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Forensic Biometrics (SF19/LAW/MCCARTNEY2)

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

Project Description

This project will examine the growth and development of biometrics within law enforcement from a socio-legal perspective, complementing a growing body of research within the field of ‘forensic biometrics’. The use of different physical characteristics to identify and/or target individuals by law enforcement is increasing exponentially. For example, facial ‘matching’ technology was utilised at the Notting Hill Carnival and Remembrance Day services at the Cenotaph in London. The current Home Office Biometrics Programme (HOB) aims to deliver a large, complex programme converging IT systems into a cohesive, cost effective, user centred service – including hand-held fingerprint devices, fingerprint capture software. In an era where police body-warn cameras may become the norm, instant facial image matching as well as fingerprint matching is clearly an aim. This programme, combined with ongoing efforts by police forces to harness biometrics and utilise modern digital platforms, raises a host of legal, ethical and social questions. Yet the current focus of research is upon scientific and technological aspects of technology adoption and operability. The Biometrics Commissioner raises the issue of the lack of independent oversight or public assurances, a concern echoed by the Forensic Regulator. And yet both the Police and Home Office are forging ahead with national schemes to develop and utilise biometrics in policing. These rapid developments are taking place in a vacuum of public debate, and questions of technical quality, management and governance are yet to be answered. The Courts in 2012 ruled that the indiscriminate retention of facial images by police was unlawful, and yet the government have so far declined to address the 20+million facial images retained by police forces. Lessons from the government loss at the European Court of Human Rights concerning the unlawful ‘blanket’ retention of DNA from citizens may be applicable. This project should critically scrutinise the current drive to obtain, and retain other biometric data for law enforcement. It will be multi- and inter-disciplinary, calling upon law, ethics, science and sociology.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF19/…) will not be considered.

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality and is a member of the Euraxess network, which delivers information and support to professional researchers.

Funding Notes

Please note this is a self-funded project and does not include tuition fees or stipend.

Related Subjects

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