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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


My research is engaged with sociological, legal and political issues and aspects of justice and injustice as it relates to the workings of the criminal justice system and the stated primary aim to protect the innocent and convict the guilty. It has analysed existing, and contributed new, definitions of miscarriages of justice according to whether they were caused intentionally ("abortions of justice") or unintentionaly ("miscarriages of justice"); quantified the routine and mundane nature of miscarriages of justice as evidenced by official statistics of successful appeals against criminal conviction; distingusihed the many causes (individual and structural) of injustice/miscariages of justice at the pre-trail stage (police and prosecution) and the extensive harmful consequences of wrongful convictions (social, psychological, physical and financial) to individual and secondary victims and society as a whole. It has shown the accute limitations and failings of the entire post-conviction system (appeal courts, prison and parole systems, CCRC and statutory compensation scheme) to address and/or remedy claims of factual innocence by alleged victims of wrongful conviction and imprisonment. In these analyses and critical evaluations, I have utilised the zemiological approach to frame and highlight the harmful consequences of miscarriages of justice and wrongful conviction and imprisonment and the social thought of Michel Foucault and Zygmunt Bauman to aid and frame my explanations. 

I am currently working on alleged allegations of child sexual abuse.


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

In addition, I am the author or sole editor of four books:

Many of my publications are freely avaiable on AcademiaEdu at:

To circulate my research, I have given over 20 refereed conference papers on my research at the conferences of all of the major academic associations in my field at home and abroad, including 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. I have also given invited presentations on my research findings at numerous other universities around the country for teaching programmes and staff seminar series.

Knowledge Transfer and Public Engagement

I have been 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. This includes giving oral evidence on my research to the UK Parliamentary Justice Committee, two invited presentations in the UK House of Commons, 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.

In addition, I have given more than 40 invited presentations on issues relating to my work to professional, public and third sector conferences, including 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 (CALA), Progressing Prisoners Maintaining Innocence (PPMI),  Miscarriages of Justice Organisation (MOJO), United Against Injustice (UAI), Falsely Accused Teachers and Carers (FACT).

Impact of Research

I always aim to be impactful and to make a practical and meaningful difference to alleviating the social problems that are identified in my research. Major impacts of my research include:

  • Pioneering a new "access to justice" pro bono initiative and a new form of Clinical Legal Education (CLE) into UK Higher Education when I established the first "innocence project" law clinic in the UK, the University of Bristol Innocence Project (UoBIP).
  • As Director of the University of Bristol Innocence Project ( 2005 to 2015), contributed 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. 
  • Founder and Director of Innocence Network UK (INUK) (September 2004 to May 2016), which I established to further develop and extend an innocence project movement in the UK by (1) educating more widely on the causes and harmful consequences of the wrongful conviction of innocent people and how they might be challenged; and, (2) providing mentoring and training support to colleagues in other universities 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. Under the auspices of Innocence Network UK (INUK), 36  innocence projects were established in the UK between 2004 and 2016, 35 in universities and 1 in a corporate law firm, to investigate and overturn genuine wrongful convictions. Casework successes of this project include the identification and referral of R v Dwaine George to a member innocence project, the first case in British legal history in which a conviction (for joint enterprise murder) was quashed by the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) following an investigation by an innocence project.  
  • Influenced a new way of dealing with prisoners maintaining innocence under Prison Service Order (PSO) 4700. Adopting my 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 underpinned by my 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.
  • Invited expert oral evidence to the Parliamentary Justice Committee on the workings of the Criminal Cases Review Commission in January 2015. Click here for a transcript on the Parliament website.

 Media work

I have given over a hundred interviews to newspapers, television and radio programmes on issues relating to my research on the limitations and flaws of the criminal justice and criminal appeal systems and the Criminal Cases Review Commission as they relate to the causation or overturn of wrongful convictions 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.

Awards and Prizes 

I have received numerous awards and prizes for my research and wider activities including (1) Michael Young Prize, sponsored by The Young Foundation and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), for ground-breaking research on the challenges faced by prisoners maintaining innocence; (2) Attorney General's Pro Bono Committee Award for my work in establishing Innocence Network UK (INUK) and my collaborations with colleagues in other universities in assisting them to set up their own innocence projects (3) Bristol Law Society Award in recognition of my 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 my 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. 


Reader in Sociology and Law with a split role between the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS) and the Law School. BSc (Hons) in Sociology (First Class) and PhD in Sociology from the University of Bristol. Doctoral thesis was entitled: 'Miscarriages of Justice: Exception to the Rule?'. 2003, Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Sociology, University of Bristol. Appointed to a Lectureship at Bristol in 2004, progressed to Senior Lecturer in 2007 and was promoted to a Readership in 2012.


Coordinator of the following units:

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

I welcome proposals for PhD supervision in the general area of criminology, criminal justice and penology. I am especially interested in proposed research associated with any aspect of miscarriages of justice/wrongful conviction and imprisonment. 

Selected publications

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Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

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