Helen Williamson

PhD Candidate, University of Brighton

Helen completed her MSc in Forensic Science at the University of Teesside in 2005. Her research project focused on changes to the firearm laws following high profile mass shootings in both the United Kingdom and the United States of America with an assessment of the ability of the public to identify genuine and replica firearms. In addition she holds a BSc (Hons) in Applied Science and Forensic Measurement, completed at the University of Teesside in 2002, and a Postgraduate Certificate in Education from Northumbria University, completed in 2010.

Research project: Criminal armourers and illegal firearm supply in the UK

Recorded firearm offences in England and Wales indicate a mixed inventory of illegal weapons available within the criminal fraternity. Such weapons comprise of those which have been modified or recycled in some way ie. converted blank firers, engineered or reactivated firearms. This suggests a number of novel opportunities which have been exploited by criminal individuals in order to meet demand.

Relatively little is currently known about the individuals involved in the supply of these types of weapons, including where they are positioned within the overall gun supply process. My research therefore aims to explore the roles of these individuals, including how they became involved in illegal firearm supply and how they manage their illegal activities. Additionally I aim to contribute to the theoretical development of crime script analysis within the content of illegal firearm supply. It will feature a mixed methods approach drawing upon realist sociological criminology to understand the broad trends in gun involved crime; a script analysis to identify potential intervention points in the crime commission process; and a series of sub-cultural case studies to understand and explain the activities, motivations and modus operandi of individuals in making firearms available to criminals.

I will be working alongside the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) obtaining statistical and operational information from their database which will be built on with case studies relating to successful operations and interviews with the police officers involved. Additionally interviews will be sought with post-conviction armourers in order to explore the inner-worlds of the firearm suppliers.

For further information, read my Criminal Armourers and Illegal Firearm Supply in England and Wales paper presented at the British Criminology Conference in 2015 (https://www.brighton.ac.uk/_pdf/research/ssparc/helen-williamson-paper-firearms.pdf).

Experience

  • –present
    PhD researcher, University of Brighton