Professor Layla Skinns

School of Law

Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Director of the Centre for Criminological Research

Deputy Director of Research for Knowledge Exchange and Impact

Law Layla Skinns
Profile picture of Law Layla Skinns
+44 114 222 6775

Full contact details

Professor Layla Skinns
School of Law
Bartolomé House
Winter Street
S3 7ND

Layla Skinns' Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

A key focus of my research has been police detention, in England and Wales, but also in other parts of the Anglophone world. In this setting, I am interested in police powers and their relationship with the law, police cultures and police discretion, and furthermore, how this impacts on equality and on state-citizen relations. I am also interested in how the public – particularly detainees – perceive the police, which links my research to discussions about police legitimacy and to 'good' policing.

Over the last 15 years I have led large police custody research projects funded by the British Academy, the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Economic and Social Research Council. The most recent of these is the 'good' police custody study, which sought to 'robustly' examine what is meant by 'good' police custody and to instigate changes to police custody policies and practices in England and Wales.

I have also published widely in the field of policing and criminal justice. Most recently this includes Police powers and Citizens' rights (Routledge, 2019) and Criminal Justice (Oxford University Press, 2021).

Before joining the Centre for Criminological Research (CCR) in 2010, I worked at the University of Cambridge, where I was the Adrian Socio-Legal Research Fellow at Darwin College and a Teaching Associate at the Institute of Criminology on the MSt. in Applied Criminology for senior police, prison and probation staff.

Whilst working as a Research Fellow at Darwin College, I co-organised the prestigious Darwin College Lecture Series on the theme of risk.

Before joining CCR, I also previously worked as a Research Fellow at the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, King’s College London.

  • PhD in Criminology, University of Cambridge, 2005
  • MPhil Criminological Research, University of Cambridge, 2001
  • MA (Hons) Sociology and Psychology, University of Edinburgh, 2000
Research interests
  • The police custody process
  • Police and policing
  • Police powers
  • Discretion and its relationship with the law and other rule structures
  • Police legitimacy
  • Gendered and racialised police practices
  • Police misconduct and responses to it
  • Police interview practices inside and outside the police station
  • Police and technology
  • Informants and policing
  • Criminal justice
  • Comparative research
  • Mixed-methods research
  • The links between police and prison studies


  • Welsh L, Skinns L & Sanders A (2021) Sanders & Young's Criminal Justice. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Skinns L (2019) Police Powers and Citizens’ Rights Discretionary Decision-Making in Police Detention. London: Routledge. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Skinns L (2010) Police Custody: Governance, Legitimacy and Reform in the Criminal Justice Process. Oxford: Willan. RIS download Bibtex download

Edited books

  • Skinns L, Scott M & Cox T (Eds.) (2011) Risk. Cambrige: Cambridge University Press. RIS download Bibtex download

Journal articles


  • Skinns L (2024) Setting a New Agenda: “Appreciating” and Improving Garda Custody in Ireland In Daly Y (Ed.), Police Custody in Ireland (pp. 15-38). Routledge RIS download Bibtex download
  • Skinns L (2024) Setting a New Agenda, Police Custody in Ireland (pp. 15-38). Routledge RIS download Bibtex download
  • Skinns L, Banwell-Moore R, Rice L & Wooff A (2023) Researching Police Custody, Introduction to Policing Research (pp. 123-137). Routledge RIS download Bibtex download
  • Skinns L, Banwell-Moore R, Rice L & Wooff A (2023) RESEARCHING POLICE CUSTODY: Past, Present and Future, Introduction to Policing Research: Taking Lessons from Practice, Second Edition (pp. 123-137). RIS download Bibtex download
  • Skinns L (2014) The police in England: an institution in crisis? In Smith M (Ed.), UK Institutions, crisis and response London: Palgrave Macmillan. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Skinns L (2011) Risk In Skinns L, Scott M & Cox T (Ed.), Risk Cambridge Univ Pr RIS download Bibtex download
  • Turnbull P & Skinns L (2010) Drug Interventions Programme: neither success of failure? In Hucklesby A & Wincup E (Ed.), Drug Interventions in Criminal Justice Open University Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gelsthorpe L & Skinns L (2006) Restorative practices: repairing harm through kith and kin In Ebtehaj F & Group CS-L (Ed.), Kinship matters Hart Pub RIS download Bibtex download
  • () Introduction to Policing Research Routledge RIS download Bibtex download
  • Skinns L & Bacon MJ () Police and Policing in Cities in England and Wales In Cools S, De Kimpe S, Dormaels A, Easton E, Enhus E & Ponsaers P (Ed.), Police, Policing, Policy and the City in Europe. The Hague: Eleven International Publishing.. RIS download Bibtex download

Book reviews

  • Skinns L & Sprawson A (2016) Just Authority? Public Trust and Police Legitimacy. Policing and Society. RIS download Bibtex download


  • Bacon M, Shapland J, Skinns L & White A (2018) International Strand Summary Report (N8 Policing Research Partnership) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Skinns L (2011) The overnight detention of children in police custody RIS download Bibtex download
  • Skinns L, Du Rose N & Hough M (2009) Final Report: An evaluation of Bristol’s ‘Restorative Approaches in Schools’ programme RIS download Bibtex download
  • Skinns L (2007) Co-operation or contest? Inter-agency relationships in police custody areas RIS download Bibtex download
  • Archer D, Longstaff E & Skinns L (2002) Promising prevention: A review of promising and effective approaches to preventing offending by young people RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gray P & Skinns L (2001) Evaluation of the Camberwell Peer Research Project: Young people’s experience of peer research RIS download Bibtex download


  • Skinns L (2014) Book Review: Inside Police Custody: An Empirical Account of Suspects’ Rights in Four Jurisdictions.. Criminal Law Review. RIS download Bibtex download
Research group

Areas of Research Supervision

  • The police custody process
  • Police and policing
  • Police powers
  • Police discretion
  • Police misconduct and responses to it
  • Police interview practices
  • Police and technology
  • Criminal justice
  • Comparative research
  • Mixed-methods research

Title/Description: 'Good' police custody: Theorizing the ‘is’ and the ‘ought’

This was a five-year national mixed-methods study, the overarching aim of which was to examine rigorously what ‘good’ police custody means.

  • In Phase 1, in 2014, survey data were collected from custody managers in 40 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales about the delivery of police custody.
  • In Phase 2 in 2014/15, the research team spent 532 hours observing and interviewing 47 staff and 50 detainees in four custody blocks in four forces.

The Phase 2 data was used to develop a questionnaire which was administered in 2016-17 to nearly 800 staff and detainees in 27 custody facilities in 13 police forces in England and Wales.

  • Analysis of the Phase 3 data resulted in a set of good practice recommendations launched in
  • Phase 4 in 2019 and a series of publications, including Skinns et al. (forthcoming, 2021, 2020), Skinns and Wooff (2020, 2017), and Skinns and Sorsby (2019).
  • Awarding Body: Economic and Social Research Council
  • People Involved: Layla Skinns (PI), Angela Sorsby (2016-18), Lindsey Rice (2015), Rivka Smith (2015), Andrew Wooff (2014-15) and Amy Sprawson (2014-15)
  • Years Funded for: 2013-2018
  • Amount: £519,000

Title/Description: ‘Innovation and the application of knowledge for more effective policing’  

Co-investigator and co-lead of the international strand, which seeks to examine police-academic partnerships from around the world through a combination of international events, conferences, empirical research and the writing of a report

  • The N8 Policing Research Partnership
  • Awarding Body: HEFCE
  • People Involved: Layla Skinns, Matthew Bacon, Joanna Shapland and Adam White
  • Years Funded for: May 2015 - April 2020
  • Amount: £2,999,822

Title/Description: Regional hub for policing research and knowledge exchange

The N8 Policing Research Partnership was awarded £50,000 from the College of Policing for further engaging with police stakeholders, reviewing relevant evidence and engaging in knowledge exchange.

I was one of 14 named collaborators on the bid. I co-led one of eight themes on ‘policing partnerships’ with Dr Bethan Loftus from Manchester University, which entailed organising a workshop and writing a rapid evidence assessment with the support of two doctoral researchers.

  • Awarding Body: The college of Policing
  • People Involved: The N8 PRP led by Prof. Adam Crawford (Leeds University). I co-led one of eight themes on ‘policing partnerships’ with Dr Bethan Loftus (Manchester University).
  • Years Funded for: January 2014-April 2014
  • Amount: £50,000

Teaching interests

I am committed to a research-led approach to teaching, as I recognise the mutually beneficial relationship between teaching and research.

The modules that I convene and a number of the lectures/seminars I deliver reflect my own research interests and include some of my cutting-edge research on policing. I also invite external speakers, such as policy-makers and practitioners to give guest lectures, so as to enrich students’ experiences and give them an external perspective on their academic studies.

I also offer a student-centred approach to teaching, acting as a personal tutor to students during their time in Sheffield and having a regular feedback and consultation hour to meet with them to discuss academic and personal matters.

Teaching activities

The modules I teach are:


  • Police and Policing in a Global Context - (Convenor)
  • The Criminal Process - (Convenor)
  • Responding to Crime 
  • Skills for Criminologists 
  • BA Criminology dissertation supervision 

Postgraduate & MA

  • Policing and Society - (Convenor)
  • The Research Process - (Convenor)
  • Doctoral Training in Criminology and Law 
Professional activities and memberships

Member of the Centre for Criminological Research


Impact-related work with police organisations:

  • I led an impact case study for REF 2021, ‘Changing police custody law, policy and practice’. This drew on research on dignity in police custody for children and adults has had substantial impact on the law, police policy, practice and the design of police custodial settings.
  • I am actively involved in two complementary police-academic partnerships, the N8 Policing Research Partnership (-2013) and the Sheffield University Research Group (-2/2014).
  • Since 2017, I have participated in working groups of the National Custody Forum including on: (i) police custody performance, which is developing a
    national performance monitoring framework; and (ii) training which is involved in strengthening police custody training nationwide.
  • In 2017-19, I was an invited expert on the Police Custody Design Guide Board, Ministry of Justice, which reviewed and revised national standards for the design of police custody facilities, drawing on academic evidence;
  • In 2014-15, I sat on two expert reference groups for Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies: (i) The Home Secretary-Commissioned thematic inspection of the welfare of vulnerable people in police custody; (ii) The Police Custody Stakeholder Group.

Academic activities

  • In September 2023, I won the European Society of Criminology Policing Working Group Policing ‘Best Journal Article Prize for 2022’ for a co-authored article, “My best day will be my last day!: appreciating appreciative inquiry in police research" published in the journal Policing and Society in 2021
  • I am on the editorial board for the British Journal of Criminology (-2017) and the international advisory board for Incarceration (-2019). I am also a regional editor for the European Journal of Policing Studies (-2/2012) and I am part of the International Advisory Board for the Journal of Police  studies (-5/2011). I also regularly review publications for high quality journals, such as Policing and Society, Criminology and Criminal Justice, as well as for the Home Office.
  • I am a member of the UKRI Future Leaders Peer Review College (-5/2021) and the ESRC College of Peer Reviewers (-7/2012), and of the Faculty of Social Sciences ESRC Internal Peer Review Panel (-10/2018).
  • From 2013-2017 I co-ordinated the awarding of prizes by the BSC’s Policing Network (-9/2013) and I was instrumental in securing prize monies and
    awarding prizes for the first time in 2014. I am also a member of the Sheffield University Researcher Mentoring Scheme (-2017).
  • I am a member of the British, European and American Societies of Criminology and regularly attend conferences convened by these societies.
  • In 1997, as a first year undergraduate student, I received the Phillip Barry Prize for Penology from the University of Edinburgh, which was awarded to the best criminology student of the year.

Recent invited papers and keynote lectures

  • ‘Police interviews inside and outside the police station: Technology, regulation and reform’, with Joe Purshouse and Lindsey Rice, National Police Chief Council’s Police Custody Forum, Sheffield, 27-29 September 2024.
  • Discussant at ‘'Children in Police Custody' - Dr Miranda Bevan's Book Launch, Garden Court Chambers, London, 5 June 2024
  • The contours of police custody: Comparing Ireland and England and Wales, Police Custody in Ireland, Dublin City University, Dublin, 29-30 September 2022.
  • Deaths in police custody: The current state of knowledge, Dying in Custody Conference, University of Bath, 15-16 June 2022.
  • Police custody: What are its functions and what is it for?, in a panel on police custody, London Policing Seminars, hosted by UCL and Canterbury Christchurch University, 19 May 2022 (online)
  • Vulnerability in police custody and partnership responses: Mapping the contours of a changing terrain, N8 Policing Research Partnership Innovation Forum, 12-13 May 2021 (online).
  • Putting recommendations into practice in one police force area: Phase 5 of the ‘good’ police custody study, National Custody Forum, Surrey, 9-11 June 2021.
  • Key findings and recommendations from the ‘good’ police custody study, Home Office Strategic Custody Meeting, 15 July 2021 (online)

  • ‘Seeing the light’: material conditions and detainee dignity inside police detention, All Souls Seminar Series, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford, 23 January 2020.

  • ‘I am Human’, animation written and directed by Dead Earnest and animated by Scott Spencer and John Brown based on findings from the GPCS, Festival of Social Sciences, November 2020 (subsequently turned into animation in September 2020).

  • Pains of Police Detention (with Rebecca Banwell-Moore), podcast as part of the Ideas Alive series, University of Sheffield, October 2020.

  • A room with a view? Material conditions and the ‘representational’ inside police detention, BSC Wales Branch/CCJL, University of Cardiff, 18 November 2020 (online).

  • Opening Plenary, Seeing the light: designing in dignity inside police detention, BSC Yorkshire and Humber event, University of Sheffield, 30 January 2019

  • Invited talk (with Angela Sorsby), Good practice benchmarks: consultation and next steps (with Angela Sorsby), National Custody Forum, University of Sheffield, 27 November 2018

  • Invited talk (with Angela Sorsby), ‘Seeing the light: findings from the ‘good’ police custody study on why conditions matter, Public engagement event, Festival of Social Sciences, Lifewise Centre, Rotherham, 7 November 2018

  • Invited talk (with Andrew Wooff and Angela Sorsby), ‘Seeing the light: designing in dignity inside police detention, Police Custody Design Board meeting, AECOM, London, 22 October 2018

  • Invited talk (with Angela Sorsby), Making a difference to detainees: predictors of detainee perceptions of the quality of treatment, National Custody Forum, University of Sheffield, 14-15 May 2018

  • Invited talk (with Angela Sorsby), Making a difference to detainees: predictors of detainee perceptions of the quality of treatment, HMICFRS Planning Day, Birmingham, 9 May 2018

  • Invited talk, The pains of police detention: preliminary findings from the ‘good’ police custody study, Independent Custody Visitors Association, National Conference, London, 24 March 2018

  • Invited talk, The ‘pains of police detention’: towards an understanding of the pains of confinement, Centre for Criminal Justice, School of Law, University of Warwick, 12 January 2018

  • Invited talk (with Angela Sorsby), Phase 3 of the ‘good’ police custody study: findings update, National Custody Forum hosted by the University of Sheffield, 10-11 October 2017

  • Invited talk, The pains of police detention, Staff development day on police custody inspections, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, London, 25 September 2017

  • Invited talk (with Angela Sorsby), Early findings from the ‘good’ police custody study Phase 3 survey, National Custody Forum hosted by Warwick University, 16 May 2017

  • Invited talk, Making a difference to detainees, Independent Custody Visitors (Eastern Region), Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, 24 January 2017