Prof C McCartney
Prof R Arthur
Applications accepted all year round
Self-Funded PhD Students Only
This project will address the under-representation of young offenders among appellants at the Court of Appeal (Criminal) and CCRC applicants, examining the Court of Appeal processes and CCRC operations and young offender’s motivations. The project will include a detailed assessment of whether young people appearing at Magistrates or Crown court understand the significance of any penalty that has been imposed upon them and their rights regarding appeal. The project will discover what barriers young people perceive when appealing their criminal conviction or sentence, and what involvement parents may have and if this involvement supports the young person in appealing. It shall also determine the extent that the court and legal or voluntary personnel can overcome any real/perceived barriers and what steps are taken to promote the young person’s ability to understand their rights to appeal. Research has demonstrated that young people often do not understand legal proceedings and may not receive a proper explanation of what has happened until after a hearing is over (Jacobson and Talbot 2009, Wigzel et al., 2015). Many advocates for young defendants lacked knowledge of youth justice law, procedures and provisions and struggled to communicate with young defendants in an age-appropriate and effective manner. Young people may also disproportionately plead guilty, significantly impacting upon their rights to appeal and yet there is no specific guidance provided for potential young appellants, unless appealing from the Youth Court. The Court of Appeal provides no statistics on the age of appellants and there has been no prior research specifically looking at young people and appeals. Yet given the average time of 12 months to gain leave to appeal, young people are particularly vulnerable to suffering disproportionately when waiting to have convictions overturned or sentences varied. Additionally, in recent years there have been high-profile cases concerning so-called ‘joint enterprise’, where predominantly young people have been convicted of serious crimes on the basis of an interpretation of the law that the Supreme Court admitted in 2016, was wrong. One must conclude that this area of criminal law, if not others, may have resulted in numbers of young people being wrongly convicted or too harshly sentenced, either of which should give rise to an appeal. Furthermore, people aged under 21 years make up around 8% of the prison population, and yet the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), estimate that between 1% - 3% of their applicants come from this age group. There may be ’reasons’ that young people are under-represented in CCRC applications, such as the fact that the majority of applications (90%) relate to Crown Court cases and the CCRC prioritise applications from those in prison, (65-70% of applicants are in prison at time of applying). The CCRC also tend to deal with serious criminal convictions and young people tend to be convicted for less serious crimes, are kept wherever possible away from the Crown Court, and should receive shorter sentences. However, these facts cannot entirely explain why they are not represented proportionately. This research will firstly establish how many young people are appealing their criminal convictions and/or sentences to determine whether the findings of the CCRC are indicative of a reluctance on behalf of young people to appeal their cases.
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. SF18/…) 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.
Please note this is a self-funded project and does not include fees.
Dr McCartney is a Reader in the School of Law and has written on miscarriages of justice, policing, and forensic science. She established an Innocence Project at the University of Leeds in 2005. She has written widely on miscarriages of justice, the Court of Appeal and the CCRC, and is a founding member of the international blog: wrongfulconvictionsblog.org. She recently gave evidence to the Select Committee inquiry on the CCRC and has spoken widely about the operation of the CCRC, and the Court of Appeal.
Prof Ray Arthur is a Professor in Law and his research focuses on issues related to the delivery of justice for children and families. Recently he has published 3 books on this theme and numerous journal articles in international peer-reviewed journals such as Child and Family Law Quarterly, European Journal of Crime, Criminal Law & Criminal Justice, Family Law, Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, International Family Law, International Journal of Children’s Rights and International Journal of Sociology & Social Policy. He has worked with the European Society of Criminology, the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, the Prince’s Trust, Northern Rock Foundation, the Standing Committee for Youth Justice and the Home Office’s Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour Reduction Unit on projects which bring together researchers and practitioners to develop new approaches to responding to youth offending.