Dr Robert Hesketh
Dr Hesketh is featured in our ‘Humans of LJMU’ series in collaboration with the ‘Humans of Liverpool’ social media account, sharing the stories of the people who make our city, communities and university the vibrant, inclusive place it is in celebration of our bicentenary year.
In his interview he reflects on how his own upbringing, on an estate in Knowsley, led him to a career in academia focusing on criminal justice and a research interest in organised crime groups.
“I really enjoy helping students who have come from similar backgrounds to myself to help them to follow a similar path. And I like to make sure courses provide real-world value and aren’t purely academic.”
– Dr Robert Hesketh
Robert’s ‘Humans of LJMU’ interview
“I was born and raised on an estate where gangs were always around growing up. I’ve always wondered why I never got involved, given the same temptations and the same exposure to criminality. That triggered my interest in gangs and criminal groups and ultimately got me into academia. I’m now a lecturer in criminal justice, and my research area is organised crime groups.
“Liverpool in the 1980s was the social abyss, especially in Stockbridge village, where I lived. From the samples I’ve gathered, the people that avoided them seem to fit a similar profile. They are usually an only child, and their parents were aware of what was happening and shielded them from it. That was me. My dad worked for British Railways and would use his free passes to take us to London, Edinburgh, and all over to keep me away from it all. Then I was in the army and then higher education, so I was always occupied. My mum sacrificed herself financially for me, saving her money away so that I could get through university. I dedicated my PhD to my mum and dad, but unfortunately, they’d passed away by that point. They didn’t see this stage which is quite sad; they just saw my master’s graduation. I owe it all to them, they were very switched-on people, and I was very lucky.
“I really enjoy helping students who have come from similar backgrounds to myself to help them to follow a similar path. And I like to make sure courses provide real-world value and aren’t purely academic. On the last master’s course I was running, in one of the modules, I had probation and police officers come in and contribute, so it wasn’t just me giving theory.
“Anything that happens in Liverpool involving criminal gangs, I get inundated with requests from the press to comment. We need to get more people passionate about this topic. I’m currently trying to develop a research cluster to identify academics that are interested in doing research on gangs and organised crime groups on Merseyside so that we can disseminate it outwards to organisations to make people aware of what works and what doesn’t in tackling the issue.”