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PhD research

The International Policing and Public Protection Research Institute (IPPPRI) offers an MPhil/PhD in Criminology. You can find out about our current PhD students and their research below.

For an informal discussion on studying for a PhD with us, contact IPPPRI's Director, Sam Lundrigan at [email protected]

1st supervisor: Dr Theresa Redmond
2nd supervisor: Prof Samantha Lundrigan
External advisor: Dr Natalie Mann

Working thesis title: Using survivors' narratives to explore disclosures of sibling sexual abuse (SSA) and the responses

Abbie Lake was awarded a three-year funded scholarship with PIER in September 2021, focusing on child sexual abuse. We asked what drew her to research in this area, and why she thinks it is so important for child protection.

Abbie Lake in graduation cap and gown

Tell us about your academic story so far.

I initially studied Psychology as an undergraduate at ARU, as I have always been interested in what motivates people to act in certain ways. I soon realised that the subject’s close link to science and maths was not what I wanted to focus on, so I moved over to study Criminology.

In my final year of my undergraduate degree, I took on a position as a Research Assistant with one of my lecturers, which I really enjoyed. We wrote a paper together on risk factors for young people in getting recruited into county line gangs. This is in the final stages of being published, so was my first introduction into academic research.

Why did the PhD position at PIER appeal to you?

Whilst studying criminology, it was the topics that were around vulnerability and young people that really struck me and what I became passionate about.

With my background in researching young people and county lines, I knew I had some good experience to draw on and was really interested in exploring other types of childhood vulnerability.

What is your research focusing on?

I’m looking at survivor-led evidence to explore how, why and when people disclose being the victims of sibling sexual abuse.

This topic was discussed in my first supervision session and I quickly realised how under-researched this issue is and how difficult people find talking about it. I began to feel extremely passionate about exploring this area, as I felt I would be letting people down if I didn’t commit to dedicated research.

Having secured conditional ethics approval, I’m now exploring the process of gathering evidence, which is likely to be through direct contact with survivors to hear their stories.

It will also be important for me to have a repertoire of services available to refer these people to should they need any support following the discussions.

Why did you choose this research topic?

The way that survivors disclose abuse by siblings is extremely complex. It is often compared to other forms of inter-familial sexual abuse, but the evidence I have explored so far suggests that it is very different.

If the abuse has happened between siblings, it creates huge complexities within families and impacts them in very different ways to other inter-familial abuse. This impact can have a significant influence on whether someone discloses or not.

What do you hope to achieve from your research?

I want to help families, professionals and practitioners to know the signs to look for when someone may be close to disclosing abuse of this kind.

Having better evidence will also help us form ways to encourage people to speak out, and the very process of sharing will enable survivors to have their story told.

Survivors are the experts we need to listen to, to inform what we’re doing and to learn how we can do things better.

Read more about more about abbie lake.

1st supervisor: Dr Deanna Davy
2nd supervisor: Prof Samantha Lundrigan
3rd supervisor: Prof Melanie Bell

Working thesis title: Generative AI misuse in child sexual exploitation communities: a mixed method analysis of dark web forums

Amandine Badea was awarded a three-year funded PhD scholarship by PIER in September 2022, focusing on online child sexual exploitation. Her research focuses on AI CSAM perpetrator behaviour and language on dark web forums.

We asked Amandine what drew her to research in this area, and what she hopes to achieve through her academic study.

Amandine Badea

Tell us about your academic story so far.

I have always been interested in both psychology and criminology, and ways to combine both of these interests into impactful research. After finishing a Bachelors degree in Psychology and Criminology at Aberystwyth University in 2015, I completed a Masters in Clinical Psychology at Swansea University.

It was during a research placement with Dr Cristina Izura and her team that I got involved in child exploitation research (specifically online grooming), helping with big data, multi-disciplinary research methods, and developing my understanding and awareness of the current state of the field.

I found it incredibly fulfilling to be able to be part of this team, working towards making a difference in preventing future crimes against children, and improving offender identification. This lead me to apply for my current PhD studentship with PIER.

I am incredibly proud and grateful to be part of a team of passionate researchers and colleagues, all striving towards making a change.

Why did the PhD position at PIER appeal to you?

As a result of my involvement with child exploitation research during my Masters, my thesis focused on the identification of idiosyncratic characteristics of online grooming language. I became very passionate about the child exploitation research domain and felt compelled to find opportunities to continue working in this field.

When I saw the PhD studentship advertised with PIER, I thought I could put my experience to good use and keep bettering myself as an academic professional.

What is your research focusing on?

My research focuses on gaining understanding of CSEM perpetrators' language and behaviours within the context of AI misuse on dark web forums.

I will be focusing on both behaviour and language through the theoretical perspective of 'differential association, which advocates that perpetrators acquire and develop criminal expertise through positive social interactions with like-minded criminals.

Why did you choose this research topic?

With the rise in popularity and realism of generative AI models, CSAM perpetrators are finding ways to misuse open-source AI to create exploitative material of children. Those can be of previous victims – in turn revictimising them – child celebrities, or fictitious children.

AI CSAM increases the complexity and workload of law enforcement agencies and child abuse material classification organisations (such as the IWF), as it is becoming harder to differentiate between 'real' images and AI images. As of today, the act of sharing guides on how to use AI programs to generate indecent images of children is not criminalised.

Gaining more insights into how AI CSAM perpetrators share advice and support on dark web forums, and what they communicate with one another, is a vital step towards criminalising sharing AI CSAM guidance, and towards raising more awareness of generative AI misuse.

What do you hope to achieve from your research?

I hope that my research will lead to multisectoral recommendations regarding AI misuse and impact in the context of child exploitation material, and lead to the criminalisation of AI CSAM guides.

Gaining better understanding of AI CSAM perpetrator behaviours and language on the dark web could also contribute towards supporting future law enforcement operations.

Read more about more about amandine badea.

1st supervisor: Dr Deanna Davy
2nd supervisor: Prof Samantha Lundrigan

Thesis title: A crime script approach to the consumption and distribution of Child Sexual Abuse Material on the dark web

Cannelle Roumanie has a profound interest in criminology and criminal psychology. Her academic and professional journey has led her to engage with several topics, including adolescent-to-parent violence, domestic abuse, organised illicit trade, policing transnational crime, gendered violence, terrorism, and child sexual abuse.

We asked Cannelle what drew her to research in this area, and what she hopes to achieve through her academic study.

Headshot of Cannelle Roumanie

Tell us about your academic story so far.

I have a French Bachelor of Arts in English Language and History, and a Master of Arts in Criminology.

Why did the PhD position at PIER appeal to you?

Upon completing my Masters, my aspiration was to remain in academia. The opportunity at PIER aligned with my interests, focusing on a topic that captivated me.

What is your research focusing on?

My research focuses on understanding the behaviours of child sexual abuse offenders on the dark net.

Why did you choose this research topic?

I chose this research topic because the online environment is dynamic, undergoing continuous changes that necessitate ongoing exploration and study.

What do you hope to achieve from your research?

Through my research, my aim is to contribute to the comprehension of child sexual abuse on the dark net. I aspire to provide insights that can inform strategies for prevention and deterrence.

Read more about read more about cannelle roumanie.

1st supervisor: Colleen Moore
2nd supervisor: Dr Lottie Herriott
Additional supervisor: Prof Samantha Lundrigan

Working thesis title: The Criminal Justice System Is Failing Victim-Survivors Of Sexual Violence: would the implementation of a victim-survivor-centric criminal justice system give victim survivors the justice they deserve?

Jenny Evans was awarded the three-year Saskia Jones Memorial Scholarship – established to commemorate a former ARU student who was murdered in the 2019 London Bridge attack – entitled The Politics of Rape by PIER in September 2022.

Saskia was a truly exceptional student on ARU’s Criminology and Psychology course and an inspirational alumni, having graduated in 2017. Saskia lost her life while working to support a prisoner rehabilitation and education event at Fishmonger’s Hall on 29 November 2019, alongside Jack Merritt.

She was passionately committed to promoting social justice and inclusion. In particular, Saskia was focused on understanding and tackling sexual violence, and developing effective, survivor-focused strategies to prevent it. The scholarship contributes to ARU’s Safe and Inclusive Communities research theme, and the wider work of PIER, and focuses on the politics of rape.

We asked Jenny what drew her to research in this area, and what she hopes to achieve through her academic study.

Jenny Evans

Tell us about your academic story so far.

I have a Masters in Law (Exempting) Bar Professional Training Course from Northumbria University.

Upon completion of my integrated Masters, I was called to the bar at the Honourable Society of Lincolns Inn and now hold the title of unregistered barrister, which means I have completed the academic requirements and qualifying sessions with the Inn but have yet to complete the mandatory pupillage year (workplace training), required to obtain a practising certificate.

Prior to the pandemic, I worked as a Research Executive at an independent research organisation focused on early education, working closely with the Managing Director on several large projects, nationally, internationally, and on smaller client-based projects.

I then completed my second Masters, a Master of Science in Psychology at Teesside University, where I also worked as a Research Assistant on a new research project focused on individuals with severe mental illness and/or learning difficulties and their lived experience of Person Centred Cancer Screening Services (PECCS).

Why did the PhD position at PIER appeal to you?

I remember in my first year of my law degree, we were covering criminal law, so of course the subject of rape came up, and I was struck by how victims of sexual violence are treated in our justice system. When I saw the PhD opportunity through PIER, I knew it was something I was driven to do.

The fact that this is the Saskia Jones Scholarship is also very special to me. She was an exceptional student and had focused her studies on understanding and tackling sexual violence. I was lucky to meet Saskia’s mum, who is very proud that the scholarship was established in her memory, and I’m honoured to continue work on this subject in her name.

What is your research focusing on?

My research seeks to map the journey of victim-survivors of sexual violence through the Criminal Justice System (CJS) in England and Wales. I aim to determine moments of stress, discomfort, and revictimisation, plus any positive and supportive aspects.

I am currently in the process of carrying out a review of the existing literature on the subject, applying a feminist viewpoint. Once ethical approval has been granted, I will be distributing an in-depth survey I have designed to victim-survivors of sexual violence, about their lived experiences of the CJS, for example with the police and law courts.

I will then take what I learn from the victim-survivors to make practical recommendations for change to the CJS on England and Wales.

Why did you choose this research topic?

Ever since studying Law for the first time, I’ve been interested and concerned over the low rates of disclosure of rape, and the incredibly low conviction and prosecution rates. I think we need to understand this far better so that we can make positive change.

What do you hope to achieve from your research?

I’ll finish my PhD in 2025 and I really hope it could be used to affect some real change. I want it to be distributed widely and to be used to influence and inform policy change.

Ultimately, I hope it can be used to produce evidence-based victim-survivor-centric recommendations to the Criminal Justice System in England and Wales for improving victim-survivors’ experiences. Longer-term, I’m interested in working in policy and academic lecturing.

Read more about more about jenny evans.

1st supervisor: Vicky Gadd
2nd supervisor: Dr Anna Markovska
Additional supervisor: Prof Samantha Lundrigan

John Greenan's research centres on the use of Prevent to manage terrorism in prisons.

1st supervisor: Dr Theresa Redmond
2nd supervisor: Prof Rachel Armitage
3rd supervisor: Prof Samantha Lundrigan

Working thesis title: The Impact of the ‘Knock’ and the Criminal Justice Journey for Non-Offending Family Members of Individuals Suspected of CSAM Offences

Mille is in the process of completing her first year of her PhD at PIER and is currently conducting her fieldwork at the Lincolnshire Police HQ with the Paedophile Online Investigations Team (POLIT). She worked as a Research Assistant on various projects at PIER before taking up the role as a PhD student, having been awarded a three-year funded scholarship to conduct her research.

We asked Mille what drew her to research in this area, and what she hopes to achieve through her academic study.

Mille Fjelldall

Tell us about your academic story so far.

I completed my undergraduate in Criminology at ARU in 2014, then went on to do my Masters at Cambridge University, which I graduated from in 2017.

I worked for a while at the Institute of Criminology, before starting as a Research Assistant for the National MAPPA evaluation research that PIER was undertaking.

This further led me to work with Dr Redmond and Prof Armitage, where I was introduced to the world of ‘the Knock’, and the indirect victims of CSAM offending, which was a huge eye-opener for me, both personally and professionally.

Why did the PhD position at PIER appeal to you?

Having been lucky enough to work with some of the amazing people at PIER on various projects, I was excited to be able to apply for a full-time PhD position.

The institute is really one of a kind, conducting important and world-leading research, it is a place where you can really develop and progress both professionally and personally, having the best people around you.

What is your research focusing on?

I am conducting research on the first national Indirect Victim Support Officer, within Lincolnshire POLIT, which is the first of its kind.

Indirect victims of CSAM offending is a hugely under-researched area, and I am looking at the effects on both Police Officers within POLIT and indirect victims of having this new model of support to mitigate harms that comes from the Knock and subsequent Criminal Justice investigation.

Tom, the IVSO I am working with, is the core of my research, and the family members and wider POLIT officers are all important components of the full picture of the harms of CSAM and the Knock.

Why did you choose this research topic?

Being introduced to this topic through work I was doing with both my supervisors, I was taken aback of how devastating and impactful the Knock was on the family, and how little attention this was receiving, both academically but also professionally.

The IVSO role was created to provide first-of-its-kind support and help to affected family members, who unfortunately usually are women and children. POLIT officers have not been able to offer the support they wanted to provide for this group, and Gemma, one of the POLIT officers in Lincoln, pitched the idea for an IVSO.

This is a hugely interesting and rewarding research to conduct, as I feel there is something here that can really make a difference for the family members and officers.

What do you hope to achieve from your research?

I hope that, regardless of the time it takes, the IVSO role carried out by Tom will be replicated nationally.

The effect of the Knock, not only on the family members, but the POLIT officers as well, needs to be recognised and mitigated, and there are cost-effective ways of doing that. I want to create a strong evidence base proving the benefits of the role and the massive impact it has on all parties involved.

I also think it is important to have the indirect victims recognised in some way; they are the innocent parts in this crime too, and the impact it has on their lives, and the children’s lives, is nothing short of devastating.

Read about a typical day in Mille's life as a PhD student

Read more about more about mille fjelldal.

1st supervisor: Dr Deanna Davy
2nd supervisor: Prof Samantha Lundrigan

Working thesis title: Towards a theory of desistance for individuals committing child sexual abuse material offences (CSAM): The role and interaction of psychosocial and contextual factors

Nicola Beckett was awarded a three-year funded scholarship with PIER in September 2022. Her research is in conjunction with the Lucy Faithful Foundation, and centres around pathways to and from CSAM.

We asked Nicola what drew her to research in this area, and what she hopes to achieve through her academic study.

Nicola Beckett standing in front of a poster presentation

Tell us about your academic story so far.

I graduated from Roehampton University with a BSc in Psychology with Criminology and went on to complete a Forensic Psychology MSc.

During my Masters, I thoroughly enjoyed the research module and had a wonderful supervisor who introduced me into academia by co-presenting at conferences and co-writing papers. A version of my MSc dissertation, centred on dark tetrad personality traits, sexual coaxing, coercion, and Rape Myth acceptance in intimate relationships, has been accepted with revisions and we have two manuscripts in preparation.

This was my first introduction to the research process and the academic community, and it was instrumental in my decision to achieve a PhD.

Why did the PhD position at PIER appeal to you?

During my Masters, gendered and sexual crimes became topics of interest for me. As a woman, these crimes are difficult to hear about, but they also are the most important to understand.

This, combined with a passion to help child sexual abuse victims that was created during my employment at a psychiatric hospital, led to an immediate appeal of the PhD position at PIER.

Additionally, PIER had excellent research staff on board with experience in conducting research with sexual offenders, the University suited me and my location, and I was able to secure funding through a scholarship.

What is your research focusing on?

Through my literature review, I discovered that there is no unifying theory of desistance for individuals committing CSAM offences, instead theories and literature from general and contact sexual offences are applied to this group. This is problematic as research shows online offenders to be unique in offending behaviours and risk of recidivism.

In not having a theory dedicated to understanding desistance in CSAM offending individuals and instead applying theories from other offences, we are missing crucial knowledge on the nuances of this offending group and missing opportunities to design effective, early prevention.

This research will consist of interviews with two groups of offending individuals: those who have been arrested and those who have not been intercepted by law enforcement.

Interviews will also take place with staff from Lucy Faithful Foundation who work alongside offending individuals, supplemented with qualitative analysis of the Stop It Now UK helpline logs, to develop an understanding on the pathways out of CSAM offending and explore how the experiences of offending individuals can inform support that is offered.

Why did you choose this research topic?

Between completing my Masters and commencing the PhD, I spent two years working as a social therapist in a women’s psychiatric hospital, specialising in personality disorder with self-harm and suicidal behaviours.

It was here that I saw the long-term effects child sexual abuse has on victims. I observed that the trauma from childhood sexual abuse frequently overshadowed more recent instances of abuse, affecting numerous aspects of the victims' lives in significant ways.

It was during this employment that I decided when I started researching again, I would focus on helping victims and the prevention of child sexual abuse.

What do you hope to achieve from your research?

I hope this research aids in designing effective and early prevention strategies for individuals who commit CSAM offences, lowering the demand for CSAM and reducing the number of children being sexually abused for the purpose of material generation.

Read more about more about nicola beckett's research.

1st supervisor: Prof Samantha Lundrigan
2nd supervisor: Dr Deanna Davy
External advisor: Dr Natalie Mann

Working thesis title: A study on the tactics perpetrators use online to incite and groom children into engaging in the production of self-generated child sexual abuse material

Rhea Fernando-Eversley was awarded a three-year funded scholarship with PIER in September 2021, focusing on ‘self-generated’ child sexual abuse online grooming and perpetrator tactics.

We asked Rhea what drew her to research in this area, and what she hopes to achieve through her academic study.

Rhea Fernando-Eversley

Tell us about your academic story so far.

I completed a BSc in Psychology in 2015 and initially wanted to go into clinical psychology. After gaining work experience in the health and social care sector I decided on a career change and completed an MSc in Forensic Science in 2021. My masters led to me on to my current PhD research.

Why did the PhD position at PIER appeal to you?

During my MSc I became interested in working in digital forensics specifically, working with the police or an organisation that tackles online child sexual abuse and exploitation. The PhD position seemed like a no-brainer to starting my journey towards tackling online child abuse.

What is your research focusing on?

My research focuses on the tactics online groomers use to incite children into engaging in ‘self-generated’ child sexual abuse (SG-CSA) videos and images. (Please note that I have put the term ‘self-generated’ in quotations as I believe it to be misleading. Whilst it’s the term used amongst organisations; recent attention has highlighted it negatively implies responsibility of the child involved in such material as is not always the case.)

My research analyses conversation from CSA video between victims and perpetrators, something that has never been done before. It explores themes that highlight the tactics perpetrators use to groom children when producing SG-CSA videos and environmental conditions that increase the opportunity for perpetrators to engage with children.

Why did you choose this research topic?

In 2021, at the start of my research, there was an exponential increase in ‘self-generated’ material circulating round the internet. It is still on the increase and is such an under-researched area that deserves attention.

What do you hope to achieve from your research?

The final aim of the study is to provide research that can help parents, professionals and law enforcement understand perpetrator online offending techniques, in the hope that preventative measures can be put in place.

For my own personal journey, it’s a step in the right direction towards a rewarding career tackling the abuse of children online.

Read more about more about rhea fernando eversley.

1st supervisor: Prof Samantha Lundrigan
2nd supervisor: Prof Lee Smith
External advisor: Tegan Insoll

Working thesis title: Exploring the relationship between Early Exposure to online explicit and violent content, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM)

Tess Dieseth was awarded a three-year funded scholarship with PIER in September 2023, focusing on the relationship between ACEs, early exposure to sexually explicit or violent online content and CSAM offending.

We asked Tess what drew her to research in this area, and what she hopes to achieve through her academic study.

Tess Dieseth, with a mural featuring a tree behind her

Tell us about your academic story so far.

I graduated from Kingston University in 2021 with an MA in Criminology and Forensic Psychology. During my studies I developed a deep interest in understanding the complex interplay between individuals’ behaviour, social structures and the psychological factors that influence offending behaviour.

To further pursue this, I went on to work for the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which is a charity that is dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse. This provided me with practical experience working with both survivors of child sexual abuse and individuals who have committed CSAM offenses.

Why did the PhD position at PIER appeal to you?

The PhD position at PIER appealed to me as it resonated with my academic journey and professional aspirations. I saw this as a great opportunity to use research to produce practical initiatives aimed at preventing child sexual abuse.

What is your research focusing on?

The PhD involves working with the Finnish organisation Protect Children. Working with Protect Children presents an incredible opportunity to access valuable data from survey responses by individuals who have engaged in CSAM-related searches on the dark web.

With this data, I am focusing on exploring the relationship between ACEs, early exposure to sexually explicit or violent online content and individuals who commit CSAM related offenses.

In addition to this, the opportunity to conduct interviews with individuals that have committed CSAM offenses is being explored. These interviews could compliment the data by providing deeper insight into motivations, behaviours and experiences.

Why did you choose this research topic?

I was intrigued by the prospect of examining how early exposure to sexually explicit or violent content online could be conceptualised as a form of ACE, and thereby, expanding our knowledge of its psychological and emotional impacts on children.

Understanding this can be important not only for awareness of its effect on children, but also for exploring its role in later-life CSAM offending behaviour.

What do you hope to achieve from your research?

I hope to uncover valuable insights that can strengthen prevention strategies, enhance support networks for vulnerable individuals and cultivate safer environments for children. Through dedication and expertise, I believe this research can make a meaningful contribution to the prevention of online child sexual abuse.

Read more about more about tess dieseth.