Photo of Dr Layla Skinns

Dr Layla Skinns

Position: Reader
Email Address:
Telephone: +44 (0)114 222 6775
Consultation and Feedback slots: You can book an appointment online to see me

Academic Profile

Layla Skinns is a member of the Centre for Criminological Research at the University of Sheffield. Her main areas of interest are currently police, policing and police discretion and police governance, in the context of the police custody process in England and Wales, and in other common-law jurisdictions. She also has a strong interest in multi-agency criminal justice partnerships, such as the community safety partnerships, which was the subject of her PhD, and a keen interest in mixed-methods research.

Before joining the Centre for Criminological Research, Layla worked at the University of Cambridge, where she 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, she co-organised the prestigious Darwin College Lecture Series on the theme of risk. Layla has also previously worked as a Research Fellow at the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, King’s College London.


  • PhD Criminology, University of Cambridge, 2005
  • MPhil Criminological Research, University of Cambridge, 2001
  • MA (Hons) Sociology and Psychology, University of Edinburgh, 2000

Teaching and Learning

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.

The modules I teach are:

Undergraduate Postgraduate and MA
Police and Policing in a Global Context (Convenor) Policing and Society (Convenor)
The Criminal Pocess The Research Process (Convenor)
Skills for Criminologists Qualitative and Quantitative Methods
Doctoral Training in Criminology and Law

Research Interests

  • The police custody process
  • Police and policing
  • Discretion and its relationship with the law and other rule structures
  • Civilianisation and outsourcing in the police and other CJ agencies
  • Police legitimacy
  • Criminal justice
  • Virtual courts
  • Comparative research
  • Mixed-methods research
  • The links between police and prison studies

I am a member of Centre for Criminological Research

Areas of Research Supervision

  • The police custody process
  • Police and policing
  • Discretion and its relationship with the law and other rule structures
  • Civilianisation and outsourcing in the police and other CJ agencies
  • Police legitimacy
  • Criminal justice
  • Virtual courts
  • Comparative research
  • Mixed-methods research
  • The links between police and prison studies
  • Multi-agency criminal justice partnerships

Recent Invited Papers and Keynote Lectures

  • 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.
  • Invited talk, Legitimacy in police custody, National Custody Forum hosted by Loughborough University, 19 October 2016
  • Invited talk (with Alan Greene), When academia and police custody meet: the practical and cultural challenges of police-academic partnerships, International Conference on Working with the Police on Policing hosted by the University of Sheffield and funded by the N8 Policing Research Partnership, 12-14 October 2016
  • Invited talk (with Lindsey Rice), A workforce for the ‘good’? Civilianization, privatization and its implications for ‘good’ police custody, Conference on Workforce for the Future hosted by Leeds University and funded by the N8 Policing Research Partnerships, 8 June 2016

Key Projects/Grants

Title/Description: 'Good' police custody: Theorizing the ‘is’ and the ‘ought’
This will be one of the first studies to rigorously examine ‘good’ police custody and to map out changes to police custody arrangements on a national basis. A key aim of the research is examine how civilianization and privatization, through the contracting out of police custody to the private sector, has impacted on things like police culture(s), power, fairness, justice, emotions and relationships, risk, cost, governance and accountability.
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: September 2013 - August 2016
Amount: £519,000
Title/Description: ‘Innovation and the application of knowledge for more effective policing’ - The N8 Policing Research Partnership ( 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
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

Professional Activities and Recognition

Impact-related work with police organisations:

  • I am actively involved in two complementary police-academic partnerships, the N8 Policing Research Partnership (-2013) and the Sheffield University Research Group (-2/2014).
  • In 2017 I joined two expert reference groups: (i) Police Custody Standards Board, Ministry of Justice, which will review the design standards for police custody suites, drawing on academic evidence; (ii) National Custody Forum working group on police custody training (legitimacy), which will review police custody training nationwide. 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:

  • I am on the editorial board for the British Journal of Criminology. 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 furthermore, 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 ESRC College of Peer Reviewers (-7/2012), where I regularly review applications for research grant funding.
  • I co-ordinate 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.

Key Publications

Journal articles


  • 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