Graduated in 2007
Police child protection expert turned investigative journalist Mark Williams-Thomas worked as a detective and family liaison officer with Surrey Police from 1989 to 2000 and then, after leaving the police force, he set up specialist child protection and risk management consultancy, before branching out into TV reporting the following year.
He is now well-known as a regular commentator on child protection issues in the media, appearing on such programmes as Tonight, The One Show and Newsnight, before he researched and presented the ITV documentary which revealed the allegations of child abuse surrounding disgraced TV presenter Jimmy Savile. He completed his MA in Criminology at Birmingham City University in 2007.
"Joining the police was something that was active and would give me an outside role, rather than sitting behind a desk, the police seemed the perfect job for me. I applied for Hampshire and Surrey, not realising you could only apply for one at a time, and I then opted for Surrey because it was my home force. I stayed for 12-and-a-half years, thoroughly enjoyed it, and worked on a lot of major crimes, spending some time as a family liaison officer and finishing up on the paedophile unit.
"I got to a point where it was a choice between either staying there for the rest of my life, doing what I knew, or take on a new challenge, which was a big risk but I decided I would go for it, and it seemed that journalism was an area where there were some similarities to police work and where my own experiences could be useful. I started off as an expert and adviser and gradually moved to becoming an investigative reporter in my own right, as well as setting up my own child protection consultancy, and I now divide my time between the two.
"It was when I was working as an adviser on a TV drama series that I met David Wilson from Birmingham City University and he suggested that I should do the Master’s in Criminology there. At first I resisted because I didn’t think I had the time and because I hadn’t been to college but he said I could come on the basis of my practical experience, and after about a year or so I decided to do it.
"After that, I got the opportunity to return as a lecturer, on the Crime Analysis module, where I talked about how crime is reported and how the media affects the public’s perception of crime. To put myself in the students’ shoes, there’s nothing better than learning from someone who is a practitioner; someone who can say ‘this is the reality, this is what it’s like’ and can contextualise things. You can read a book but it’s better to do it. And what I think I can also do is show that there are opportunities out there; if you are driven and focused and make yourself available, there is work to be had.