Centre for Applied Criminology News

Exploring the Future of Murder

March 2016

Leading criminologist Professor David Wilson will join a panel of experts as they explore the changing circumstances in which murder takes place, at a public lecture at Birmingham City University next month.

The panel will explore how murder has changed over the past 20 years, and the impact social media sites such as Facebook, are having on how, where, and when these crimes occur.

Joining Professor Wilson for ‘The Future of Murder’ are Professor Elizabeth Yardley, Director of the Centre for Applied Criminology at Birmingham City University; author and Guardian columnist Erwin James who was convicted of murder; and Governor of HMP Grendon, Jamie Bennett.

Read more about the future of murder

Leading criminologists create ‘murder scale’

October 2015

Handcuffs Criminologists at Birmingham City University have produced a ‘Murder Scale’ to determine which British killers should be considered as the worst.

Professor David Wilson and Professor Elizabeth Yardley of the University’s Centre for Applied Criminology used several parameters to ascertain the outcome, looking at the modus operandi of the killers and how vulnerable their victims were.

Other factors identified by the criminologists that should be used to determine Britain’s worst killer, include whether the killer attacked multiple victims and whether the killings were motivated by paraphilia.

Read more about the study

New research reveals shocking racist attacks and public refusal to help

October 2015

Muslims targeted by Islamophobic hate attacks are reluctant to report incidents of abuse and often receive little support from onlookers, a study commissioned by Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) has revealed.

In what is believed to be the first ever study of its kind, researchers examined the impact of online and offline anti-Muslim hate crime through in-depth interviews with victims. The study found many of those subjected to online threats living in fear of virtual attacks becoming 'real world' violence. This prompted the joint research team, led by Imran Awan, Deputy Director of the Centre for Applied Criminology at Birmingham City University, and Dr Irene Zempi, Lecturer in Criminology at Nottingham Trent University, to urge social media platforms to take the threats posed to innocent people far more seriously. 

Read more about the research

Islamophobic hate crimes have gone viral – Criminology expert warns

September 2015

A criminology expert has warned that the rise in Islamophobic attacks is being mirrored online as figures show hate crimes against Muslims in London have increased 70 per cent.

Imran Awan, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Birmingham City University, says statistics released by the Metropolitan Police echo the sentiment found in the virtual world and that the problem urgently needs tackling by government and police.

Last year Mr Awan conducted a study into trending topics on social media platform Twitter to analyse the language used to discuss Islam.

Read more about the study

Time to face the fact our prisons are in crisis, says leading criminologist

July 2015

Improving prisons Denying that UK prisons are in crisis is holding back desperately needed reforms, a Birmingham City University criminologist warned today as the chief prisons inspector published a final ‘damning report’ before leaving the post.

Commenting as chief prisons inspector Nick Hardwick highlighted more than 15,000 assaults in men’s prisons in England and Wales last year – the highest annual figure in a decade – David Wilson, Professor of Criminology at Birmingham City University, said: "This is a worrying report as there is no evidence that things are getting better in our prisons.

Read more about the report

Private prison has “serious questions” to answer 

June 2015

Serco needs to provide urgent answers to serious questions about its management of HMP Dovegate after Haroon Ahmed’s escape, according to Birmingham City University criminologist Professor David Wilson.

Professor Wilson said it should be “almost impossible” to escape from a Category B prison and that a damning report by the Chief Inspector for Prisons indicates major problems at the jail. 

“Haroon Ahmed is a Category B prisoner in a Category B jail, so escape should have been almost impossible. Serious questions need to be asked about the running of the prison because in 2012/13 there was just one reported case of an inmate escaping from a Category B prison – escapes are usually prisoners absconding from Category C open prisons.

Read more from Professor David Wilson

Hitmen bury their feelings for a successful ‘hit’

May 2015

Killer shadows Hired killers who consider themselves strategists or businessmen, doing 'just a job' as one hitman described it, can convince themselves they are dealing with a target rather than a person, research by a team of criminologists at Birmingham City University revealed.

North London teenager Santre Sanchez Gayle offered a classic example of detachment, shooting Gulistan Subasi in March 2010, as she opened the door for a paltry sum of £200. The 15-year-old, later sentenced to a minimum of 20 years for the crime, allowed no time for his victim to be personalized before leaving the scene calmly in a taxi.

Read more about the research

Strangeways could happen again

April 2015

Two of the University's leading criminologists say lessons have not been learned in the wake of the Strangeways prison riot of 1990.

And they warn that history could repeat itself 25 years on, if problems like overcrowding and a mounting sense of injustice in the prison population aren't addressed.

Professor David Wilson, founding director of the Centre for Applied Criminology at Birmingham City University, was a governor at the time of the Strangeways riot.

Professor Wilson said: "I was in the prison service at the time of Strangeways and the man who started the riots, Paul Taylor, was one of the first prisoners I dealt with when opening a unit for the most disruptive prisoners in the country.

Read more from Professor David Wilson

A Taxonomy of Male British Family Annihilators

August 2014

Pioneering research about family annihilators by Dr Elizabeth Yardley, Professor David Wilson and doctoral candidate Adam Lynes and published in The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice in 2013, was the most downloaded article that appeared in the journal last year.  Nearly 4,000 readers of the Howard Journal of Criminal Justice - one of the leading, peer review Criminology journals in the country - downloaded the article, which was the first academic study of British, male family annihilators.  This research was also cited in a House of Commons debate about the subject, and was widely reported upon by both British, European and North American media.

New study highlights community impacts of Trojan Horse scandal

25 July 2014

A new study by Imran Awan was released exclusively to Channel 4 News, revealing that the 'Trojan Horse' scandal wrecked community cohesion among Muslims in Birmingham.

The study found that 90 per cent of the Muslim community felt that the allegations from the Trojan Horse investigation into schools in Birmingham made them feel stigmatised. The Trojan Horse enquiries led to high media interest, with journalists waiting outside schools in Birmingham asking children and parents for photos and interviews. 

Read more about the study on the Channel 4 news website.

Hitmen for Hire 

15 April 2014

By Professor David Wilson, Professor of Criminology

David Wilson, Professor of Criminology recently joined a discussion on Radio 4's Thinking Allowed where he explored the recent history of British Hitmen. David examined 27 cases of contract killing committed by 36 men (including accomplices) and one woman. Far from involving shadowy, organised criminals, the reality of killing for cash turned out to be surprisingly mundane.

New book by leading criminologist tells the history of British prisons

10 March 2014

'Pain and Retribution - A Short Story of British Prisons, 1066 to the present' is the latest book by David Wilson, leading criminologist and member of the Centre for Applied Criminology.

The book charts the rise of a form of punishment that takes place behind the walls of the institution we have come to call "prison". The modern idea of being sent to prison as a form of punishment is a 19th century invention. David asks searching questions about the purpose of Britain's current prison system and why prison exerts such a hold on the collective psyche and imagination.

Read Times Higher Education's review of 'Pain and Retribution'.

Read The Independent's review of 'Pain and Retribution'.

Purchase 'Pain and Retribution' at Amazon

Shadowy World of Britain’s Discount Hitmen Revealed in New Study

27 January 2014

A team of leading criminologists from Birmingham City University has published the first ever study of British hitmen, which revealed that in some cases, victims were murdered for as little as £200.

Published in The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice - Professor David Wilson, Dr Elizabeth Yardley, Donal MacIntyre and Liam Brolan, identified four main types of contract killer; the novice, the dilettante, the journeyman and the master.

“Hitmen are familiar figures in films and video games, carrying out ‘hits’ in underworld bars or from roof tops with expensive sniper rifles,” said Professor David Wilson. “The reality could not be more different, British hitmen are more likely to murder their victim while they walk the dog in suburban neighbourhoods.”

The team analysed newspaper articles from an electronic archive of national and local papers from across Britain, using the reports to piece together a list of cases which could be defined as contract killings. The final list comprised of 27 contract killings, committed by 36 hitmen, active on the British mainland from 1974 to 2013... For more information visit the news section of our website.