Rethinking Miscarriages of Justice

Naughton, M. (2007) Rethinking miscarriages of justice: Beyond the tip of the iceberg (Palgrave Macmillan). Republished in 2012 in paperback with a new Foreword.

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Synopsis

In this highly provocative and fascinating study, Michael Naughton radically re-assesses the notion of miscarriages of justice. Drawing on Foucauldian theory and ‘social harm’ paradigms, Naughton uncovers the limits of the criminal justice process and questions the dominant discourse that views miscarriages of justice as rare and exceptional cases of wrongful imprisonment. Arguing that the criminal justice process itself causes miscarriages of justice, and can prevent the overturning of convictions, Naughton interprets error as the norm – a mundane feature that is an inbuilt part of the legal system. Further, by redefining the term ‘miscarriage of justice’ he shows how it can be applied to thousands of cases per year. Extending previous analyses of the forms of harm that miscarriages of justice cause, this study explores the impact on a range of victims – direct and indirect – and their wider effect on society as a whole. Previous attempts to reform the system to prevent miscarriages of justice and their consequences have proved unsuccessful and here, Naughton provides an explanation of why they have failed and provides a new perspective on the ways to prevent mistakes occurring. Providing a much-needed critical appraisal of a fundamental aspect of the legal system, this book, now in paperback and with a new Foreword, will have a dramatic impact on the way we think about criminal justice.

Reviews

‘It is important to refresh our perspectives upon the perennial problem of miscarriages of justice, and Michael Naughton. . . thoroughly explains to us in his book why, after a Royal Commission and so much criminal justice legislation, reform remains essential.’ – Clive Walker, Professor of Criminal Justice Studies, Leeds University, UK

‘This book provides a refreshing new approach to the analysis of miscarriages of justice. Drawing upon Foucault’s analysis of governmentality and the emerging new perspective of zemiology, it maps a new terrain for understanding miscarriages. It is clearly written and succinct. It should be essential reading for students of law, criminology, sociology and politics.’ – Paddy Hillyard, Professor of Sociology, Queen’s University Belfast, UK

‘Michael Naughton’s analysis succeeds in identifying a new and relevant perspective which challenges some of the assumptions made by different groups within society about miscarriages of justice. . . Most importantly the book does move the miscarriage of justice debate forward, highlighting from a humanitarian perspective not only the true scale of the problem but also the devastating and often under-estimated extent of harm that results. In addition it reflects on some avenues and approaches that can be utilised to promote positive change rather than presenting as a document of despair. As such it is an important read for all parties concerned about this issue.’ – Criminology and Criminal Justice

‘Rethinking Miscarriages of Justice makes considered and provocative arguments…[and] demonstrates effectively the clear breaches of human rights involved in cases of miscarriage of justice at any level and suggests that a judiciary that produces so many wrongful convictions is almost certainly incompatible with the Human Rights Act’ – Linda Moore, Critical Social Policy