Dr Michael Naughton

Dr Michael Naughton

Dr Michael Naughton
Reader in Sociology and Law

Wills Memorial Building, Queens Road, Clifton
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Telephone Number (0117) 954 5323

School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies

University of Bristol Law School

Personal profile

Dr Michael Naughton is a Reader in Sociology and Law across the Law School (click here) and the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS) (click here).

He has researched and written extensively on ‘miscarriages of justice’ and the wrongful conviction and/or imprisonment of the factually innocent.

His general approach is to distinguish between how the criminal justice process is supposed to work in theory and how it works in reality through a series of connected critical socio-legal analyses. This has included analysis of the structures, procedures and/or working cultures of the police, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), prisons, Parole Board, criminal appeals system and the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), to explore the extent they align with lay notions of truth and social justice.

Another feature of his work is to evaluate the construction and validity of forms of criminal justice system knowledge. This has included analyses of how core concepts such as ‘truth’, ‘justice’, ‘innocence’, ‘fairness’, ‘integrity’, ‘harm’ and ‘victim’  are understood and operationalized by competing criminal justice discourses, which are crucial in shaping individual thinking and public attitudes and in providing consent to governmental exercises of power in response to defined social and legal problematics.

Dr Naughton is the author or editor of four books: The innocent and the criminal justice system (2013, Palgrave Macmillan) (click here); Rethinking miscarriages of justice: Beyond the tip of the iceberg (2012 [2007], Palgrave Macmillan) (click here); The Criminal Cases Review Commission: Hope for the innocent? (Editor, 2012 [2009], Palgrave Macmillan) (click here); and, Claims of innocence: An introduction to wrongful convictions and how they might be challenged (with Tan, G., 2010, University of Bristol/LexisNexis) (click here).

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 (click here)

Between 2005-2015, Dr Naughton was Founder and Director of the first innocence project in the UK dedicated to investigating alleged wrongful convictions, the University of Bristol Innocence Project (UoBIP) (see here and here), which 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 (free for public good) basis, with input from criminal appeal lawyers and forensic experts where appropriate. In terms of “successes”, the University of Bristol Innocence Project contributed to the first ever case referrals by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (see R v Simon John Hall) and the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (see William Beck v Her Majesty’s Advocate) back to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) and the High Court of Justiciary, respectively, following submissions or 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. The University of Bristol Innocence Project (UoBIP) became the template for the setting up of over 30 innocence projects in other universities in England, Scotland and Wales (see below).

Between 2004-2015, Dr Naughton was Founder and Director of Innocence Network UK (INUK) (click here), which saw him facilitate the setting up, and support the subsequent running, of a national network with a 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, Dr Naughton 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. He also organised two annual training conferences a year over the life of the organisation, as well as several additional research symposiums and additional training events (click here). In December 2014, Dwaine George’s murder conviction was overturned, making it the first case overturned by an innocence project in the UK. It followed Mr George’s application to INUK, which was referred to a member innocence project, Cardiff (click here), to follow up on lines of further investigation identified by University of Bristol Innocence Project staff and students working for INUK at the University of Bristol.

In terms of public engagement, 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 (click here). He has given around 50 invited presentations on issues relating to his academic research to public, professional and third sector conferences (click here to go to his CV). 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. And, he has also been interviewed for newspapers and appeared on television and radio programmes in Norway, Armenia, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland (click here) .These activities have contributed to several major reforms domestically and internationally. This includes reforms to the prison rules on the treatment of prisoners maintaining innocence and to the Attorney General’s guidelines on disclosure and access to evidence post-conviction for alleged victims of wrongful convictions who seek to mount an appeal or make an application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission. He also influenced a new right of appeal for alleged victims of wrongful convictions in South Australia (click here).

In recognition of the impact of his research and public engagement activities, Dr Naughton's work was submitted by the University of Bristol as an Impact Case Study to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) (click here)  in 2014. The REF was introduced as a system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions, which it does 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. Michael’s case study, ‘Innocence: assisting victims of wrongful imprisonment’ (click here), was one of three submitted to the Sociology Panel by the University of Bristol which were collectively ranked as 2nd in the UK.

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.

Latest publications

  1. Naughton, M, 2019, ‘Rethinking the competing discourses on uncorroborated allegations of child sexual abuse’. British Journal of Criminology, vol 59., pp. 461-480
  2. Naughton, M, 2018, ‘Foreword (Stand Against Injustice)’. in: Michelle Diskin Bates (eds) Stand Against Injustice: The untold story of the family of Barry George, wrongly convicted for the murder of Jill Dando. Malcolm Down Publishing
  3. Huff, CR & Naughton, M, 2017, ‘Wrongful conviction reforms in the U.S. and UK: Taking Stock’. in: E Plywaczewski (eds) Current Problems of the Penal Law and Criminology. 7th Edition., pp. 482-505
  4. Naughton, M, 2016, ‘Appeals Against Wrongful Convictions’. in: K Corteen, S Morley, P Taylor, J Turner (eds) A companion to crime, harm and victimisation. Policy Press, Bristol
  5. Naughton, M, 2016, ‘Miscarriages of justice, wrongful convictions and victims’. in: K Corteen, S Morley, P Taylor, J Turner (eds) A companion to crime, harm and victimisation. Policy Press, Bristol, UK
  6. Naughton, M, 2014, ‘Gerry Conlon’s life is a reminder that wrongful convictions happen everywhere’. The Conversation.
  7. Naughton, M, 2014, ‘Criminologizing wrongful convictions’. British Journal of Criminology, vol 54., pp. 1148-1166
  8. Naughton, MJ, 2013, ‘The Innocent and the Criminal Justice System: A Sociological Analysis of Miscarriages of Justice’. Palgrave Macmillan
  9. Naughton, M & Tan, G, 2013, ‘Report of the Innocence Network UK (INUK) Symposium on the Reform of the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC)’. LexisNexis
  10. Naughton, M, 2012, ‘No champion of justice’. in: J Robins (eds) Wrongfully Accused: Who is Responsible for Investigating Miscarriages of Justice?. Waterflow, London

Full publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

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