Ethos of research

“Troubleshooting the black spots of the criminal justice system”

I characterise my research as “troubleshooting the black spots of criminal justice system”, an approach devised and developed in my book The Innocent and the Criminal Justice System. It provided diagnostic analyses of the limitations and/or outright failings of the criminal justice system in dealing with claims of factual innocence from alleged victims of wrongful conviction and imprisonment and it provided a range of ideas about what might be done in response.

More specifically, “troubleshooting”, as opposed to term “troublemaking” which is often used to label those with an orientation for unearthing social harms and injustices, is conceived in The Innocent and the Criminal Justice System as a positive enterprise and a necessary prerequisite of progressive social reform to improve society for all – you need to know what is wrong with something before you can fix it.

“Black spots” are conceived as the procedures, operations and cultures of the various component parts that together make up the criminal justice and criminal appeal systems, which are vulnerable either to the causation of social injustices or to working against the correction of social injustices if and when they occur, such as the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of the innocent.

Overall, then, the notion of “troubleshooting black spots” is a commitment to critical research with the underpinning aim of identifying broken aspects of social systems in society in need of fixing. This includes limitations and failings with the criminal justice system, which has been a major focus of my research and publications, but it applies, equally, to any other broken aspects of other social systems  too, such as education, health, welfare, prisons, and so on. Rigorous and robust analyses of systematic black spots is crucial so that they may be fixed/improved and the structures, procedures and operations of system aligned with lay notions of fairness and social justice, from which the criminal justice system (and all social systems for that matter) should always be judged and held to account.

Politically, my work always attempts to “give voice to the voiceless” and to enhance the visibility of the largely hidden and/or forgotten victims of social harms and injustices in a society that is, generally speaking, deaf, blind and/or morally indifferent to their plight.

This is related to the fundamental idea that exercises of power and law without true social justice is neither legitimate nor sustainable. As this relates to wrongful conviction and imprisonment, for instance, which has been the major focus of my work over the last 15 years, it is simply wrong to convict and imprison innocent men, women and children and leave them languishing in prison and/or with no reliable or guaranteed avenue to overturn their convictions and clear their names.

Understanding the connections between the myriad limitations and/or failings of criminal law, legal procedures and the operations of the criminal justice system from the perspective of social justice therefore become important research topics and political and campaigning causes.