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Policy Fellowship with the MOJ and the Sentencing Council: Exploring potential disparities in sentencing

Context | Role description and responsibilities | Essential and desirable criteria | How to apply | Data security | Working arrangements | Organisational context


Capabilities in Academic Policy Engagement (CAPE) is pleased to announce a new policy fellowship opportunity working with the Sentencing Council, an arm’s length body of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), alongside analytical colleagues in the MoJ Data and Analysis Directorate. This fellowship post offers a great opportunity to work with fast-paced analytical teams that work closely with policy makers and the senior judiciary, and to have an influence on the direction of policy.

The MoJ’s Areas of Research Interest (ARI) 2020 publication summarises the MoJ’s evidence needs over the next three to five years, aligned with the department’s strategic objectives for the system. A specific focus of interest for this fellowship links to the following ARI question:

The post also links with objective 3 in the Sentencing Council’s strategic objectives 2021-2026[1]: “The Council will explore and consider issues of equality and diversity relevant to our work and take any necessary action in response within our remit”.

This fellowship is open to eligible academic, research and university staff at CAPE partner universities. It is offered on a full-time or part-time basis, for up to 6 months, in the first instance, with the possibility of renewal. The fellowship award may be up to £50,000 funded through CAPE. The fellowship will start as soon as possible, subject to successful security clearance.

Role description and responsibilities

The project seeks to explore the extent to which there may be disparity in sentencing outcomes between different groups of offenders in relation to different offences. It will explore the extent to which improvements can be made to the availability and analysis of data to enhance future work in these areas.

The main responsibilities will be to conduct analysis to explore the following:

The work should build on analysis published by the Sentencing Council in January 2020[2] looking at ethnicity, sex and sentence outcomes for selected drug offenders using Crown Court Sentencing Survey data. This will be undertaken through analysis of sentencing survey data and linked Court Proceedings Database data on ethnicity for agreed offences.  It should also undertake, if possible, similar analysis for other protected characteristics, as relevant to sentencing. The project will also need to consider the findings and potential implications of relevant research and analysis, for example, the recent ‘Ethnicity and the criminal justice system statistics 2020’ publication[3].

We are open to discussing other related areas of work that might further the overall objective.

About you

Essential criteria

Desirable criteria

Please note specific terms and conditions will be stated in a fellowship agreement, which the successful candidate will be required to sign at the start of their fellowship.

How to apply

To apply please send:

Please combine documents into one PDF where possible.

Deadline for applications: 12pm Monday 28 February 2022.

Applications should be sent to CAPE Coordinator: [email protected]

For informal queries regarding the Fellowship, please contact CAPE Coordinator: [email protected].  For more specific questions on the remit of the project, please contact the Evidence and Partnerships Hub in MoJ at [email protected].

Interviews are expected to be held in the week commencing 14th March 2022 with the fellowship starting as soon as possible thereafter.

Data security considerations

The successful candidate will be required to have passed a Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) and DBS check before starting the project. In addition, the successful candidate will need to be able to demonstrate that they will store all data in accordance with data protection legislation and current OSC/MoJ data security procedures. Read MOJ security guidance.

The issues will be discussed prior to starting the project and will cover all relevant aspects including: how information will be collected, accessed, managed and analysed; how it will be stored/ storage location; secure transfer of information; disposal of information following completion of the project. It is likely that data sharing agreements will need to be put in place.

Working arrangements

It is expected that the successful candidate will be based remotely to begin with due to current Covid-19 working restrictions. There will be opportunities (subject to Covid regulations) to work with the Sentencing Council team in the Royal Courts of Justice in London and MoJ teams in Manchester, London and potentially Leeds. The successful candidate will also be expected to participate in regular touchpoint meetings between the analytical teams in MoJ and the Sentencing Council to ensure the smooth delivery of work, either virtually or face-to-face.

Organisational context – about the Ministry of Justice and the Sentencing Council

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ)

The Ministry of Justice is a major government department, working to protect and advance the principles of justice and deliver a world-class justice system that works for everyone. Our responsibilities are significant, wide-ranging and have implications for some of the most vulnerable people in society. These range from building and maintaining the prisons, youth and court estates, to developing interventions that reduce reoffending and protect the public, to ensuring children’s needs are put first in legal decisions about their care.

Data and Analysis is a multi-disciplinary team of around 400 staff that sits at the heart of the MoJ providing analytical support across a diverse and exciting agenda. The team support policy development and operational delivery with cutting-edge and high-impact analysis delivered by a community of analysts and specialists including, social researchers, economists, operational researchers, statisticians, data engineers, data scientists and other data specialists (such as data strategists, data dissemination and assurance experts). The Evidence and Partnerships Hub within Data and Analysis, who are facilitating the MoJ partnership with CAPE, aims to enhance the department’s research capabilities by collaborating with external experts, helping to transform the way evidence is used to generate policy insights.

The Sentencing Council

The Sentencing Council for England and Wales was set up as an independent non-departmental public body by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. The Council’s main overarching objectives are to: promote a clear, fair and consistent approach to sentencing; produce analysis and research on sentencing; and work to improve public confidence in sentencing. It is chaired by Lord Justice Holroyde, supported by seven judicial members and six non-judicial members, including the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Chief Executive of Victim Support. 

The Office of the Sentencing Council (OSC) comprises a multidisciplinary team to support the work of the Council. This includes policy makers, lawyers, communications specialists, researchers/ analysts and support staff. The Sentencing Council’s Analysis and Research team currently has eight full-time equivalent members of staff: four statisticians and four social researchers, who all work closely together to support the Council to develop and evaluate sentencing guidelines. The team is co-located with the rest of the Office of the Sentencing Council and is based in the Royal Courts of Justice. It has a remit to provide evidence to feed into all aspects of the Council’s work, both in terms of guideline development and revision as well as it’s more cross-cutting statutory duties.

CAPE Policy Fellowships

CAPE is a partnership between UCL and the universities of Cambridge, Manchester, Northumbria and Nottingham, in collaboration with the Government Office for Science, the Parliamentary Office for Science & Technology, the Alliance for Useful Evidence, and the Transforming Evidence Hub, funded by Research England.

It is a 4-year project created to support effective and sustained engagement between academics and policy professionals across the higher education sector.

Read more about CAPE.

[1] Sentencing Council strategic objectives 2021-2026.

[2] Sex-and-ethnicity-analysis-final-1.pdf (