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Exploring the vulnerable suspects’ pathway through the criminal justice system to improve on practice-based frameworks.

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Current guidance makes some provisions for vulnerable suspects to be treated with ‘special care’ upon first entering police custody. However, this is reliant on their vulnerability being recognised in the first instance and the role of the Appropriate Adult and interviewing police officers in subsequent stages. Psychological research is starting to indicate that current practice may not be meeting the needs of the vulnerable suspect throughout the criminal justice system. The project is grounded in forensic and clinical psychology with a particularly applied research focus.


The project aim is to investigate how the vulnerable suspect experiences and is treated at key stages of the criminal justice system with the aim to influence and enhance existing guidance and legislation.

Potential Applications

The research findings have potential to impact a range of fields including forensic psychology, clinical psychology, and policing as well as informing current bodies on policy development, including the College of Policing.

Entry Requirements

Proposals are invited from self-funded full time applicants. The normal entry requirement for a research degree in psychology is a UK honours degree in Psychology (first or 2:1) or a UK Master’s degree in Psychology (or an international qualification that is regarded as equivalent). Overseas applicant must supply IELTS (British Council) Test: Minimum score level 6 in each of the four areas of reading, writing, listening and speaking with overall minimum score 6.5 issued within the last 2 years or degree certificate from UK or other English-language university awarded in last 2 years.

Information on PhD study, university fees, and making an application can be found at Start dates are 1 October, 1 February, and 1 May.

All international students studying at postgraduate level are awarded a £1,500 scholarship in each year of study. You do not have to apply for this scholarship; it is automatically applied to reduce your total annual tuition fee. The University of Sunderland is an eligible institution for U.S. (Federal School Code: G35073) and Canadian (EI Code: PUFL) Student Finance Programmes.


Dr Laura Farrugia
Lecture and Programme Leader for BSc Forensic Psychology
School of Psychology
University of Sunderland
City Campus
T: 0191 515 3021

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