Justice.
The Studentship offers tuition fees and annual stipend of £15,285 to support living costs for a maximum of three years, depending in residency. For further details about eligibility criteria (including academic, citizenship and residency criteria) please click on the DfE Research Eligibility Guidance Notes: While successful candidates are expected to undertake full time working hours on the project, there may be scope to further supplement their income through teaching activities should opportunities arise.
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