Professor Robert Canton

Job: Professor in Community and Criminal Justice

Faculty: Health and Life Sciences

School/department: School of Applied Social Sciences

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, LE1 9BH.

T: N/A




Personal profile

  • Probation
  • Prison
  • Punishment
  • Sentencing
  • Human Rights
  • Crime
  • Criminology.

Research group affiliations

Criminal Justice, Policy and Practice

Publications and outputs

  • Should there be a right to rehabilitation?
    dc.title: Should there be a right to rehabilitation? Canton, Robert dc.description.abstract: Chapter explores what might be involved in deciding a 'right to rehabilitation'
  • Theories of Punishment
    dc.title: Theories of Punishment Canton, Robert
  • Why Punish?
    dc.title: Why Punish? Canton, Robert dc.description.abstract: Three ways of understanding the question ‘Why punish?’ are distinguished. Answers commonly invoke three purposes and justifications – that punishment is the way to reduce offending, that it rights the wrong, and that it vindicates the victim. All these accounts are challenged. There is particular attention to the concept of rehabilitation and an explication of what this analysis entails for the work of probation. It is concluded that there is a need to develop a broader philosophy of responding to wrongdoing with attention to the implementation of punishment and to the ‘end state’ where the wrongful act may be considered resolved. dc.description: The article, based on the McWilliams Memorial lecture in June 2018, has a short response from Prof Nicola Padfield. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
  • Probation and the philosophy of punishment
    dc.title: Probation and the philosophy of punishment Canton, Robert dc.description.abstract: With the important exception of critiques of rehabilitation, philosophers of punishment do not often have probation as their focus. This (relative) neglect is mutual: when probation policy makers, scholars and practitioners reflect upon their own work, practices and values, the insights of the philosophy of punishment are rarely among their chosen resources. This paper attempts to make some connections and to point to some ways in a fuller engagement might shed a different light on some familiar questions in the philosophy of punishment and enrich thinking about the work of probation. dc.description: The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
  • Censure, Dialogue and Reconciliation
    dc.title: Censure, Dialogue and Reconciliation Canton, Robert
  • Probation
    dc.title: Probation Canton, Robert; Dominey, Jane
  • Why Punish? An Introduction to the Philosophy of Punishment
    dc.title: Why Punish? An Introduction to the Philosophy of Punishment Canton, Robert dc.description.abstract: (Book) A study of the origins, purposes and ethics of punishment
  • Social Justice, Human Rights and the Values of Probation
    dc.title: Social Justice, Human Rights and the Values of Probation Canton, Robert
  • Why do people commit crimes?
    dc.title: Why do people commit crimes? Canton, Robert
  • Troublesome Offenders, Undeserving Patients: The Precarious Rights of Mentally Disordered Offenders
    dc.title: Troublesome Offenders, Undeserving Patients: The Precarious Rights of Mentally Disordered Offenders Canton, Robert dc.description.abstract: This chapter affirms the importance of trying to establish an ethical basis for working with ‘mentally disordered offenders’ in the context of academic and policy debate that is often centred around ideas of effective treatment and system management. It is argued that a respect for human rights constitutes the most secure foundation not only for ethical policy and practice, but also for an approach that can contribute to solutions and to positive outcomes – both in terms of meeting the needs of mentally disordered offenders and in reducing reoffending. Rights are here understood as ethical entitlements and, although law is essential in defending and promoting these rights, it is also necessary to find a perspective from which to critique the law. The initial account suggests that human rights include both liberties (freedom from oppression and cruelty, for example) and claims (demands on government to foster circumstances in which people may thrive). The daunting question of what are the rights of mentally disordered offenders is explored by considering each of a paradoxical set of rights that have been attributed to them. It is argued that examination of these putative rights exposes some assumptions about (and ambivalent attitudes towards) mental disorder. It is likely that cultural influences and stereotypes influence reactions towards people believed to be mentally unwell and that these reactions may subvert or distort policy objectives. An understanding of the social origins of mental distress, including the effects of social disadvantage and exclusion, is set against the dominance of medical conceptions which have dominated policy debate. The chapter concludes by asserting claim rights, as well as the safeguards of liberty rights, and making connections between the entitlements of mentally disordered offenders and the ‘Good Lives Model’ which is now influential in desistance research. In the context of contemporary economic difficulties and the volatile politics of crime and punishment, the fundamental importance of establishing a secure ethical foundation for policy and practice must be asserted.


 Click here for a full listing of Rob Canton's publications and outputs.

Research interests/expertise

  • Probation
  • Prison
  • Penal Policy
  • Criminology
  • Mental health
  • International / comparative criminal justice studies.



Membership of professional associations and societies

  • Howard League
  • British Society of Criminology
  • European Society of Criminology.

Conference attendance

European Society of Criminology (Ljubljana) presentation ‘Good Lives, Good Societies’ September 2009.

Consultancy work

  • Co-opted Expert to Council of Penological Cooperation, Council of Europe (2007 - 10)
  • Adviser to the Council of Europe in developing European Probation Rules (2008 – 2010)
  • Specialist Adviser to House of Commons Justice Select Committee Inquiry into the role of the probation service (2010 - 11)

Current research students

  • Susan Atherton
  • Kim Sadique (2nd supervisor)
  • Hannah Begum
  • Jacqui Norton (2nd supervisor)

Externally funded research grants information

Place, Social Situation and Burglary in Nottinghamshire, Safer Nottinghamshire Board / Nottinghamshire Police, Inquiry into reasons for high levels of burglary in Nottinghamshire, March - September 2009 (PI).

Offender Learning in the Community, City and Guilds Centre for Skills Development, attempt to hear the “user voice” of offenders accessing – or maybe failing to access – learning services through probation, April - November 2010 (PI).

ISTEP - Implementation Support for Transfer of European Probation Sentences (PI) – EU funded project in partnership with National Offender Management Service, May 2011 - May 2013.

4SWEEP Erasmus Life-long Learning programme (PI) Erasmus funded in partnership with several European universities – October 2011 - October 2013.

Professional esteem indicators

Editorial boards/reviewing activities: journal, date from, date to, role

  • British Journal of Community and Criminal Justice (2003 - )
  • European Probation Journal (2009 - )
  • EuroVista (editor)
  • European Probation Journal (2009 - )
  • Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • Regular reviewer of book proposals for Willan / Routledge Palgrave Macmillan Policy Press

Professor Canton has reviewed for:

  • Ghent University Research Group
  • NIHR
  • Canadian
  • Free University Brussels

Case studies

Professor Canton's research work has been mainly conceptual rather than empirical. The area where his work would be most likely to have an impact is probation in the assessment period.  Professor Canton has written several papers that seek to clarify the purpose and significance of the tasks of probation. This has had international (European) significance and impact.

Rob Canton

Probation Working With Offenders Rob Canton

Dictionary of probation and offender management