Welcome to my blog

I thought this would be a great way to tell everyone about the many interesting things that I do in my professional life as a researcher, writer and educator. At the moment, my interest is mainly focused on policing and more specifically on police custody i.e. where people are taken on arrest whilst a decision is reached about charge. Watch this space for updates on my whirlwind academic life.

About Me

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Layla Skinns is a Senior Lecturer in criminology in the Centre for Criminological Research at the School of Law, University of Sheffield. Before joining the Centre for Criminological Research, Layla worked at the University of Cambridge, where she was the Adrian Socio-Legal Research Fellow at Darwin College and a Teaching Associate on the MSt. in Applied Criminology for senior police, prison and probation staff. Whilst working as a Research Fellow at Darwin College, she co-organised the prestigious Darwin College Lecture Series on the theme of risk. Her qualifications are: MA (Hons) Sociology and Psychology, University of Edinburgh, 2000; MPhil Criminological Research, University of Cambridge, 2001 and PhD Criminology, University of Cambridge, 2005

Friday, 12 November 2010

Oh yes, one last thing ..

I've been invited to give a seminar in my department. It will be part of the regular public seminar series held by the Centre for Criminological Research, School of Law, University of Sheffield (see the link below). I shall be talking about aspects of my forthcoming book. I haven't decided exactly what I will be talking about yet, but it will probably be about plural policing and police custody. Watch this space for further details.


Show me the way to San Francisco

What a momentous week ....

My first draft of the report for the Howard League is complete (** big sigh of relief **). I think it makes for some interesting reading. A larger proportion of juvenile suspects are detained overnight in the police station than you might expect. One of the main drivers for this seems to be difficulties with the referral process between police custody and local authority accommodation. Another interesting and probably little known fact is that in police custody 17 year olds are treated as adults, unlike in the rest of the criminal justice process where 17 year olds are treated as juveniles. Anyway, watch this space for further details of this publication. It will probably be out in January 2011.

My book on police custody is finally and definitely going to press. I've also submitted a report of my key findings on police custody in common-law jurisdictions to my funders, the British Academy.

In addition, I have submitted a co-edited book manuscript to Cambridge University Press. This book is a collection of essays taken from the Darwin College Lecture series, which I co-organised in 2010 on the theme of 'risk'. Here's the blurb for the book:

"Recent events from the economic down-turn to climate change mean that there has never been a better time to be thinking about and trying to better understand the concept of risk. In this book, prominent and eminent speakers from fields as diverse as statistics to classics, neuroscience to criminology, politics to astronomy, as well as speakers embedded in the media and in government have put their ideas down on paper in a series of essays that broaden our understanding of the meaning of risk. The essays come from the prestigious Darwin College Lecture Series which, after twenty-five years, are one of the most popular public lecture series at the University of Cambridge. The risk lectures in 2010 were amongst the most popular yet and, in essay form, they make for a lively and engaging read for specialists and non-specialists alike."

(Skinns, L., Scott, M. and Cox, T. (eds) (2011) Risk. Cambridge: CUP.)

And now, lucky me, I am heading to San Francisco to the American Society of Criminology conference. I'm giving a paper called 'Police custody in common-law jurisdictions: some early findings from a comparative study'. Here's the abstract:

Police custody acts as a bridge between the police, courts and prison and also, therefore, as a gateway to the criminal justice process. In spite of its importance, it has been a neglected area of scholarly interest with little recent research being conducted on it in England or in other common-law jurisdictions. Based on a recently completed qualitative exploratory and comparative study of England, Ireland and jurisdictions in Australia and the United States, this paper provides unique insights into key features of the police custody process. This includes important issues, such as the right to silence, access to legal advice in the police station, the tape-recording of interviews, record-keeping and the length of detention. The paper will also examine the implications for theories about due process and crime control. One of the conclusions from the research so far is that in the American jurisdiction, there was less clarity and certainty, compared to the three other jurisdictions, about how suspects should be treated in police custody, which was also suggestive of their being fewer procedural safeguards and a greater emphasis on crime control.

I'm also really looking forward to seeing San Francisco. As a criminologist, a trip to Alcatraz is a must, but the thought of clam chowder in the bay area also sounds awesome, not to mention the golden gate bridge and a few art galleries along the way. Having recently seen the film 'Milk' about the gay rights campaigner Harvey Milk, I was inspired to stay in the Castro. I'm guessing it will look a bit different to the grainy black and white images in the movie!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Public lecture over, now for some feverish writing

On Monday I gave a lecture on legal advice in the police station, which was hosted by the Centre for Criminal Law, UCL. I was presenting alongside researchers from the Legal Services Research Centre. There were over 100 people there and lots of interesting and engaging questions at the end on many different things like civilianisation and privatisation of police custody areas (yes, this has happened - see chapter six of my forthcoming book on police custody); the role of appropriate adults; the impact of the recent Cadder case in the European Court of Human Rights concerned with legal advice in the police in Scotland (where hitherto suspects did not have a right to consult with a legal adviser prior to interview - see link below); the impact of legal advice on suspect admissions of guilt. My only lament about the lecture was that the audience seemed to be comprised primarily of lawyers. It would have been really useful to have had a police perspective on things.

Now, my attention is firmly focused on the report I am writing for the Howard League about the overnight detention of juveniles in police custody. Here is an interesting quote from an inspection report jointly produced by Her Majesties Inspectorate of Constabularies and Her Majesties Inspectorate of Prisons about a police custody facilities in the Basic Command Unit of Wandsworth which is part of the Metropolitan Police Service:

We had concerns about the welfare of three children detained at Wandsworth during the inspection, aged 13, 14 and 16. They spent a considerable amount of time waiting outside in the yard before being booked in: up to two hours and 35 minutes after arrival. The children were held in custody overnight and did not speak to their parents until the next morning, pending the completion of a search of their family homes. The mothers of two of the children acted as their AA [appropriate adult] the following day but there were significant delays in calling a volunteer AA [appropriate adult] in the third case. The 16-year-old was released at midday the following day but the two younger children were interviewed almost 24 hours after their arrest and subsequently refused bail, and were then held for a second night, to be taken to court the following morning. Contact was made with the local authority out-of-hours service, to notify them that these children had been refused bail and therefore been remanded into the care of the local authority. However, no representative from the local authority attended and no accommodation was offered. Custody staff told us that they could not recall an occasion when local authority accommodation had been provided for juveniles in this situation (HMIC/HMIP, 2010c: para 5.13).

Whilst this example from Wandsworth is useful for illustrating some of the circumstances in which children and juveniles are detained overnight in the police station, it tells us little about how often this happens and whether or not the overnight detention of children and juveniles is routine. I tackle all of these issues in my forthcoming report, which is due for publication in January.