Ethos of research

“Troubleshooting the black spots of the criminal justice system”

The notion of “troubleshooting the black spots of criminal justice system” is an approach that was devised and developed in Michael’s book, The Innocent and the Criminal Justice System,  which provided diagnostic analyses of the limitations and/or outright failings of the criminal justice system in dealing with claims of factual innocence by alleged victims of wrongful conviction and imprisonment. 

More specifically, “troubleshooting”, as opposed to term “troublemaking” which is often used to label those with an orientation for unearthing social injustices in need of social reform, 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 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 that 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.

The notion of “troubleshooting black spots” is also analogous to when Dr Naughton worked in a factory as a maintenance engineer. Then, he worked to fix identified problems with the factory plant and machinery. His work now as a critical sociologist of law is aimed at uncovering problems with the machinery of justice so that it, too, may be corrected. The overall aim is to contribute to fixing and improving the criminal justice system so that its operations align with lay notions of fairness and social justice, from which the criminal justice system should always be judged and held to account.

Politically, Michael’s work always attempts to “give voice to the voiceless” and to enhance the visibility of the largely hidden and/or forgotten victims of social 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 his 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.