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Dr Michael Naughton

Dr Michael Naughton

Dr Michael Naughton
BSc, PhD(Bristol)

Reader in Sociology and Law

Office 3.26
Wills Memorial Building,
Queen's Road, Clifton BS8 1RJ
(See a map)

+44 (0) 117 954 5323


Michael's research takes a highly interdisciplinary approach to the phenomenon of "miscarriages of justice". It  considers, critically, the sociological, legal and political aspects of the causation of miscarriages of justice and/or the obstacles and barriers to potentially meritorious miscarriages of justice being overturned. It also considers how the limitations and failures of the systems of redress can compound the extensive forms of harm and victimisation associated with miscarriages of justice to primary and secondary victims and even society as a whole. A particular focus of his research and wider activities beyond the university is on the challenges faced by alleged victims of wrongful conviction and imprisonment claiming factual/actual innocence.



Awards and Prizes

Michael has received numerous awards and prizes for his research and wider activities including (1) Michael Young Prize for ground-breaking research on the challenges faced by prisoners maintaining innocence; (2) Attorney General's Pro Bono Committee Award for his work in establishing Innocence Network UK (INUK) and his collaborations with colleagues in other universities in assisting them to set up their own innocence projects (3) Bristol Law Society Award in recognition of his work in achieving the first ever referral by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission of a case worked on by an innocence project in the UK back to the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh; and (4) University of Bristol Engagement Award for his extra-curricular efforts in setting up the University of Bristol Innocence Project, the first such pro bono project in the UK dedicated to assisting factually innocent victims of wrongful convictions and imprisonment.



Michael has over 50 publications in peer-reviewed academic journals, edited book collections, articles in professional journals, magazines, broadsheet newspapers and official reports.

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

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 presentations on his work at numerous other universities around the country on teaching programmes and staff seminar series.


Innocence Projects and Clinical Legal Education

Notably as a sociologist, Michael is credited with pioneering the introduction of a new "access to justice" pro bono 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. As Director of the University of Bristol Innocence Project(UoBIP) for a decade (January 2005 to May 2014), he supervised 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, also giving their expertise and time for free. Successes of this project included contributing to the first ever case referrals by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (R v Hall, 2011) and the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (Beck v Her Majesty's Advocate, 2013) back to the Court of Appeal and the High Court of Justiciary, respectively, following submissions/applications by a UK innocence project. University of Bristol Innocence Project (UoBIP) was also the test bed that became the blueprint for the many other innocence projects that Dr Naughton has facilitated under the auspices of Innocence Network UK (INUK).


Innocence Network UK (INUK)

Outside of the University of Bristol, Michael is the Founder and Director of Innocence Network UK (INUK), which (1) educates more widely on the causes and harmful consequences of the wrongful conviction of innocent people and how they might be challenged; (2) provides mentoring and training support to colleagues in other universities, law firms and third sector organisations on setting up and successfully running innocence project-style enterprises aimed at providing pro bono casework assistance to alleged innocent victims of wrongful conviction and imprisonment; and, (3) undertakes casework on alleged cases of wrongful conviction on a pro bono basis. Under the auspices of Innocence Network UK (INUK), Dr Naughton has so far helped to establish 36  innocence projects in the UK, 35 in universities and 1 in a corporate law firm to investigate and overturn genuine wrongful convictions. This has resulted in many applications to the Criminal Cases Review Commission by innocence projects on behalf of clients who applied to Innocence Network UK (INUK) claiming that they were innocent victims of wrongful conviction and/or imprisonment and who were referred to the innocence project by Michael and Innocence Network UK (INUK). R v Dwaine George was one such notable case. It was the first case in British legal history in which a murder conviction was referred by the Criminal Cases Review Commission and quashed by the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) following an application by an innocence project.   

To support this work, Michael published on clinical legal education in Law TeacherLaw Society Gazette, The Legal Executive, ScoLAG (Scottish Legal Action Group) and Directions: UK Centre for Legal Education and given papers at CLEO (Clinical Legal Education Organisation) and UKCLE conferences in the UK and Ireland.


Knowledge Transfer and Public Engagement

Michael is committed to the knowledge transfer of his academic research to audiences and user groups outside of academia. This has seen him invited to consult with Members of Parliament, Parliamentary Committees and criminal justice system policy makers domestically and internationally and to give presentations to a host of other specialist conferences and events. He has given oral evidence on his research to Parliament, two invited presentations in the House of Commons and an invited presentation at the US. Department of Justice in Washington D.C., as well as several other invited consultations and conference papers in the United States, China, Armenia, Italy, Norway and several in Ireland.

In terms of public engagement domestically, Michael has given more than 40 invited presentations on issues relating to his work to professional, public and third sector conferences (LawWorks (Solicitors Pro Bono Group), PILnet (Public Interest Lawyers Network), Association of Prison Lawyers, Parole Board of England and Wales, Independent Monitoring Board for Prisons, Law Society for England and Wales, South West, Law Society of Wales, Law Society of Ireland, Criminal Appeal Lawyers Association, Progressing Prisoners Maintaining Innocence,  Miscarriages of Justice Organisation, United Against Injustice, Falsely Accused Teachers and Carers).


Media work

Michael is a regular contributor to public debates on issues relating to the flaws of the criminal justice system and wrongful convictions and has given over a hundred interviews to newspapers, television and radio programmes, including: The Guardian, The Independent, The Times, BBC 1, BBC Panorama, BBC Rough Justice, BBC News 24, ITV, GMTV, HTV, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC World Service, and numerous local television, radio and newspaper interviews.

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Impact of Research

Michael's work was submitted as an "Impact Case Study" to the Research Exercise Framework (REF) 2014 by the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS), Bristol. Major impacts of Michael's research include:

  • Pioneered the introduction of innocence project law clinics to the UK when he established the University of Bristol Innocence Project in 2005, which became the test bed and blueprint for the other innocence projects that he facilitated under the auspices of Innocence Network UK (INUK).
  • Influenced a new way of dealing with prisoners maintaining innocence under Prison Service Order (PSO) 4700. Adopting Michael's published research on the on the need to distinguish between prisoners maintaining innocence who are not innocent and those that may be innocent, prison and probation staff in prisons in England and Wales are now instructed to recognise, officially, that some prisoners maintaining innocence are, in fact, innocent and to deal with them on this basis rather than seeing them all as merely "deniers".
  • Invited expert submission to the Ministry of Justice ‘s Triennial Review of the Criminal Cases Review Commission (2012).
  • Invited expert submission on the work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission to the Parliamentary Justice Committee which contributed to a full public consultation (2014). Click here for submission.
  • Invited expert submissions to the Legislative Review Committee’s inquiry into the South Australia Criminal Cases Review Commission Bill on the limitations of the CCRC in assisting applicants who claim factual innocence, which resulted in a new right of appeal for alleged victims of wrongful convictions rather than the setting up of a CCRC-style body. Click here for the Report.
  • The third party intervention at the Supreme Court in the case of R (Nunn) v Chief Constable of Suffolk Constabulary on behalf of Innocence Network UK (INUK) was written and submitted by Dr Naughton (and Gabe Tan) and underpinned by his research on the operations of the Criminal Cases Review Commission in dealing with alleged victims of miscarriages of justice. It contributed to the clarification of, and positive reforms to, the existing Attorney General's rules on disclosure and access to evidence post-conviction for alleged victims of wrongful convictions. Click here for more information.





Dr Michael Naughton is a Reader in Sociology and Law with a split role between the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS) and the Law School. He obtained both his BSc (Hons) in Sociology (First Class) and PhD in Sociology from the University of Bristol. His doctoral thesis was entitled: 'Miscarriages of Justice: Exception to the Rule?'. In 2003, he was an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Sociology, University of Bristol. He was appointed to a Lectureship at Bristol in 2004, progressed to Senior Lecturer in 2007 and was promoted to a Readership in 2012.


Michael teaches across SPAIS and the Law School on the following units in the general area of the sociology of crime and justice and criminology.

  • A Sociology of Crime and Justice - SOCI30047 (U/G Sociology. Unit Coordinator)
  • Criminology - LAWD30100 (U/G Law, Unit Coordinator)
  • Crime, Justice and Society - LAWD20034 (U/G Law)

Michael welcomes proposals for doctoral supervision in the general area of criminology, criminal justice and penology. He is especially interested in proposed research associated with any aspect of miscarriages of justice and the wrongful convictions and imprisonment of the innocent. 

Selected publications

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Recent publications

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