Improving the criminal justice system
Discover our current research, facilities, projects, partners and funding
The International Centre for Research in Forensic Psychology (ICRFP) has an established international reputation for conducting a broad range of criminological and forensic psychology research Centre activities are overseen by Dr Renan Saraiva (Director) and Dr. Zarah Vernham (Deputy Director).
Research in Forensic Psychology has been a cornerstone of the Department of Psychology since 1990 and the Centre now comprises an impressive team of research staff and students, and our primary aim is to deliver high quality research in Forensic Psychology at both national and international level.
Our work has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Centre (ESRC), Home Office, British Academy, Nuffield Foundation, United States Government, Leverhulme Trust, British Psychological Society and Prison Service Headquarters. Several members of the Centre also regularly serve as expert witnesses.
Work in the ICRFP covers the following sub-topics:
Intervention with offenders
- Innovative ways to predict risk in offending populations
- The recovery process in addiction to alcohol and drugs
- The development of criminality in young children
- Social climate as a mediator of adjustment and response to therapeutic interventions in custodial settings
- Processes involved in personal change
- Verbal and nonverbal detection of deception
- Criteria-based content analysis
- Malingering in medico-legal contexts
Witness memory and suggestibility
- Eyewitness testimony
- Earwitness testimony
- Eyewitness identification
- Child witnesses
- Tools and interventions for improving witness performance
- Eyewitness metacognition
- Hindsight bias
- Memory conformity
- False memory
Decision-making in the forensic context
- The thought processes involved in malevolent creativity
- Understanding decision-making in security settings such as when attending to airport X-ray footage of CCTV
- Investigative interviews with vulnerable witnesses and suspects
- Burglars' decision-making
- Jury decision-making
- Contextual influences on homicide
- Stereotypes and prejudice
Dr Renan Saraiva
Dr Lucy Akehurst
Dr Hartmut Blank
Dr Alejandra De La Fuente
Dr Haneen Deeb
Dr Ana Gheorghiu
Dr Alistair Harvey
Professor Lorraine Hope
Dr Jonathan Koppel
Dr Sharon Leal
Dr Sam Mann
Professor Claire Nee
Dr Lawrence Patihis
Dr Dominic Pearson
Dr Zarah Vernham
Professor Aldert Vrij
Dr Stefana Juncu
- Professor Gershon Ben-Shakhar, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
- Professor Dorthe Berntsen, Aarhus University, Denmark
- Professor Neil Brewer, Flinders University
- Dr Itiel Dror, UCL
- Professor Ron Fisher, Florida International University
- Professor Fiona Gabbert, Goldsmiths, University of London
- Dr Giogio Ganis, Plymouth University
- Prof Par-Anders Granhag, University of Gothenburg
- Professor Maria Hartwig, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
- Professor Tim Hollins, Plymouth University
- Professor Saul Kassin, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
- Dr Marilena Kyriakidou, Coventry University
- Dr Sara Landström, University of Gothenberg, Sweden
- Dr Amy Leach, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Canada
- Professor Steve Lindsay, University of Victoria, USA
- Professor Shadd Maruna, Queens, University Belfast
- Ewout Meijer, University of Maastricht, the Netherlands
- Professor Cynthia McDougall, York University
- Prof Harald Merkelbach, University of Maastricht, the Netherlands
- Dr Galit Nahari, Bar-Ilan University
- Dr James Sauer, University of Tasmania
- Dr Leif Stromwall, Gothenburg University, Sweden
- Dr Victoria Talwar, McGill University, Montréal, Canada
- Prof Paul Taylor, Lancaster University
- Professor Volkan Topalli, Georgia State University, USA
- Professor Graham Towl, University of Durham
- Professor Jean-Louis Van Gelder, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law
- Dr Bruno Verschuere, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Professor Tony Ward, Victoria University at Wellington, NZ
- Professor Richard Wright, Georgia State University, USA
Virtual reality lab
Our virtual reality lab facilitates re-enactment of risky situations for offenders and non-offenders so we can assess decision-making and emotion as it happens.
Our interview suite consists of one-way observational facilities, discrete cameras and audio recording equipment. One room is set up to mimic a police interview room and is used for training in investigative techniques in criminal justice settings, such as gathering evidence from vulnerable witnesses, and undertaking research with offenders.
A second room is set up to mimic a lounge and is used for mock burglary scenarios, and exploring child behaviour in an informal environment.
Large observation suite
Our large observation suite has a versatile room with modular seating, one-way mirrors, digital video recording and remote audio-visual equipment. The suite has been used for all types of group observational work, including testing minority influence scenarios, deception studies and jury decision making.
Digital analysis and video editing suite
Our digital analysis and video editing suite has dedicated computing facilities that run video analysis software. A photo booth allows the researcher to take standard pictures for use in studies involving police line-ups and mugshots.
Applied cognition laboratory
Our applied cognition laboratory allows for simultaneous testing of multiple participants on computer-based experiments. Our smaller testing rooms allow for individual testing. We also have eye tracking laboratories.
Memorial to Dr James Ost
Sadly, our friend and colleague Dr James Ost, Head of the Department of Psychology, died in February 2019 after a short, but incredibly brave battle with cancer.
James was a part of our community since the early 1990s, first as an undergraduate and then a PhD student. In 2000, after his interview to become a Lecturer in the Department of Psychology, the late Professor Dave Rodgers accurately predicted that he would be a future Head of Department.
He was an internationally respected researcher with expertise in false and recovered memories, metacognition and pseudoscientific beliefs about memory. He was a great leader, with his own inimitable style. He was an inspirational and award winning teacher, but most of all, he was kind and supportive to all he worked with, staff and students alike.
Tributes from friends and colleagues
It is hard to find the right words at this time when so many people in Psychology, the Science Faculty, the University and indeed world-wide are in shock and disbelief at this tragic news. It is a tribute to James that so many people, far and wide are feeling the weight of his loss. We remember him not just for his fantastic work and his commitment to, and passion for, Psychology but also his unwaveringly informal dress sense and his wicked sense of humour which included uncannily good impersonations.
Perhaps the most fitting testament at this time stems from two things that James taught many of us, by example, the value of kindness in all that we do and the importance of spending valuable time devoted to family and loved ones. James was an amazing father and husband. Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.
James, our friend who was interested in all things memory. Now, all we have are memories of him. My memories of James make me smile and sometimes even laugh out loud. I will do everything I can to keep those memories alive and unaltered. Will that be possible? I truly hope so but, if not, the gist of them should be enough to brighten up the gloomiest days.
James was someone to go to. Sometimes I simply went to his office to tell him that I was bored and was hoping for some distraction, and rather than throwing me out, he kindly engaged in a chat about music or research. I guess it must have been on one of these occasions that we discovered we both could juggle and ended up juggling three balls each and passing them between us (his office was one of the larger ones).
This reminds me also of some academic discussions we had (between ourselves, or in doctoral supervision team sessions, or at TARMACs – a term that James coined by the way) that felt like passing intellectual balls. He had that joy and playfulness about him that is the hallmark of academic discovery (too often lost these days to research agendas and strategic ambitions). I will miss his fearless curiosity and spirit.
Although I have only known James for a short time, he has shown me more kindness and has made me feel more welcome than many people I've known a lifetime. I will always remember the day of my interview, when, in my nervousness, I made a silly joke right as I met James for the first time and felt utterly mortified of the first impression I must've left. Instead of the horrified reaction I was expecting, he laughed and joked back with me, making me feel at ease. I will always remember his great sense of humour, his caring and supportive personality, and the overall incredible man he was – he will be sorely missed.
James was very committed to the activities of the Forensic Centre and made sure he kept us on our toes. For example, he made sure my weapons training and ability to respond like a ninja was up to scratch. For the past 15 years, every incidental meeting we had en route to the staffroom, in the stairwell, heading into or exiting a meeting, involved a surreptitious assassination attempt via the use of increasingly obscure imaginary weapons ranging from hand grenades, daggers, semi-automatic weapons to poisoned darts (anyone who ever watched the BBC series Spaced will know exactly what was involved). One rule of the game was that these assassination attempts had to be out of view of any others present so sometimes extreme contortions were involved – or pockets. Additional points were scored at meetings. To replicate an immersive counterterrorism simulation, when I phoned James in his office, he always answered his phone with "Bauer" and made the CTU phone sound (followers of 24 will recognise this) before promising to patch me through to Chloe.
James brought so much happiness and fun and kindness to us all. His good humour drained away the dreary trudge through admin and bureaucracy and failure and rejection that is a core feature of so much of our academic work life.
In addition to that, he was a model of integrity and diligence from the way he managed private matters to the dedicated feedback he provided for students. Even when things were challenging, he sought ways to fix it. A few years ago when there was some negativity in the department, James declared the motto "If you're not trying to be part of the solution, then you're part of the problem" and immediately applied it to himself. This was his approach – always striving to make things better for others in a way that was understated and effective.
Working with James, and being fortunate enough to be his friend, has been the best possible lesson in learning to be a better human being – I'm so sad it had to end
Even in this, the saddest of times, it is hard to remember James without something bringing a smile to your face. face. Everyone who knows James is aware that he had an incredible sense of humour and usually interactions with him involved laughter because of this. He was great at impersonating people too – some more than others. It is so tragic talking about him in the past tense and his love and humour will be deeply missed.
One touching memory I have of James was when we all went to Wellington for SARMAC 2005. James had brought his slippers to the other side of the planet to aid his home-sickness. I remember thinking how sweet that was of this seemingly rufty-tufty bearded Converse wearing man, and what a lucky girl Sue was.
On arriving for the first time, James sat me down and dredged up a coffee with the aplomb of a virtuoso long used to triumphing over the limits of the staff room cupboard. He conversed informally with a great deal of humour, much self-deprecation, and breath-taking in the depth of his range of knowledge of academic subject and university life.
Little did I know that in this entertaining discussion across the department and University life we had completed my induction. He departed long before I could come to appreciate his depth: I did observe a subtle man who had no wish to inflict pain or harm on anyone, always available and would go to any lengths to help.
I am very proud of the fact that over the years I taught James to speak in a convincing ‘fake’ Irish accent. For practice we would swear and insult each other whenever we met in the corridor. We tried to rein this in when he became Head of Department but unsuccessfully, much to the bemusement of onlookers. I can still hear his voice in the corridor……Jaysus, the cut of ya…
On a more serious note, I did not realise how much I felt cared for in my work place until he was gone. We were all blessed to have a colleague and friend like James and there is now a James-sized hole in our hearts.
I first knew James as a peer mentor, introducing me to how to run a tutorial group. I could immediately see the students responding to James' style: combining passion for psychology with warm humour and pastoral care. To me he has always been a great model of a good leader – in any context or field of life. Dedicated yet always respectful and empowering, with integrity and generosity. He inspired cooperation. You wanted to join him. I was proud to call him our Head and saw him as far more than a colleague; a friend and guide, like an older brother.
Dr James Ost made Science cool! He was a good friend, amazing colleague, and all round great guy. He meant so much to so many people and will forever be in our hearts.
James and I shared the same birthday so I will always have an extra big drink for him on our birthday from now on (as he always reminded me... all the best people are born on the 6 August).
I will remember James most as my music mentor. He introduced me to music types I never had listened to before (experimental/post/art rock) and I have explored listening to that type of music ever since.