PhD Research Project

Policing and Democracy in Scotland and Northern Ireland

Supervisor: Andy Aitchison University of Edinburgh

PhD Student: Fiona McGrath University of Edinburgh

            Personal website for Andy Aitchison...


The last ten years have seen significant changes in structures of government and police institutions in the UK: devolution in Scotland and Wales and the revival of the Stormont Assembly have seen power shift downwards from central UK government, while increased intergovernmental cooperation on justice and home affairs has been facilitated by the EU (as examined, for example, by den Boer 2002; and Loader 2002). Policing in Northern Ireland has gone through significant changes in the wake of the Patten Commission, including the establishment of a Police Ombudsman, and in England and Wales a new Independent Police Complaints Commission has been established. As such, the time would seem to be ripe to revisit the work of Jones, Newburn and Smith (1994) on democratic accountability of policing bodies, and to develop from this starting point to compare between the different police jurisdictions in the United Kingdom, particularly to investigate areas of convergence and divergence in the new political contexts of devolution, frameworks for UK wide cooperation and coordination, and international cooperation.

Aims & Objectives: The project aims to map out existing mechanisms for democratic accountability of public policing bodies in Northern Ireland and Scotland. This mapping exercise will be used as a basis to compare the different ways in which the two police jurisdictions provide opportunities for public participation in, and oversight of, the setting of police priorities and objectives; the extent to which the public can participate as informed actors in priority setting; and other aspects of democratic policing such as opportunities for redress in cases of perceived injustice. The research can be summed up in one primary question: To what extent and in what ways do the current structures and institutions of public police forces in Northern Ireland and Scotland provide for 'democratic' policing?

Publications: Outputs from this research will be placed here in due course.


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