UCL Department of Security and Crime Science


Spotlight on Richard Wortley, Director of Jill Dando Institute

10 November 2017

Richard Wortley is Director of the Jill Dando Institute and Head of the Department of Security & Crime Science. Below he talks about his work at UCL and tells us his favourite dad joke.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am Director of the Jill Dando Institute and Head of the Department of Security and Crime Science. The mundane, if necessary, part of my job involves attending meetings, trying to keep on top of paper work, and chipping away at my permanent backlog of emails. The exciting part is the ‘vision thing’ – imagining what the JDI can become and working with colleagues to make that happen.


How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I came to UCL from Australia in 2010 specifically to take up my current role. It is the only job in the world that could have enticed me to up sticks and travel 16,000 klms. Previously I had been at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University, Brisbane. My first job after leaving university was a prison psychologist.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

The new BSc Security and Crime Science is a really exciting development and I think will be a game changer for the JDI, helping to establish us as a fully mature department. Of course, many have been responsible for getting the course up and running.

What initiative or project are you currently working on?

From a JDI perspective, my current obsession is blended learning. It seems incredible to me that in the second decade of the 21st century we (ie many universities) are still largely wedded to the truly medieval model of learning based around the 2-hour lecture. We either embrace new learning technologies or find ourselves left eating the dust of those who do.

In terms of personal research, I am currently involved in a project looking at the way warning messages of various sorts might deter potential offenders searching for illegal online material. The study involves the creation of fake websites, a research technique that I think has enormous potential for carrying out online experiments.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

I am a child of the 60s/70s so my music tastes are pretty retro I am afraid. Lots of great albums from that era, but Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon takes some beating, though Neil Young’s Harvest comes close. (This is my way of getting two picks.)

There is really no one film. I think I am probably supposed to nominate something suitably weighty here – Citizen Kane or similar. Truth is I love CGI so I am a sucker for anything by Pixar (Toy Story etc).

As for novels, again an oldie, but no book has had quite the impact on me as Heller’s Catch 22. Fantastically inventive. I love this quote from Heller: ‘When I read something saying I've not done anything as good as Catch-22 I'm tempted to reply, "Who has?"’

What is your favourite joke?

As a dad, I can’t go past dad jokes. So many to choose from. How about: How did the tap dancer break her ankle? She fell in the sink.

Who would be your dream dinner guests

I hate talking shop at dinner, so while there are people I greatly admire – Charles Darwin for example – they would not be my idea of a dinner guest. I think I’d get together some of the great comedians and raconteurs – Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Billy Connelly etc – and just sit back and let them go at it.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Wear sunscreen, stupid.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I was once fit.

What is your favourite place?

Like many Australians my age, I did the ‘big OS trip’ in my youth and back-packed around the world (twice). Lots of great places but Nepal was very special. Gobsmackingly beautiful scenery for £1 a day (oh, and I met my wife there).