School of Law

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Vicky Kemp

Principal Research Fellow, Faculty of Social Sciences



Dr Vicky Kemp is a Principal Research Fellow at the School of Law undertaking research into digital legal rights for suspects. She was previously a Principal Researcher with the Legal Services Research Centre, the independent research division of the former Legal Services Commission (from 2004 to 2013). In that role she conducted and managed policy-driven research for the Ministry of Justice into criminal legal aid, access to justice and the wider criminal justice system. Prior to completing her doctorate at the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, in 2003, Vicky gained experience of the criminal process both as a policy advisor and paralegal. In the Legal Aid Board (1995-1998), she was the policy advisor responsible for reform of criminal legal aid. She also has experience of working in multi-agency crime prevention and community safety partnerships, both for the Home Office (1991-1992) and Northamptonshire County Council (1992-1995). In the 1980s, she worked as a paralegal in a firm of solicitors, providing legal advice to suspects detained in police custody and preparing Crown Court cases for trial.

Expertise Summary

Vicky's research interests lie in the areas of access to justice, law and technology, the criminal process, youth justice, clinical legal education, discretion in legal decision-making and research methods. Having worked as a paralegal, legal aid policy adviser and government social scientist, she adopts an interdisciplinary approach when conducting research which is intended to have an impact on policy and practice. Her research findings into police station legal advice have led to revisions being made to Code C of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, to help improve legal safeguards for suspects. Vicky's review of different models of clinical legal education, both in the UK and USA, has been groundbreaking and encouraged a number of universities to expand their involvement in clinical work. Currently she is working on a digital legal rights project, which involves engaging with the police, defence solicitors and Legal Aid Agency in designing a Police Station App to inform suspects of their legal rights when attending voluntarily for a police interview. As co-director of the School of Law's Criminal Justice Research Centre, her research is overseen locally by the Centre's Advisory Board, which includes chief officers involved in the criminal process. The Board is chaired by the Recorder of Nottingham, His Honour Judge Gregory Dickinson QC.

Information for perspective PhD Candidates:

Information about the School of Law PhD programme and how to apply can be found here:

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Teaching Summary

Dr Vicky Kemp set up a module for 'Youth Justice', available to both Law and Sociology students. She also lectures on the Law module, Criminal Justice and the Penal System.

Research Summary

Dr Vicky Kemp is currently involved in three major projects: designing and testing a Police Station App, exploring digital legal rights for young suspects and conducting a comparative study of police… read more

Recent Publications

Current Research

Dr Vicky Kemp is currently involved in three major projects: designing and testing a Police Station App, exploring digital legal rights for young suspects and conducting a comparative study of police station legal advice in six jurisdictions.

Digital Legal Rights - A Prototype App

Arising out of Vicky's research into police station legal advice, she came up with the idea of developing an 'App', or other digital solution, to provide information to suspects about their legal rights. The intention was to summarise suspect's rights as currently set out in the Home Office 10-page Notice of Rights and Entitlements and to ensure that this information is clear and accessible.

Working alongside Drs Elvira Perez and Ben Bedwell from Horizon Digital Economy Research at the University of Nottingham, they designed a web-based resource which can be used off-line to inform suspects of their legal rights. This digital resource was tested with 100 detainees in two police custody suites by Vicky and Dr Emma Oakley (University of Birmingham). The findings 'Digital Legal Rights for Suspects: Users' Perspectives and PACE Safeguards' are now availble online.

Designing a web-based resource to be used in police custody, this needed to include information on a range of issues relevant to detainees. For example, on police powers to conduct searches, dealing with health and safety issues, legal advice, custody record, delays, the police interview, the case outcome, and bail or remand decisions. Requiring a lot of text-based information, this led to the digital resource becoming heavily text-based and not user-friendly. While the study raised a number of important issues concerning suspects' legal rights while held in police custody, a simplified Police Station App is to be developed and this will be tested with suspects interviewed by the police on a voluntary basis (see future research).

Having oversight of this project, is a national steering group, chaired by Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE QC. The group includes Professor Michael Zander QC, a member of the Home Office PACE Strategy Board, and senior representatives from the Police, Law Society, Ministry of Justice, Youth Justice Board, College of Policing, Legal Aid Agency, National Association of Appropriate Adults, Just for Kids Law, Legal Education Foundation and senior academics.

Digital Legal Rights - Young Suspects

Vicky's research has helped to highlight the adult-centred approach adopted when dealing with people accused of having committed a crime. Indeed, a one-size-fits all approach is adopted for suspects aged from 10 to 17 years, and the same words are used to explain their legal rights, despite obvious differences in cognitive development and levels of maturity. Without additional legal safeguards for children, it is known from Vicky's research (Kemp et al., 2011) that 10 to 13 year olds are the least likely of all age groups to request legal advice. Compared to 14 to 16 year olds, who are more likely to have a lawyer, they also have more interventionist outcomes.

When developing a Police Station App it is important to ensure that it is child-friendly, providing information in a way which is engaging to children and young people (CYP), and informative. The Legal Education Foundation has provided a grant to enable Vicky and her colleagues, Dr Elvira Perez from the University of Nottingham and Dr Dawn Watkins from the University of Leicester, to engage with CYP who have experience of the criminal justice system. By talking to young people in Youth Offending Teams and in secure accommodation, we want to gain an understanding of their experiences as suspects. We also want to know to what extent they understand their legal rights, how they exercise those rights, and to also find out in what format they prefer to access information about such complex issues. The study will also involve engaging with CYP in care as they are particularly vulnerable and are more likely than other young people to come into contact with the police and to be drawn into the criminal process. When listening to their experiences, we want to incorporate into the App a more effective way of encouraging diversion from the criminal justice system so that this avoids the stigmatising effect of a criminal sanction.

We will be exploring with CYP how complex information can be presented in a way that is attractive and helps in making more informed decisions about their legal rights. This will include considering different formats for presenting such information, for instance, by using a cartoon, animated film or video. Also to be explored is the potential to use gamification to create tasks that encourage CYP to engage in better understanding their legal rights.

The University of Nottingham has provided funding to enable Vicky to talk to CYP in schools and colleges about the legal rights of young suspects. This will include asking them what they understand to be the legal rights of suspects and setting out what those rights are in law. By engaging with CYP we will take their advice on developing a digital resource that can be taken into schools and colleges as part of a public legal education project.

Effective Police Station Legal Advice

Vicky was awarded a British Academy/Leverhulme small grant to conduct a comparative study on police station legal advice in Belgium, England and Wales, Ireland, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Research interviews (33 in total) were held with defence lawyers and legal aid officials in the six jurisdictions and examined were differences in the organisation and delivery of police station legal advice. Also explored was the extent to which technology can be used to inform suspects of their legal rights and to help improve procedural safeguards.

Vicky was responsible for conducting research interviews with defence lawyers and legal aid officials in the UK and Ireland, and she commissioned Dr Miet Vanderhallen and Enide Maegherman, from the University of Maastricht, to carry out this task in Belgium and the Netherlands.

The same format has been adopted in each of the Country Reports. This includes examining legal aid models to see how differences in approach can have implications for the quality and cost of police station work. Also explored with research participants was the extent to which technology can be used to help inform suspects of their legal rights and to help improve procedural safeguards.

Four Country Reports have been published and are available online:


England and Wales

The Netherlands


The reports for Ireland and Northern Ireland will be available shortly.

A summary of some of the key issues arising in this study is as follows:

  • Suspects have had a right to have a lawyer present in the police interview in England and Wales and Northern Ireland for 30 years, but this right has only recently been introduced in other EU jurisdictions.
  • It is only in England and Wales that non-solicitors can provide police station legal advice, but they have to be accredited to do so.
  • In some countries there is no other accreditation required other than being a solicitor, but this is changing with quality measures being introduced in most countries.
  • There are differences in the way that solicitors are paid for police station work but increasingly countries are turning to a system of fixed or block fees instead of paying for the time spent on cases.
  • In most jurisdictions, solicitors complain about the low level of remuneration for police station work and this is said to have a negative impact on the quality of legal advice.
  • The main factor found to undermine an active role for defence solicitors in the police station in all jurisdictions was the lack of meaningful disclosure provided by the police to the defence prior to the first interview.

It has only been possible in this comparative study to scratch the surface of what is happening in relation to police station legal advice in the six jurisdictions studied. It is recommended that further research is undertaken to explore the extent to which the early and active involvement of defence lawyers in the pre-charge process could help to achieve efficiencies and cost savings. By concentrating on the police interview, for example, this could help to avoid cases proceeding unnecessarily to court or, once at court, it could help to reduce the number of trials, or at least the number of issues to be dealt with at trial.

Past Research

There are three major projects that Vicky was involved in recently, including legal rights for young suspects, police station legal advice and clinical legal education.

Procedural Rights for Young Suspects

Vicky was recently involved in a comparative study of young suspects' legal rights, led by Maastricht University. As part of the Roadmap for strengthening procedural rights of suspected or accused persons in criminal proceedings, the European Commission funded the project, 'Protecting Young Suspects in Interrogations' to help inform minimum rules and guidelines for the then proposed EU Directive [2016/800]. Based in five countries: Belgium, England and Wales, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland, the project was led by the University of Maastricht and Vicky was responsible for conducting the empirical research in England and Wales. This included focus group interviews with young offenders, police officers, defence solicitors and appropriate adults. An analysis of police interviews held with young suspects was also undertaken.

The first part of the project comprised a legal and comparative study into existing legal procedural safeguards for juvenile suspects during interrogations in the five selected countries. These findings have been published in a separate volume.

M. Panzavolta et al. (2015) Interrogating Young Suspects: Procedural Safeguards from a Legal Perspective (Cambridge: Intersentia)

Chapter 3, deals with the law in England and Wales:

J. Hodgson and V. Kemp (2015) 'Ensuring 'Appropriate' Protections for Young Suspects'.

The second volume reports on the findings of the empirical studies conducted in each of the five jurisdictions. The findings are then discussed in separate chapters to provide an in-depth account of perceptions and practices in the context of each jurisdiction. The book contains a set of guidelines - a framework of minimum rules - developed on the basis of the research findings. The guidelines are intended to act as an inspiration for promoting good practice in the context of interrogations with young suspects throughout the EU.

M. Vanderhallen et al. (2016) Interrogating Young Suspects: Procedural Safeguards from an Empirical Perspective (Cambridge: Intersentia).

Chapter 4 deals with the empirical findings in England and Wales:

V. Kemp and J. Hodgson (2016) 'Chapter 4: England and Wales: Empirical Findings.'

The findings from this research study, and arising out of our conversations with children and young people, highlight the need for a child-centred approach to be adopted within the pre-charge criminal process.

Police Station Legal Advice

Vicky has been undertaking a programme of research into police station legal advice for over the past decade. Despite suspects having access to free and independent legal advice for over 30 years, there is no requirement for the police to publish national statistics on the take-up of legal advice. When involved in the Legal Services Research Centre, the independent research centre of the former Legal Services Commission, Vicky led a study, the largest to date, which involved extracting and analysing over 30,000 police electronic custody records drawn from 44 police stations in four police force areas. While 45% of people on average requested legal advice, there were noted to be variations both between police stations and police force areas.

There are three publications arising from this study which examine the take-up of legal advice and the average length of time that people are held in police custody.

Pleasence, P. et al. (2011) The Justice Lottery? Police Station Advice: 25 Years on from PACE - Criminal Law Review.

V. Kemp et al. (2011) Children, Young People and Requests for Police Station Legal Advice: 25 Years on from PACE - Youth Justice.

Kemp, V. et al. (2012) Whose Time is it Anyway? Factors Associated with Duration in Police Custody - Criminal Law Review.

In seeking to understand what factors were influencing variations in the take-up of legal advice, and how long people were held in custody, Vicky undertook a study of the main police station in the four police force areas studied. This study was based on observations of custody suites and semi-structured interviews with custody sergeants. The findings were reported in two articles:

Kemp, V. (2014) PACE, Performance Targets and Legal Protections - Criminal Law Review.

Kemp, V. (2013) "No Time for a Solicitor": Implications for Delays on the Take-up of Legal Advice - Criminal Law Review.

It was when identifying potential barriers to suspects receiving legal advice that Vicky came up with the idea of locating duty solicitors in a busy city centre police station and she worked with the police and defence solicitors in facilitating this new arrangement. There were two phases to this project, each involving three months observation based in the custody suite and semi-structured interviews being undertaken with police officers, defence solicitors and suspects.

There are two reports arising out of this study - an interim and final report:

Kemp, V. (2012) The Bridewell Legal Advice Study: An Innovation in Police Station Legal Advice - Interim Report

Kemp, V. (2013) The Bridewell Legal Advice Study: Adopting a 'Whole-Systems' Approach to Police Station Legal Advice - Final Report

Criminal Defence Services: Users' Perspectives

The Legal Services Commission funded Vicky to carry out a survey to find out what factors influenced people's choice and use of a solicitor at the police station and at magistrates' courts. Almost 1,000 interviews were conducted in six cities. The areas selected were those with high Black and minority ethnic populations as the Commission wanted to explore whether there were any differences in people's choice of a solicitor based on ethnicity, and to what extent people understood what was happening in the criminal process. Ethnicity was not raised as an issue by participants when choosing a solicitor, as the priority was to have a 'good' solicitor, but there was less understanding of what was happening by those whose first language was not English. It was not possible in the survey to interview people who needed an interpreter, but it is evident that difficulties in understanding what is happening in the criminal process will be exacerbated when people do not speak English.

Kemp, V. and Balmer, N. (2008) Criminal Defence Services: Users' Perspectives.

A follow-up survey included additional interviews in prison with women serving a custodial sentence and also with defence solicitors based in the six areas surveyed. Many of the women interviewed did not understand what was happening in the criminal process and many were of the mistaken view that the duty solicitor in custody was employed by the police. When interviewing solicitors, in addition to commenting on implications for quality following the introduction of fixed fees for police station legal advice, they were also asked for their views on the proposal being pursued at that time by the government to introduce 'best value tendering'. The findings are relevant when considering implications for the quality of legal advice in these times of austerity.

Kemp, V. (2010) Transforming Legal Aid: Access to Criminal Defence Services.

Clinical Legal Education: Looking to the Future

There has been a gradual increase in law schools adopting clinical methods and pro bono work over recent years; with now around 70% of universities providing students with such opportunities. It is not always evident from the descriptions of clinical and pro bono work on websites and in reports what activities are being supported by law schools, how and if the work is supervised and assessed.

Vicky was commissioned by the University of Manchester to examine the potential for setting up a 'teaching law firm' in the School of Law. This was a wide-ranging study which examined a number of well-known clinics in the UK and the US. The findings broke new ground in setting out the rapidly developing terrain in relation to CLE. In January 2017, the findings were presented to leading clinicians, academics and the regulator with a view to influencing the regulatory framework for CLE within the legal education reforms.

V. Kemp, T. Munk and S. Gower (2016) Clinical Legal Education and Experiential Learning: Looking to the Future

Future Research

Following on from her current research projects, Vicky will be working on three related projects in the future. Developing a Police Station App for voluntary police interviews, designing a child-friendly version of the App, and exploring different ways in which suspects' legal rights can be delivered in order to help inform people make informed decisions, particularly over the waiver of legal advice.

Police Station App: Voluntary Police Interviews

Vicky is engaging with the police, defence solicitors and Legal Aid Agency locally when developing an App to be used by the police in voluntary police interviews. A recent revision to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) Code C sets out in full the rights, entitlements and safeguards that apply and the procedure to be followed when arranging a voluntary interview. The Code points out that these interviews are just as serious and important as being interviewed under arrest. In this study, we will be working with the police in designing an App that can be used to inform suspects of their legal rights in a voluntary interview. We will also incorporate into the App information which will assist interviewing officers when conducting a voluntary interview.

Child-friendly App

When engaging with CYP, we want their advice on how best to design an App that is child-friendly and attractive to CYP. We also want their input into identifying how the criminal process can be reformed so as to adopt a child-centred approach. By listening to the stories that CYP have tell about their experiences in police custody, we want their experiences to help inform policy and practice.

Know Your Rights as a Suspect

At the same time as developing a Police Station App, Vicky will set up a website through which to engage with legal practitioners, CYP and members of the public about how best to present information about suspects' legal rights. This will include setting out information about suspects' legal rights as presented in the App for voluntary interviews. It will also include alternative ways of presenting information when trying to communicate effectively to people what their legal rights mean in practice. It is also our intention to use gamification as a way of encouraging CYP to be more interested in their legal rights and to develop a digital resource that could be used as part of a public legal education project.

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