The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Staff Profile

Dr Gethin Rees

Lecturer in Sociology



I am interested in the intersection of healthcare and criminal justice, whether that is embodied in healthcare professionals who work in criminal justice contexts (e.g. police stations and prisons), or scientific and/or medical experts presenting evidence in criminal trials.  As a result my research sits at the intersection of the sociology of science and technology, medical sociology and socio-legal studies.  From September 2017 I will be teaching an optional stage three module 'CSI: Newcastle: The Sociology of the Forensic Sciences', a 10-credit MA module "The Sociology of Technology: Materialities and Agency" and will be Examinations Officer for the Sociology Academic Unit.

Prior to joining Newcastle University I held an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship (2009-2010) and was Principal Investigator on an ESRC Small Grant (2010-2011), both carried out at the University of Edinburgh; following the completion of the small grant I became a Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Southampton (2011-2015).  I hold a PhD in Science and Technology Studies from the University of Edinburgh and a Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice from the University of Southampton.  I have also held Visiting Fellowships at Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; Department of Sociology, Trent University; and School of Law, National University of Ireland in Galway.  I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, an Executive Committee member of the Socio-Legal Studies Association and a member of the British Sociological Association.  

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Research Interests and Expertise

I am predominantly interested in the ways that medicine is employed in legal decision-making contexts and have followed this interest through four principal research projects: the role of doctors (otherwise known as Forensic Medical Examiners) in the examination of a person reporting a rape or sexual assault; a study of the introduction of nurses into the forensic investigation in sexual assault cases, in particular comparing the novel Forensic Nurse Examiner role in England and Wales with the more established Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner in Ontario, Canada; the role of sleep medicine in sexual assault cases where the accused does not deny the assault but claims to have no recollection of the event, as they were sleepwalking at the time; and most recently a Wellcome Trust Seed Award investigating the role and work of nurses in police custody suites.  At the heart of all of these studies are questions concerning the boundaries between medicine and the law and the ways that those boundaries are maintained and negotiated; questions about the ways that 'real rape' stereotypes inform (and are in turn supported) by forensic practices; and the ways that disagreements in knowledge claims are resolved.

Latest Projects

The Wellcome Trust Seed Award is the first step in an ambitious undertaking to understand the ethical, social, policy and professional challenges faced by nurses working in police stations.  Since 2003, there have been two substantial changes to custody healthcare: the introduction of a predominantly nurse-led service, and the transference of governance to private companies.  No study has yet investigated the impacts of both changes on custody medicine.

In order to do so, a baseline description of police nurse practice is necessary.  Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with 20 nurses, working for various companies and in different constabularies in England and Wales, in order to identify the core responsibilities of custody nurses, as well as key practice differences.  These findings will be used to refine the research questions for an application to the Wellcome Trust Investigator Award.  In addition, a planning meeting, involving scholars who have previously researched custody medicine or forensic nurses along with the United Kingdome Association of Forensic Nurses (UKAFN), will be held.  The attendees will become an Advisory Panel for the Investigator Award and it is envisaged that the outcome of the research will be of use to UKAFN in better supporting custody nurses.

International Networks

I am a co-founder of the Comparative Analysis in Rape Research Network (CAiRRN), an interdisciplinary collection of scholars interested in the treatment of rape victims by criminal justice personnel.

PhD Supervision

Previous Supervision

Neil MacEwan - Responsibilisation, Rules and Rule-Following Concerning Cyber-Security: Findings from small business case studies in the UK (University of Southampton) - completed

I would be interested in supervising PhD research in any of the following areas:

  • Sociology of the Forensic Sciences
  • Science and Technology Studies
  • Sociology of Scientific Knowledge
  • Medical Sociology (especially Sociology of Diagnosis or Medical Professions)
  • Gender-Based Violence (especially investigations into the criminal justice response to rape and sexual assault)