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Centre for Law, Justice and Society Research Clusters

Contemporary Issues in Criminal Policy (CICP) 

Members of the CICP are critically engaged in research which addresses a wide range of significant social issues arising within criminal law and criminal justice. These include the gathering of evidence in criminal investigations, sentencing, punishment and penal policy, the problem of selective incarceration, and the intersections between criminal justice and other forms of justice particularly in relation to the role played by emotions such as remorse, guilt and blame. The ethical legitimacy of criminal law is also explored in relation to, for example, the right not to be unfairly criminalised, the need for protection of privacy in the context of emerging technologies, and the normativity of consent in criminal law. A significant body of work on mental condition defences with particular reference to insanity, diminished responsibility, and the cognate doctrine of unfitness to plead has influenced both policy and law reform. Important research is also undertaken on sexual violence, domestic violence and coercive control; examining policy and practice nationally, internationally and locally. Human trafficking and the policing of modern slavery constitutes another area in which CICP members, through collaboration with local partners and external agencies, have influenced significant changes to current policy and practice in the UK. This cluster has a strong record of external grant capture, including prestigious awards from the Law Commission, the CPS, the ESRC, the European Union, the United Nations and a selection of national and local Authorities. 

Critical Interdisciplinarities: Transcending Legal Boundaries (CID) 

Research by CID members is inherently interdisciplinary and intersects with, for example, philosophy, sociology, the humanities, anthropology, theology, psychology, economics, politics and international studies. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions are a key focus in researching the goals of inclusivity, equality, diversity and social justice. To this end, concepts, contexts and societal ‘big questions’ – from postcolonial law and theory, poverty and social exclusion, to the role of emotions in the judicial process – are interrogated from a critical perspective. Research undertaken includes a critical reading of the ‘environment’ in international law, drawing on feminist political ecology, sociology and critical theory. The possibility of ethically-responsible technologies is investigated in response to the competing interests of privacy and innovation, as well as in the context of ecological modernisation and the conservation of biodiversity. In the absence of a coherent critical AI theory, the wider implications of technological advancements for humanity are explored through the lens of dystopian fiction, philosophy and creative writing. Current members engage in collaborative research with the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility (CCSR) on technology, law and society, and with the Centre for Urban Research on Austerity (CURA) on food injustice. 

International Law, Transnational Governance and Global Justice (TGGJ) 

In recognition of the increasing significance of transnational governance along with the emergence of new forms of global rights and conflicts, research undertaken within this cluster seeks to influence transnational policy discourse on the structure of, and potential for, global governance and justice. It aims to foster innovative approaches to global policy and political economy, and new thinking about international legal and institutional arrangements. A broad range of methodological and interdisciplinary approaches are applied to emerging threats and challenges in the areas of international and European human rights law, inernational humanitarian law, international and European environmental law, international economic law and law reform relating to Small Island States (SIDs). Research themes include environmental degradation, food security, climate change, migration, environmental health law and light pollution, the rights of children and child soldiers, the regulation and protection of individuals in armed conflicts, also international relations, humanitarian law in relation to UN peacekeeping.  Members also engage in collaborative research on international economic legal norms and how they shape the bargaining space between states, investors and other stakeholders in relation to extractive industries. International insolvency and financial law, law reform in developing and emerging economies, along with corporate social responsibility, and directors’ duties and research that focuses on the Global South – particularly law and development in Africa – are further areas of activity and initiatives. 

Marginalised Voices: Gender, Power and Equality (GPE) 

Members of the Marginalised Voices cluster conduct research into the promotion of equality, protection of minority rights, and to inform policy and practice on gender-based violence. This includes a significant body of research on sexual and domestic violence with a particular focus on coercive control, and many public engagement activities are organised through DMU’s Sexual Violence and Domestic Violence Research Network. Critical race theory and feminist legal theory is applied to research which addresses female disempowerment, focusing on the promotion of equality and protection of minority rights in higher education. In the area of employment law, structural problems emerging as a consequence of the current enforcement regime – particularly in relation to employment status – are scrutinised against a failure to protect the rights of low-paid and vulnerable workers. An ecofeminist theoretical framework is used to interrogate the conceptual link between the exploitation of the environment and subordination of women. Postcolonial feminist and critical race perspectives are used to critique legal and judicial attitudes towards minority women in the UK, especially regarding British citizenship deprivation cases, and immigration law and policy. The legal status of polygamous marriages in the UK, and the wider question of transitional relationship norms, normative influences and autonomy, are investigated in the area of gendered experiences of family law and legal processes. Many of these projects are supported by substantial external funds from a wide range of local, national and international agencies.