I am a Reader in Sociology and Law at the University of Bristol where I have been in different capacities for almost 25 years. I obtained both a BSc (Hons) in Sociology (First Class) (1996) and a PhD in Sociology (2003) at Bristol. In 2003-04, I was an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology. I was appointed to a Lectureship across the Law School and the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS) in 2004, progressed to Senior Lecturer in 2007 and promoted to a Readership in 2012.
I have broad teaching and research interests in critical criminology, zemiology, criminal justice, criminal law and procedure, criminal appeals, evidence law and penology.
More specifically, I have researched and written extensively on the limitations and outright failings of the structures, procedures and working practices of the criminal justice, criminal appeals and penal and parole systems from the perspective of “miscarriages of justice” and claims of factual innocence by alleged victims of wrongful conviction and imprisonment.
The general concern of my research is with forms of power and power relations in the realm of criminal justice and the way that discourses (forms of knowledge) shape how we think and feel about the social world and how they are utilised to manufacture public consent for legal and policy responses to defined social problems that govern/control our lives. It may be apparent that the social theory of Michel Foucault is a major influence!
In terms of publications, I am the author or editor of four books: The innocent and the criminal justice system (2013); The Criminal Cases Review Commission: Hope for the innocent? (Editor, 2012 ); Rethinking miscarriages of justice: Beyond the tip of the iceberg (2012 ); and, Claims of innocence: An introduction to wrongful convictions and how they might be challenged; (2011).
In addition, I have almost 60 further publications in peer-reviewed academic journals, edited book collections, professional journals, broadsheet newspapers and official reports, many of which are freely available on this website.
Between 2005-2015, I was Founder and Director of the first innocence project in the UK dedicated to investigating alleged wrongful convictions – University of Bristol Innocence Project (UoBIP). Under my supervision, student volunteers investigated alleged wrongful convictions on a pro bono basis, with input from criminal appeal lawyers and forensic experts where appropriate. In terms of “successes”, the University of Bristol Innocence Project (UoBIP) contributed to the first ever case referrals by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (R v Hall, 2010) and the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (Beck v Her Majesty’s Advocate, 2013) back to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) and the High Court of Justiciary, respectively, following submissions/applications by a UK innocence project. It assisted two over tariff life-sentenced prisoners maintaining innocence to be progressed to open conditions. It, also, finally settled two claims of factual innocence by alleged victims of wrongful conviction and imprisonment when they were proven to be factually guilty.
Between 2004-2015, I was Founder and Director of Innocence Network UK (INUK), which saw me facilitate the setting up, and support the subsequent running, of a total of 36 Innocence Projects in the UK dedicated to investigating and overturning wrongful convictions, like those that originated in the United States. With INUK colleagues, I organised two annual conferences a year over the life of the organisation, as well as several additional research symposiums and events. I also directed a team of staff and students at the University of Bristol Innocence Project assess all for assistance from alleged victims of wrongful convictions for eligibility, referring over a hundred cases from over 1,600 full applications to member innocence projects for further investigation. In December 2014, Dwaine George’s murder conviction was overturned, making him the first case overturned by an innocence project in the UK. It followed an INUK referral to a member innocence project to follow up on lines of further investigation identified by UoBIP staff and students working for INUK at the University of Bristol.
In terms of the impact of my research, it has influenced several legal and policy reforms including:
- new rules of disclosure and access to evidence post-conviction for alleged victims of wrongful convictions under reforms of the existing Attorney General’s Guidelines;
- a new regime for how prisons deal with prisoners maintaining innocence under reforms to Prison Service Order (PSO) 4700 ; and,
- a new right of appeal against certain qualifying alleged wrongful convictions in South Australia in response to the Criminal Cases Review Commission Bill in the Parliament of South Australia.
I have also given invited oral and written evidence on my research to the UK Parliamentary Justice Committee, two invited presentations in the UK House of Commons, an invited presentation to the US. Department of Justice in Washington D.C., as well as several other invited consultations and conference papers in the United States, China, Armenia, Italy, Norway and several in Ireland.
In addition, I have given more than 40 invited presentations on issues relating to my academic research to public, professional and third sector conferences.
I often contribute in the media (over a hundred times) on a range of criminal justice issues, including for BBC 1, BBC Panorama, BBC Rough Justice, BBC News 24, ITV, GMTV, HTV, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC World Service, The Guardian, The Independent, The Times and The Telegraph. I have also been interviewed for newspapers and appeared on television and radio programmes in Norway, Armenia, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland.
Awards and prizes for my research and wider activities include:
- Michael Young Prize, sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and The Young Foundation
- Attorney General’s Pro Bono Award
- Bristol Law Society Annual Pro Bono Award
- University of Bristol Public Engagement Award
- Radical Statistics Group Critical Essay Prize