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Professor Malcolm Cowburn

Visiting Professor in Criminology

Faculty of Business


I am a Visiting Professor in Criminology. I am alsoa Professor Emeritus in Applied Social Science at Sheffield Hallam. University. Prior to entering academia, I worked as a probation officer for 12 years and also managed a therapy centre that provided help to sexually abused childrenand young people.  I have worked in three Universities (Sheffield,Bradford and Sheffield Hallam) before taking early retirement in 2013. My work spans criminology, sociology, social policy and social work.

  I am currently working on an Oral History of North Devon Magistrates(



2002       PhD - Sheffield University: Men and violence:life hi/stories of male sex offenders.

1991       M.Phil - Nottingham University: Sex Offenders in Prison: a study of structured interventions designed to change offending behaviour.

1980      MA Applied Social Studies, & Certificate of Qualification in Social Work (CQSW) - Sheffield University.             

1975      BA (jt. hons.)  English & History - Portsmouth Polytechnic


Professional membership

2001-ongoing         Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)


Roles on external bodies

2014 - 2017         Independent Chair – Safeguarding Commission Buckfast Abbey                                

2014 - 2017         South-West - Exeter NRES Committee Health Research Authority (Alternate Vice-Chair)

  2013 -2015        Circles UK; Research & Evaluation Committee member

2011 - 2013         Member of Board of Trustees for ‘Circles UK’ ( )

2009 - 2013          Social Care Research Ethics Committee, Social Care Institute for Excellence, London

Teaching interests

Currently I have no teaching interests, but I haveextensive experience in the areas of social work, social policy, sociology, andcriminology.

Research interests

I have three main areas of research interest:

Sex offenders and sexual violence

Prisons and the management of diversity

Research/applied ethics

Since retirement I have developed an interest in Oral History.


Other research

2012        ESRC: Research Grant An Appreciative Inquiryinto the response to diversity in three Yorkshire Prisons.  Award number: ES/K005049/1

 My role -  Co-applicant.  Principal Investigator Dr Victoria Lavis:University of Bradford; – funding (approximately £600K) for a 3yr project.   Unfortunately, owing to my early retirement I did not take part in this project.

Grants & contracts

Research Funding

2010                                  Northern Rock Evaluation of ‘Melting Pot’ project HMP Frankland £7,000 – Project Consultant to Hallam Centre of Community Justice

2010                                 Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) Knowledge Exchange Small Grants. Opening up communicative space: towards acollaboratively generated impact in responding to Diversity in HMP Wakefield.  Award number: RES-192-22-0047.  Co-investigator;  Principal Investigator Dr Victoria Lavis, University of Bradford. £3,876.00

2009                                  Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC). Appreciative inquiry into the Diversity Strategy of HMP Wakefield.  Award number RES-000-22-3441.  Principal Investigator; (Co-investigator Dr Victoria Lavis, University of Bradford);£ 79,719.27.(March-November 2009)

2009                                 Leicester City Council Sexual Safety Strategy.  Project Manager, Hallam Centre for Community Justice, Sheffield Hallam University. £15,000.00

2009                                 General Social Care Council.  Professional Boundaries.  Part of research team led by Professor Mark Doel, Sheffield Hallam University.  £35,000.00

 2006 - 2007                  'Ethics and Research with Perpetrators of Sexual Violence'. Research partner with the Tema Institute, Linköping University, Sweden.  Sexual Violence Research Initiative. Funded by Global Forum for Health Research.  Funding was paid to Tema Institute for the cost of the research assistant.

1995                                  NSPCC Evaluation of Sex Offender Project, Derby (£5,000).  This study involved the use of repertory grids and qualitative interviews.  It produced two reports to the Funders.

1989-1991                       Sex Offenders in Prison: a study of structured interventions designed to change offending behaviour. The study  (for my MPhil) attracted financial support from John Paul Getty jnr Charitable Trust (£10,000).  It produced four refereed papers, a book chapter and a jointly edited practice manual.  This study involved a postal survey and in-depth interviews with a wide range of staff employed in prisons.

Research Consultancy

2013 -2016                      Executive Steering Group member - ESRC: Research Grant An Appreciative Inquiry into the response to Diversity in three Yorkshire Prisons. Award number: ES/K005049/1

2010                                  National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) invited peer reviewer for: Erooga, M., Allnock, D., Telford, P. (2010) ‘Creating Safer Organisations: Using the perspectives of offenders to inform organisational safeguarding of children.’  Research Report.

2010 -ongoing              Member of ESRC Peer Review College.  Economic & Social ResearchCouncil

2009                                 Member of Sexual Violence Research Initiative Technical Advisory Group, The Sexual Violence Research Initiative, Global Forum for Health Research.

2008-2009                     Advisor to Dr Sarah Nelson’s, lottery funded  (2009) ‘Report Care And Support Needs Of Men Who Survived Childhood Sexual Abuse ’.  Edinburgh; Centre for Research on Families and Relationships ( & Health in Mind (

2008-2009                       Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary Joint Thematic Inspection on work with sex offenders in the community.  Invited member of ‘virtual’ reference group.

2008                                 Ethical Recommendations for Research with Perpetrators of Sexual Violence: a consultative meeting.  17th-18th July2008, Pretoria South Africa.  The Sexual Violence Research Initiative, Global Forum forHealth Research.

2008                                  Developing Public Policy on Men and Boys . Men’s Coalition ( ) – Home Office Funded Project.  Principal researcher: Sandy Ruxton. Advisory group – Professor Brid Featherstone, Professor Jeff Hearn, Professor Keith Pringle & Dr Malcolm Cowburn.

All publications from 2007 Articles in refereed journals 

2015          Speaking about sexual abuse in the British South Asian community: offenders, victims and the challenges of shame and reintegration .   Journal of Sexual Aggression  (with Gill, A. K. & Harrison, K.) 21,(1), 4-15. (published on line 01.07.2014) DOI 10.1080/13552600.2014.929188 

2013            Using a prisoner advisory group to develop diversity research in a maximum-security prison: a means of enhancing prisoner participation .  Groupwork 23 (3), 67-79 (on-line publication) with V. Lavis.

2011            Perceiving the continuum of sexual harm and the need for varied responses to sexual violence.   [Guest Editorial] International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 55, (2)179-181

 2010           Invisible men: social reactions to male sexual coercion - bringing men and masculinities into community safety and public policy .  Critical Social Policy, 30 (2), 225-244

 2010          Editorial. Themed issue on Masculinities with additional articles. Critical Social Policy, 30 (2), 163-164 with B. Featherstone

2010           Social Work Admissions: applicants with criminal convictions - the challenge of ethical risk assessment . British Journal of Social Work, 40 (4), 1081-1099 (with Nelson, P.)

2010           Principles, virtues and care: ethical dilemmas in research with male sex offenders .  Psychology Crime & Law,16(1-2), 65-74.

2010          Interprofessional ethics: a developing field? Notes from the Ethics and Social Welfare conference, Sheffield, UK, May 2010 - Sarah Banks with Peter Allmark, Marian Barnes, Hugh Barr, Laurie Bryant, Malcolm Cowburn, Suki Desai, Rosemary Furey, Janet Kay, Alex McClimens, Pete Nelson, Charlotte Nutting, Chris Sampson, Angela Tod, Andrew Thompson, David Stanley, Imogen Taylor and Nicki Ward.   Journal of Ethics and Social Welfare,4.3, 280

 2009         Race Relations in Prison: Managing Performance and Developing Engagement .  British Journal of Community Justice, 17(3), 77-89. (with VictoriaLavis)

2009         Professional boundaries: crossing a line orentering the shadows? British Journal of Social Work 40(6): 1866-1889. (with Mark Doel, Peter Allmark,Paul Conway, Margaret Flynn, Pete Nelson, and Angela Tod)

2008          BME sexoffenders in prison: the problem of participation in offending behaviour groupwork programmes – a tripartite model of understanding (withVictoria Lavis & Tammi Walker).  British Journal of Community Justice, 6 (1), 19-34

  2008        Safe recruitment, social justice, and ethical practice: should people who have criminal convictions be allowed to train as social workers? (with PeterNelson) Social Work Education 27(3), 293-306

2007          Men Researching Men in Prison: The Challenges For Profeminist Research . Howard Journal of Criminal Justice 46 (3) 276-288


2016          Social Work with Sex Offenders . Bristol; Policy Press (withMyers, S.).

Edited Books

2016   Research Ethics in Criminology and Criminal Justice –Politics, Dilemmas, Issues and Solutions. London; Routledge. (Co-editedwith Loraine Gelsthorpe & Azrini Wahidin).

 2013        Values in Criminology & Community Justice . Bristol, Policy Press. (co-edited with Duggan, M., Robinson, A. & Senior, P.)

Chapters in edited collections 

2017          ‘Appreciative Inquiry for Research: Exploring the response to diversity and equality in English prisons’ In Brooks, J. & King, N. Applied Qualitative Research in Psychology. London; Palgrave. 

2016          ‘Researching sex crimes andsex offenders: some ethical and epistemological considerations’ In Cowburn, M., Gelsthorpe, L. & Wahidin, A. Research Ethics in Criminology: Dilemmas, Issues and Solutions . London; Routledge.

2016          ‘Critical reflections: creating, curtailing and communicating academic freedoms’  In Cowburn, M.Gelsthorpe, L. & Wahidin, A. Research Ethics in Criminology: Dilemmas, Issues and Solutions . London; Routledge (with Gelsthorpe, L. & Wahidin, A.)

2016           ‘Values in probation with people who commit sex crimes’ In  P. Priestley & Vanstone, M. Probation and Politics: Academic Reflections from Former Practitioners . Basingstoke; Palgrave Macmillan

2015           ‘Sex offenders ’ (with Myers,S.) in Wright, J. D. (ed) International Encyclopedia of the Social andBehavioral Sciences (2nded),Vol 21. Oxford; Elsevier Inc.  pp672-677  ISBN 978-0-08-097087-5

2013         ‘ Postmodernism and criminological thought: ‘whose science, whose knowledge? (with Liz Austen). In Cowburn, M., Duggan, M., Robinson, A. & Senior, P.  Value sin Criminology & Community Justice. Bristol, Policy Press

2013         ‘ Working with different values: extremism, hate and sex crimes  (with Duggan, M. & Pollock, E.) In Cowburn, M., Duggan, M., Robinson, A. & Senior, P.  Values in Criminology & Community Justice  Bristol, Policy Press 

2013           'Men researching violent men: epistemologies, ethics and emotions in qualitative research.' In Pini, B. & Pease, B. Men, masculinities and methodologies.Basingstoke; Palgrave

2011           ‘What's Happening in Men's Work in the UK?  Reflections on Policies and Processes.’ (with Carole Wright)  In Ruspini, E., Hearn, J.,Pease, B. & Pringle, K. (eds) Men and masculinities aroundthe world: transforming men’s practices.’Basingstoke; Palgrave Macmillan

 2008           ‘Groupwork with male sex offenders in the 1980s.’  In Senior, P. Moments inProbation: celebrating the century of probation. Crayford, Shaw &Sons Ltd.

2007            ‘Ethics, research and policy.’  In Hodgson, S. M.and Irving, Z. Policy reconsidered: Meanings, politics and practicesBristol,Policy Press

2007             ‘Working with Perpetrators or Offenders’ in Flood, M.; Gardiner, J. K.; Pease, B.; Pringle, K. (eds) The Routledge International Encyclopedia of Men and Masculinities  London,Routledge

 2007            ‘Pornography’ (with Michael Flood) in Flood, M.; Gardiner,J. K.; Pease, B.; Pringle, K. (eds) The Routledge International Encyclopedia of Men and Masculinities  London, Routledge

Other publications and reports

2012             Reflections on the Jimmy Savile disclosures: Grooming and denialbehind the masks of masculinities.  British Society of Criminology Newsletter 71,12, 17-20.


2010             Appreciative Inquiry into the Diversity Strategy of HMP Wakefield - RES-000-22-3441. ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL; IMPACT REPORT (with Victoria Lavis).

 2010           Appreciative Inquiry into the Diversity Strategy of HMP Wakefield – Report for HMP Wakefield  Full report (with Victoria Lavis & Hayden Bird)


2010            Appreciative Inquiry into the Diversity Strategy of HMP Wakefield - RES-000-22-3441. ECONOMICAND SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL; END OF AWARD REPORT – Executive summary - (withVictoria Lavis and research assistance from Hayden Bird).

2009           Preventing and responding to sexual violence in Leicester: draft strategy. (Unpublished report for Safer Leicester Partnership) Sheffield; Hallam Centre for Community Justice, Sheffield Hallam University (with Wilkinson, K.,Davidson, J., Bains, H. & Ellingworth, D.

2008           Diversity Review: Thinking Skills Programme: Draft Facilitator Manual Version 4 (incorporating Self-control workbook, Problem Solving Workbook and Working with Others), & Participant Profile Handouts (2) (with Harpreet Bains). Report prepared for General Offending Behaviour Programmes Interventions Group, Ministryof Justice; UK

2008          Black & Minority Ethnic Sex Offenders (with Victoria Lavis & TammiWalker).  Prison Service Journal, 178,44-49

2007          Background Paper on Guidelines for Researchers on Doing Research with Perpetrators of Sexual Violence. Pretoria, South Africa; Sexual Violence Research Initiative, (with Hearn, J., Andersson, K.)

Reports & invited lectures

Invited Lectures (a sample within the last ten years)

2015                                 Understanding [and responding to] sex offenders and sex crimes: beyond popular media discourses. Invited lecture – Petroc College of Further Education, Barnstaple, North Devon. 14thJanuary 2015

2012                                 Working psychotherapeutically with BME men: issues and dilemmas ‘Increasing culturalsensitivity and improving the sense of identity and experience of BME men at HMP Grendon’  2nd BME Conference, The Conference Centre, HMP Grendon, Buckinghamshire.  17 July 2012.

2012                                  Pornography beyond the causative link: towards sensitised practice and integrated policies. ‘Pornography and Child Sexual Abuse’.  Kids Company, London  23rdMarch 2012

 2012                                Understanding and Responding to Diversity in a Maximum Security Prison.   South Yorkshire Medico-Legal Society, Sheffield 8th February 2012

2010                                 Some thoughts on high risk and community safety.  ‘Tackling Violent and Sexual Offenders in Scotland: What's worked and what's not - the way ahead’.  King James Thistle Hotel, Edinburgh. A one day conference organised by MacKay Hannah & supported by Glasgow School of Social Work.

2007                                 Seeing male sex offenders as men: looking beyond the ‘folk devil’ and the forensic profile.  ‘Troubling’ Men Identities, Diversities and Practices.  Conference to launch the Research Unit on Men and Masculinities (RUMM), University of Bradford, Bradford.  Tuesday 3rd April 2007

Invited Seminar presentations (a sample within the last ten years)

2015                                  South Asian sex offenders in the Criminal Justice System: some thoughts on non-participation and reintegration.  School of Law, University of Plymouth, 11thFebruary 2015.

2014                                  Ethical issues in research with sex offenders.  Department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology, University of Exeter, 3rd December2014.

  2012                                Experiences of minority prisoners in HMP Wakefield .   Public Health Hub, Sheffield Hallam University, 31 st October 2012, Robert Winston Building.

  2011                                Using the Wall of Wonder with prisoners to develop diversity research in a maximum security prison.   British Society of Criminology, Yorkshire & Humberside Branch; Inaugural Event, 11 th May 2011. [with Victoria Lavis]

  2010                                Undertaking qualitative research with perpetrators of sexual violence: some reflections on ethical practice.   Scottish Centre for Crime & JusticeResearch, University of Glasgow. 12 th November 2010

2010                                  ‘A father: somebody, somebody who’d take me and keep a hold of me’: reflections on the transgenerational transfer of trauma, harm and denial in the life histories of convicted sex offenders. Centre for Trauma, Resilience and Growth in the School of Sociology & Social Policy, University of Nottingham.  26thMay 2010, University of Nottingham.

2010                                  Researching diversities in prison: processes, progression and programmes. Scottish Centre for Crime & Justice Research University of Glasgow 2nd February 2010

2009                                 Using a Prisoner Advisory group to develop diversity research in a maximum-security prison: some initial observations. Hallam Centre for Community Justice Seminar Series: 2009-2010, 11thNovember 2009 (with Victoria Lavis)

2008                                  Beyondthe ‘folk devil’: male sex offenders, ‘Beasts’, ‘Pervs’ or Men? 1st seminar in the "Performing Straight White Masculinities: Représentations et Expériences de la masculinité blanche hétérosexuelle dans les pays anglophones", Projet innovant - Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris 3. 12thOctober 2008

2008                                  'Race', cultures and religions: a critique of assumed homogeneity in CBT programmes for offenders (Some thoughts on the under-representation of BME people on offence related groupwork programmes). Departmental Seminar.  Department of Social Sciences, University of Hull, England.