Forensic Psychology



About the Group​

There are 2 primary aims of this group. First, to conduct internationally recognised research. Second, to provide high quality training to practitioners in applied settings. The group has strong links with national and local providers of services for offenders in both the public and private sectors.

FPRG carries out research on a range of projects relevant to our understanding of casual factors in crime, risk for serious offending, relationship between psychological abnormality and offending, drug / alcohol abuse, motivational factors and compliance / treatment effectiveness for offenders.

FPRG is currently engaged in the following projects
  • TSS evaluation
  • Statistical models of re-offending in forensic psychiatry
  • Offenders’ Motivation
  • Cognition in Offenders
  • Assessment and Interventions (including RCT interventions)
  • Evaluating critical incident support
Training programmes
  • Enhancing motivation in hard to engage clients
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  • Anger Management

Offenders M​otivatio​n


This includes developing measures of motivation, as well as enhancing motivation, for treatment engagement and change.

One major project is a randomised control trial investigating the effectiveness of a motivation intervention, and another is concerned with motivation for employment, including understanding barriers to employment.

Recent smaller projects have included a comparison of motivational interventions with sex offenders, and also an investigation into motivation in young people in prison (youth offenders aged 15-17).

Group members
Completed PhDs
  • Jacqui Campbell. BARS funded. Measuring and enhancing offenders' motivation for treatment and change. Completed September 2009 (DoS, J Sellen; supervisor, A Watt).
  • Iva Nekovarova. BARS funded. A feasibility study for a randomised controlled trial using the Personal Aspirations and Concerns Inventory for Offenders (PACIO) to improve short-term offenders’ motivation for an participation in custodial education and to reduce reconviction Completed May 2016 (DoS, D Heggs; supervisor, J Sellen)

  • Professor Miles Cox, Bangor University, UK
  • Professor Eric Klinger, Minnesota University, USA
  • Professor Mary McMurran, Nottingham University, UK

Selected Publications
  • Sellen, J.L., McMurran, M., Theodosi, E., Cox, M. and Klinger, E. (2009). Validity of the offender version of the Personal Concerns Inventory with adult male prisoners. Psychology, Crime & Law, Vol 15 (5), 451-468.
  • McMurran, M., Theodosi, E., Sweeney, A. and Sellen, J. (2008). What do prisoners want? Current concerns of adult male prisoners. Psychology, Crime & Law, 14 (3), 267-274.
  • McMurran, M., Sellen, J.L. and Theodosi, E. (2007). The Personal Concerns Inventory: Offender Adaptation (PCI:OA): The structure of offenders’ motivation.  In E. Sullivan (Ed.), Offenders’ motivation to change. Issues in Criminological and Legal Psychology, No. 7, pp. 81-87. Leicester: The British Psychological Society.
  • McMurran, M., Theodosi, E., & Sellen, J. (2006).  Measuring engagement in therapy and motivation to change in adult prisoners: A brief report. Criminal Behaviour & Mental Health, 16 (2), 124-129.
  • Sellen, J.L., McMurran, M., Cox, M., Theodosi, E. and Klinger, E.  (2006). The Personal Concerns Inventory (Offender Adaptation):  Measuring and Enhancing Motivation to Change. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 50, 3, 294-305.

Selected Conference Presentations
  • Sellen, Campbell, Gobbett, James & Kearney (2009). Symposium. Motivation for change in offenders, examining the versatility of the Personal Aspirations and Concerns Inventory for Offenders. British Psychological Society, Division of Forensic Psychology. Lancaster, UK.
  • Sellen, J.L., McMurran, M., Theodosi, E., Cox, M. and Klinger, E.  (2006). Developing the Personal Concerns Inventory for Offenders. Reliability and Validity. International Association of Forensic Mental Health Services Conference, Amsterdam, June, 2006.

  • ESRC Seminar series interdisciplinary application with health and addictions. Awarded 2009.

Assessment and I​ntervention​​

​ ​​​​​​​​​​

This area of research seeks to investigate a variety of interventions and examine their effectiveness in terms of both process and outcome evaluation.

There are a number of projects within this domain, for example, the Supporting Offenders through Restoration Inside programme and evaluation of the Control of Violence in Angry Impulsive Drinkers.


  • Evaluation of COVAID (Control of Violence for Angry Impulsive Drinkers)
    This project seeks to evaluate an intervention which is officially accredited for use in prisons in England & Wales and is currently running in two prison sites in South Wales. The pilot study is funded by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) Cyrmu for £30,000k. An application for further funding has been submitted to conduct a randomised controlled trial at the two sites in South WalesIt is intended to be a 3 year programme in total which will pilot, refine and ultimately recruite over 200 prisoners. The primary outcome is violent reconviction, the process of change will be measured by anger expression and controlled drinking self-efficacy.

    Dr Siriol David, Head of Psychological Services, NOMS Cymru
    Professor Mary McMurran, Nottingham University, UK

    Professor David Cohen, Director of Wales Health Economics Support Service (WHESS)

    Selected Publications
    Bowes, N., Sutton, A., Jenkins, S., McMurran, M. (in press). The alcohol treatment needs of violent and non-violent prisoners. British Journal of Forensic Practice.

    Grant applications
    European Research Advisory Board bid made for the evaluation of an alcohol and violence intervention (COVAID). Awaiting decision.

    Nicola Bowes
    Joselyn Sellen

  • SORI (Supporting Offenders through Restoration Inside) programme
    This is a new project with seed funding from NOMS Cymru. SORI is a restorative justice programme run at HMP Cardiff, and we are engaged in evaluating its effectiveness through qualtitative data analysis techniques. Research is conducted in collaboration with staff at HMP Cardiff.

    Sian Lewis, Forensic Psychologist in Training, NOMS Cymru

    Cardiff Metropolitan Univesity Foundation are exploring potential for further funding to support a postdoctoral researcher and a PhD student.  These posts would develop the collaboration with HMP Cardiff and NOMS Cymru to examine the contribution that SORI can make nationwide.

    Daniel Heggs
    Jenny Mercer
    Joselyn Sellen

  • Randomised control trial of a psycho-social intervention within detoxification unit at HMP Cardiff
    This project aims to explore whether a simple psycho-social intervention could be offered to prisoners or men held on remand and undergoing checmical detox, and whether there are any benefits of doing so. The intervention was largely borrowed from exisiting intervention techniques and involves substance misuse specific teaching (relapse prevention, relaxation techniques, harm minimisation) with simple problem solving (Stop & Think) and problem identification techniques (SPIDER). It also contains an element of mentoring with the group being introduced to the various services available to them in prison. Outcome measures include psychometric measures, relapse into substance misuse and a qualitative review of stakeholders.

    PhD Students/Researchers
    Amy Williams, Cardiff University, UK.

    Professor Pamela Taylor, Cardiff University, UK

    PI. Professor Taylor. Medical officer’s grant, Cardiff University, £10,000.

    Nicola Bowes


  • Aggression and violence
    This research explores the utility of a newly developed psychometric measure of thinking related to aggression.  The study involved prisoners and non-offenders. The findings indicated that self reported violence and the psychmetric tool (Maudsley Violence Questionnaire) was significantly related and that regression analysis indicated that high scores on one factor of the psychometric (machismo) was predictive of self reported violence.

    Dr Julian Walker, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Fromeside Clinic, Bristol

    Selected Publications
    In preparation

    Nicola Bowes

  • Offender profiling and robbery
    This study explored whether current applications of offender profiling methodologies could be applied by clinicians working in correctional facilities with convicted and imprisoned robbery offenders. Seventy offenders files were reviewed and information gathered detailing specific offence behaviours and offender characteristics. Crime scene information, including offence behaviours were analysed to predict an offender’s previous convictions. Statistically significant associations were found between certain offence behaviours and offender previous convictions. Regression analysis further identified significant predictive findings, which may, if replicated, assist in the investigation of robbery offences. This appears to be the first pragmatic application of offender profiling methodologies by clinicians in correctional facilities to robbery offences. This provides a structure for more cohesive work between the Criminal Justice agencies in the UK; engaging the vast amount of information stored on convicted offenders held in prisons in order to assist Police officers in their investigation processes. The findings indicate simple changes to the recording systems which would significantly improve the information available and enhance opportunities for offender profiling strategies to be employed within correctional facilities.

    Dr Alasdair Goodwill, University of Birmingham, UK

    Selected Publications
    In preparation

    Nicola Bowes