Menu Close

Belinda Brooks-Gordon

Reader in Psychology and Social Policy, Birkbeck, University of London

My main research interests address psychological, legal, and social policy questions on gender, rights, sexuality, and the law.

It has become increasingly difficult for policy makers and regulators to untangle the complex and inter-related nature of the sex industry and sexual offences. In addition, outcome measures of current interventions do little to improve our understanding of the process by which the subjects in this industry understand and interpret the sexual and social practices in which they are involved. One strand of my research addresses the socio-cultural, psychological, philosophical, and human rights issues which surround sexual and gendered behaviour. The majority of this work has been funded by the ESRC (although early work was funded by the Wingate Fellowship and the Ian Karten Educational Trust) and carried out with co-operation of the Metropolitan Police Clubs and Vice Unit.

A second strand of my research involves the investigation into a series of psychological interventions for offenders. I have completed four systematic reviews of psychological interventions for adults and juveniles convicted of sexual offences. These reviews were funded by the Department of Health R&D in Forensic Mental Health and carried out with Charlotte Bilby. We analyzed a range of quantitative and qualitative studies as well as compiling a database of the research in this area. One of the major challenges for future behavioural intervention trials is to speed up the evolution of the interventions. In this regard I designed and validated evidence-based methods of assessment to measure and evaluate the work of clinicians engaged in the psychotherapeutic treatment of offenders. Additionally, the ATSO annual residential study school and conference 2001 enabled clinicians to engage with the work of international experts in the field.

Ongoing scholarly activity includes membership of the Cambridge Socio-Legal Group, an interdisciplinary research group. This is an inter-disciplinary group of scholars who hold an annual research seminar series each year. The Group’s research have produced seven volumes to date. One of our recent volumes which I edited, with Loraine Gelsthorpe, Andrew Bainham, and Martin Johnson, the book Sexual Positions: Diversity and the Law (2004), Hart Publishing, Oxford. I organized, with Professor Michael Freeman at UCL a colloquium on Psychology and the Law, in July 2005. I organized a residential seminar around the theme of Death in September 2006 funded by the John Hall Fund at the University of Cambridge. This resulted in the book for the Cambridge Socio-Legal Group series entitled "Death Rites & Rights". On the Death Rites and Rights project I worked with Professor Hazel Biggs, Professor Steve Hedley, Professor Emily Jackson, and Professor David Price, to complete a project in which we answered the questions: What is death, how is death defined in law and medicine, and how is it regulated in these fields? Do the dead have legal rights? What is one allowed to have done or not done with one’s body after death? What are the rights of the next of kin in this respect? What compensation exists for death and how is death valued? What is happening to the law on euthanasia and suicide? Is there a human right to die? What is the principle of the sanctity of life? What of criminal offences against the dead? How are the traditions of death still played out in religion? How do the police deal with sudden death? Ritual and material culture in contemporary death was explored with Professor Daniel Miller, and with Dr Elizabeth Hallam we investigated what happens to donated bodies in biomedical settings of anatomical education. I funded the project with a grant from the John Hall Fund and launched the book at Trinity College, Cambridge with funding from the publisher.

I recently collaborated on a piece of funded work on the use of film as a took in work with young offenders. A research grant was been given by the Children’s Welfare Development Council with which we analyzed the use of film as a therapeutic tool in work with young offenders.

Research and strategic collaboration has continued with the Home Office Offending Behaviour Programme Unit (OBPU) for many years.

Policy work also includes working on, and often campaigning against, clauses in parliamentary bills including those in the Sexual Offences Act 2004, the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 and the Policing and Crime Act 2009. Speechwriting, writing amendments and drafting policy, written memoranda and oral evidence to parliamentary select and scrutiny committees frequent result from my work and interest in policy.


  • –present
    Reader in Psychology and Social Policy, Birkbeck, University of London