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Michael Naughton

Reader in Sociology and Law, University of Bristol

Michael's research centres on miscarriages of justice with a focus on claims of factual innocence by alleged victims of wrongful conviction and imprisonment.


Michael's research centres on miscarriages of justice with a focus on claims of factual innocence by alleged victims of wrongful conviction and imprisonment.

Scope of Research

Michael's academic researches on miscarriages of justice and wrongful convitions have included:

the creation of a novel analysis of the likely scale of the so-called miscarriages of justice "iceberg" from a secondary data analysis of official statistics on successful appeals against criminal conviction, emphasising the many thousands of convictions that are quashed each year in England and Wales if all successful appeals are included as opposed to a restricted inclusion of quashed convictions following a referral by the Criminal Cases Review Commission;

linked with this, an original typology of "miscarriages of justice" ("mundane", "routine" and "exceptional") based on the stage of the appeal process (Crown Court, Court of Appeal or Criminal Cases Review Commission referral) that the conviction was overturned;

a redefinition of successful appeals against criminal convictions using the concept of 'intent' to distinguish between "abortions of justice" ,which are caused by intentional breaches of safeguards against wrongful convictions by agents internal (police officers, prosecutors) or external (forensic experts, lay witnesses) to teh criminal justice system, and "miscarriages of justice", which are not caused by deliberate acts by individuals to transgress due process. However, on a structural level "miscarriages of justice" can themselves be conceived as systemic "abortions of justice" in the sense that they are intended by a criminal justice system that sees inherently unreliable forms of evidence (uncorroborated witness testimony, eye-witness evidence, unreliable forms of forensic science evidence) as admissible in criminal trials even though we know that they render the innocent vulnerable to wrongful convictions;
analysis of the limits of criminal justice procedures as they relate to claimed attempts to either safeguard against miscarriages of justice (Judges' Rules, Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), Code for Crown Prosecutors) or provide remedies so that they may be overturned (Court of Appeal, Criminal Cases Review Commission) when they occur;

consideration of miscarriages of justice and breaches of enacted human rights (European Convention on Human Rights, Human Rights Act) and how international human rights instruments can be utilised to strengthen/make legally cognisable arguments for access to scientific advancements by alleged victims of wrongful convictions (Universal Declaration of Human Rights);

evaluation of the way that forms of forensic science evidence, even DNA, can both cause wrongful convictions and/or assist in their overturn; and,

assessment of penal and parole policies as they relate to alleged victims of wrongful impr isonment/prisoners maintaining innocence.

In terms of theory, his work has drawn from the social thought of Michel Foucault (governmentality, power/knowledge, unearthing subjugated discourses) and applied a zemiological approach to expand existing notions on the harmful consequences of miscarriages of justice to primary and secondary victims, as well as society as a whole.


Michael has over 40 publications in peer-reviewed academic journals, edited book collections, professional magazines, broadsheet newspapers and official reports.

In addition, he is the author or sole editor of four books:

The Innocent and the Criminal Justice System (2013, Palgrave Macmillan);

Claims of Innocence: An Introduction to Wrongful Convictions and How they Might be Challenged (2011, University of Bristol) (with Gabe Tan);

The Criminal Cases Review Commission: Hope for the Innocent? (Editor, 2009, Palgrave Macmillan);
Rethinking Miscarriages of Justice (2007, Palgrave Macmillan).

Michael has given over 20 refereed conference papers on his work at the conferences of all of the major academic associations in his field at home and abroad (British Society of Criminology, European Society of Criminology, Socio-Legal Studies Association, Society of Legal Scholars, European Group for the Study of Deviancy and Social Control). He has also given invited presentatations on his work at numerous other universities around the country on teaching programmes and staff seminar series.

Clinical Legal Education - "Innocence Projects"

Michael pioneered the introduction of a new "access to justice" initiative and a new form of Clinical Legal Education (CLE) into UK universities when he established the first "innocence project" law clinic in the UK in January 2005. As Founder and Director of the University of Bristol Innocence Project (UoBIP) he supervises investigations into claims of factual innocence by alleged wrongful convictions by students working on a pro bono basis and with assistance from criminal appeal lawyers and forensic scientists when appropriate.

Michae l is also the Founder and Director of the Innocence Network UK (INUK), which he established in the University of Bristol Law School in September 2004. INUK is an umbrella organisation that facilitates and supports pro bono investigations into alleged wrongful convictions by member innocence projects for applicants who have exhausted the available legal aid and the normal criminal appeals system. INUK currently 26 member innocence projects in UK universities and one in a corporate law firm. INUK communicates the findings of its work and research on wrongful convictions to policy makers, criminal justice system agencies, the legal community and wider members of the public. INUK’s overall aim is to improve the criminal justice system by learning lessons from wrongful convictions and to effect reforms to prevent them from occurring in the future.

On an international level, Michael is a Innocence Network Board Member, a 21 strong team who together oversee the work of the Innocence Network. Based in the US, the Innocence Network is an affiliation of organisations around the globe dedicated to providing pro bono legal and investigative services to individuals seeking to prove innocence of crimes for which they have been convicted and working to redress the causes of wrongful convictions. The Innocence Network has 49 members in almost all US States and has members in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, South Africa and the UK.


  • –present
    Reader in Sociology and Law, University of Bristol