Ethos of research

“Troubleshooting the black spots of the criminal justice system”

The notion of “troubleshooting black spots” is a commitment to critical research to identify broken aspects of social systems in society so that they can be fixed: aligned with lay notions of fairness and social justice, from which all social systems in society should always be judged and held to account.

It is an approach that I devised and developed in my book The Innocent and the Criminal Justice System, which provided diagnostic analyses of the specific limitations and/or outright failings of the criminal justice system in dealing with claims of factual innocence from alleged victims of wrongful conviction and provided a range of ideas about what might be done in response.

“Troubleshooting”, as opposed to term “troublemaking”, is conceived 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; the nature of the problem 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 forms of social harm/injustice or to working against the correction of social harms/injustices if and when they occur, such as the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of the innocent.

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, it is simply wrong on any and every level to convict and imprison factually 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.