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Dr Michael Naughton

Dr Michael Naughton

Dr Michael Naughton
BSc, Ph.D.(Bristol)

Reader in Sociology and Law

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

+44 (0) 117 954 5323



Dr Michael Naughton is a Reader in Sociology and Law across the Law School and the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS). He holds a BSc (Hons) (First Class) in Sociology and a PhD in Sociology from the University of Bristol. In 2003-04, he was an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology at Bristol. He was appointed to a Lectureship in 2004, promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2007 and to a Readership in 2012.

Dr Naughton has broad interdisciplinary teaching and research interests, straddling the sociology of law, criminology, criminal justice, criminal appeals, penology and evidence law, and has researched and written extensively on “miscarriages of justice” and the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of the innocent.

He is the author or editor of four books: 

  • The Innocent and the Criminal Justice System (2013); 
  • The Criminal Cases Review Commission: Hope for the Innocent? (Editor, 2012 [2009]);
  • Rethinking Miscarriages of Justice: Beyond the tip of the iceberg (2012 [2007]); and,
  • Claims of Innocence: An introduction to wrongful convictions and how they might be challenged (2011).

In addition, he has 60 further publications in peer-reviewed academic journals, edited book collections, professional journals, broadsheet newspapers and official reports, many of which are freely available on his personal website:

Between 2005-2015, Michael was Founder and Director of the first innocence project in the UK dedicated to investigating alleged wrongful convictions, University of Bristol Innocence Project (UoBIP). This saw him pioneer the introduction of a new form of clinical legal education in the UK based on the innocence projects that originated in the United States. Under his supervision, student volunteers investigated alleged wrongful convictions on a pro bono basis, with input from criminal appeal lawyers and forensic experts where appropriate. In terms of “successes”, the University of Bristol Innocence Project (UoBIP) contributed to the first ever case referrals by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (R v Hall, 2010) and the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (Beck v Her Majesty’s Advocate, 2013) back to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) and the High Court of Justiciary, respectively, following submissions/applications by a UK innocence project. It assisted two over tariff life-sentenced prisoners maintaining innocence to be progressed to open conditions. It, also, finally settled several claims of factual innocence by alleged victims of wrongful conviction and imprisonment when they were proven to be factually guilty. UoBIP became the template for the setting up of over 30 innocence projects in other universities around the country (see below).

Between 2004-2015, Michael was Founder and Director of Innocence Network UK (INUK), which saw him facilitate the setting up, and support the subsequent running, of a national network of total of 36 Innocence Projects in the UK dedicated to investigating and overturning wrongful convictions. This included an innocence project in a corporate law firm, which was also a global first. In practical terms, Michael directed a team of staff and students from the University of Bristol Innocence Project to assess all applications to INUK for assistance from alleged victims of wrongful convictions for eligibility, referring over a hundred cases from almost 1,000 full applications (as well as thousands of other enquiries) to member innocence projects for further investigation. With INUK colleagues, Michael organised two annual training conferences a year over the life of the organisation, as well as several additional research symposiums and training events. In December 2014, Dwaine George’s murder conviction was overturned, making him the first case overturned by an innocence project in the UK. It followed an INUK referral to a member innocence project (Cardiff Law School) to follow up on lines of further investigation identified by UoBIP staff and students working for INUK at the University of Bristol.

In terms of public engagement and knowledge transfer, Michael has given invited oral and written evidence on his research to the UK Parliamentary Justice Committee, two invited presentations in the UK House of Commons, an invited submission to the UK Ministry of Justice, an invited presentation to 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.

Michael has also given 50 invited presentations on issues relating to his academic research to public, professional and third sector conferences.

In addition, he has given over a hundred interviews in the media on a range of criminal justice issues, including for 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, The Guardian, The Independent, The Times and The Telegraph. I have also been interviewed for newspapers and appeared on television and radio programmes in Norway, Armenia, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland.

Major impacts of Dr Naughton's research include influencing:

  • new rules of disclosure and access to evidence post-conviction for alleged victims of wrongful convictions under reforms of the existing Attorney General’s Guidelines;
  • a new regime for how prisons deal with prisoners maintaining innocence under reforms to Prison Service Order (PSO) 4700 ; and,
  • a new right of appeal against certain qualifying alleged wrongful convictions in South Australia in response to the Criminal Cases Review Commission Bill for South Australia.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. Research is assessed every 6 or 7 years. The REF 2014 was the first exercise to assess the impact of research outside of academia. Almost 7,000 Impact Case Studies were submitted to REF 2014 by universities in the UK. Dr Naughton's work was submitted by the University of Bristol as an Impact Case Study, ‘Innocence: assisting victims of wrongful imprisonment’, and was one of three which collectively were ranked as 2nd in the UK by the Sociology Panel.

Dr Naughton has received a number of awards and prizes including:

  •  Attorney General’s Pro Bono Award
  • Bristol Law Society Annual Pro Bono Award
  • University of Bristol Public Engagement Award
  • Michael Young Prize, sponsored by the ESRC and The Young Foundation
  • Radical Statistics Group Critical Essay Prize


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

Admin: SPAIS Ethics Committee.

Supervision: Dr Naughton welcomes applications from prospective PhD students in any of his teaching and research areas.

Selected publications

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Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

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