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Professor of Sociology, University of Essex

I teach and research across social policy, socio-legal studies, social history and criminology at the University of Essex in the UK. I also work as a policy consultant with government, local authority and voluntary sector organisations. My current research explores victims' access to justice in the past and present criminal justice system and involves a team of historians, lawyers and criminologists. Two books, a number of articles and three large datasets drawing on this work will be published next year.

In related work, I have co-authored (with Maurice Sunkin and Ruth Lamont) a new report reviewing the constitutional powers of the Victims' Commissioner for England and Wales commissioned by the current Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird. The overall aim of this report, and the wider body of work underpinning it, is to enhance the criminal justice system by clarifying and enhancing victims' entitlements within it.

My recent co-authored book, Young Criminal Lives: Life Courses and Life Chances from 1850 (written with crime historians Barry Godfrey, Heather Shore and Zoe Alker) investigates the long-term impact of 19th and early 20th century youth justice interventions. We used digital record linkage to establish 'what happened next' to a large cohort of delinquent, difficult and destitute children passing through England's early youth justice systems. We raise questions about the uses of historical evidence in contemporary evidence-based policy making.

I am also working on another set of projects that focus on a pressing present-day challenge - that of recurrent care proceedings in the English child protection system. I am a partner, with colleagues from Research in Practice and Lancaster University, in a Public Health England funded initiative to establish a national community of practice to further service development and sustainability in this field. I recently co-edited a special issue of Societies on innovative practice in child social care, building on earlier work featured in the Ministry of Justice's 'good practice guide'.

As a social historian, I have presented BBC history series , 'Shopgirls: The True Story of Life Behind the Counter' tracing the history of Britain's shopworkers and consumer cultures from 1860 to the present, and 'Servants: The True Story of Life Below Stairs', a history of domestic servants from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. This series drew in part on my first book, Bad Girls in Britain, in which I explore the part played by domestic service training in the reform of delinquent, destitute and neglected girls. I have also contributed to historical and cultural programmes for Channels 4 and 5, including most recently 'Edwardian Britain in Colour'.


  • –present
    Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Essex


Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts