Dr Michael Naughton is a Reader in Sociology and Law at the University of Bristol who has researched and written extensively on miscarriages of justice and the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of the innocent.
More specifically, Dr Naughton is the author or editor of four books:
- The innocent and the criminal justice system (2013, Palgrave Macmillan);
- Rethinking miscarriages of justice: Beyond the tip of the iceberg (2007, Palgrave Macmillan);
- The Criminal Cases Review Commission: Hope for the innocent? (Editor, 2009, Palgrave Macmillan); and,
- Claims of innocence: An introduction to wrongful convictions and how they might be challenged (2010, University of Bristol).
In addition, he has 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 (click here to go to “Publications by year”).
These publications have contributed several new concepts as well as new ways of thinking about and acting upon miscarriages of justice and/or wrongful conviction and imprisonment, including:
- how the concept of “miscarriages of justice” is a legal notion that is not synonymous nor to be conflated with the wrongful conviction and/or imprisonment of the factually innocent;
- highlighting the distinction between factual innocence and legal “innocence”;
- measuring the likely scale of “miscarriages of justice” from a secondary data analysis of official statistics on successful appeals against criminal conviction to calculate thousands of cases per annum;
- devising new concepts relating to the court at which the successful appeal was obtained: “mundane” miscarriages of justice are magistrates’ courts convictions that are overturned in the Crown Court; “routine” miscarriages of justice are Crown Court convictions that are overturned in the Court of Appeal on a first appeal; and “exceptional” miscarriages of justice are convictions that are overturned in an appeal court following a referral by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC);
- how miscarriages of justice and wrongful convictions are caused (with reference to structural, procedural and/or individual causation);
- whether the causation was intentional (“individual abortions of justice” or “systemic abortions of justice”) or unintentional (“miscarriages of justice”);
- empirical research on how the so-called “parole deal” operates as a catch-22 that presents challenges and/or outright barriers to progression and release for prisoners maintaining innocence;
- devising a typology of claims of innocence by alleged victims of wrongful convictions to distinguish those who are not innocent from those that might be as a way of assessing applications to innocence projects for eligibility for further investigation;
- analysing the myriad forms of harm (social, psychological, physical and financial) that are caused by wrongful convictions to primary and secondary victims;
- the limitations of the criminal appeals system and the CCRC in dealing with claims of factual innocence;
- how alleged wrongful convictions might be challenged, remedied (in terms of compensation) and/or prevented;
- how the criminal justice system might be reformed to avoid miscarriages of justice and/or wrongful convictions; and,
- how those responsible for causing miscarriages of justice and/or wrongful convictions might be held accountable and brought to justice.
In terms of activism, between 2005-2015, Dr Naughton was Founder and Director of the first innocence project in the UK dedicated to investigating alleged wrongful convictions, the University of Bristol Innocence Project (UoBIP). This saw him pioneer the introduction of a new form of clinical legal education in the UK based on the innocence projects that originated in the United States. Under his supervision, student volunteers investigated alleged wrongful convictions on a pro bono (free for public good) basis, with input from criminal appeal lawyers and forensic experts where appropriate. In terms of “successes”, the University of Bristol Innocence Project contributed to the first ever case referrals by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (R v Simon John Hall) and the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (William Beck v Her Majesty’s Advocate) back to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) and the High Court of Justiciary, respectively, following submissions or 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 several claims of factual innocence by alleged victims of wrongful conviction and imprisonment when they were proven to be factually guilty. UoBIP became the template for the setting up of over 30 innocence projects in other universities in England, Scotland and Wales (see below).
Between 2004-2015, Dr Naughton was Founder and Director of Innocence Network UK (INUK), which saw him facilitate the setting up, and support the subsequent running, of a national network with a total of 36 Innocence Projects in the UK dedicated to investigating and overturning wrongful convictions. This included an innocence project in a corporate law firm, which was also a global first. In practical terms, Dr Naughton directed a team of staff and students from the University of Bristol Innocence Project to assess all applications to INUK for assistance from alleged victims of wrongful convictions for eligibility, referring over a hundred cases from almost 1,000 full applications (as well as thousands of other enquiries) to member innocence projects for further investigation. He also organised two annual training conferences a year over the life of the organisation, as well as several additional research symposiums and additional training events. 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 Mr George’s application to INUK, which was referred to a member innocence project, Cardiff Law School, to follow up on lines of further investigation identified by University of Bristol Innocence Project staff and students working for INUK at the University of Bristol.
Dr Naughton’s research is highly impactful and has contributed to several major reforms domestically and internationally. This includes reforms to the prison rules on the treatment of prisoners maintaining innocence and to the Attorney General’s guidelines on disclosure and access to evidence post-conviction for alleged victims of wrongful convictions who seek to mount an appeal or make an application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission. He has also given invited oral and written evidence on his research to the UK Parliamentary Justice Committee, two invited presentations in the UK House of Commons, an invited submission to the UK Ministry of Justice, 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. He has also given 50 invited presentations on issues relating to his academic research to public, professional and third sector conferences (click here to go to “Impacts of research”).
In addition, Dr Naughton has given over a hundred interviews in the media 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. He has also been interviewed for newspapers and appeared on televise on and radio programmes in Norway, Armenia, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland (click here to go to “In the media”) .
Dr Naughton has received a number of awards and prizes including:
- Attorney General’s Pro Bono Award
- Bristol Law Society Annual Pro Bono Award
- University of Bristol Public Engagement Award
- Michael Young Prize, sponsored by the ESRC and The Young Foundation
- Radical Statistics Group Critical Essay Prize
Important note: Any views expressed here do not represent those of Dr Michael Naughton’s employer.