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Personal profile

Research interests

Dr Michael Naughton is a socio-legal academic specialising in miscarriages of justice, false allegations and the wrongful conviction and/or imprisonment of innocent victims who has received numerous awards and prizes for his work (click here).

Michael is the Founder and Director of Empowering the Innocent (ETI), a research project aimed at criminal justice system reform.

Under the auspoces of Empowering the Innocence (ETI), Michael has so far set up four subprojects: CCRC Watch, False Allegations Watch (FAW)Innocence Art and Empowering the Innocent TV (ETI TV).

  • CCRC Watch features articles which centre on applications that are rejected by the CCRC, not because applicants are not innocent but, rather, because they are not deemed to have the so called 'fresh' evidence required to fulfil the 'real possibility' test and have their case referred back to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division). CCRC Watch also features research articles on the wider limitations of the CCRC in dealing with applications from alleged innocent victims of wrongful convictions.
  • False Allegations Watch (FAW) features articles which centre on alleged false allegations, charges or wrongful convictions for sexual offences. False Allegations Watch (FAW) also features articles on the wider context within which false allegations of sexual offences can occur, including the legislation, policies and/or cultures that can act to facilitate or enable such false allegations to be made.
  • Innocence Art features art works that have been produced in response to the issues of false allegations, wrongful convictions and/or wrongful imprisonment, including poetry, songs, paintings, drawings, photographs, official documents and letters.
  • Empowering the Innocent TV (ETI TV) communicates the work of ETI and its subprojects with videos and podcasts of alleged wrongful conviction cases and other issues relevant to the work of ETI.

Together, these subprojects highlight the limitations and/or outright failings of the existing structures, procedures and cultures of the criminal justice system and the existing systems for overturning wrongful convictions with the aim of fostering public support as a precursor to criminal justice system reforms.

Michael is also known for setting up the first innocence project in the UK, the University of Bristol Innocence Project (2005-2015), which saw him spearhead 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 claims of innocence by alleged victims of wrongful convictions on a pro bono basis, with input from criminal appeal lawyers and forensic experts where appropriate (click here).

He also Founded and Directed Innocence Network UK (INUK) (2004 – 2015), 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 (click here).

Academic qualifications

  • 2003: PhD in Sociology, University of Bristol. Thesis title: 'Miscarriages of Justice: Exception to the Rule?'
  • 1996: BSc (Hons) in Sociology (First Class), University of Bristol.

Academic career

  • 2012: Reader in Sociology and Law, Law School and School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS), University of Bristol.
  • 2007: Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Law, Law School and the Department of Sociology, University of Bristol.
  • 2004: Lecturer in Sociology and Law, Law School and Department of Sociology, University of Bristol.
  • 2003-2004: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Sociology, University of Bristol.
  • 2001-2003: Graduate Teaching Assistant, Department of Sociology, University of Bristol.

Professional activity

  • Since September 2019: Founder and Director, Empowering the innocent (ETI) (click here for information).
  • 2014–2015: Board Member, Innocence Network (click here for more information).
  • 2005-2015: Founder and Director, University of Bristol Innocence Project (UoBIP) (click here for more information).
  • 2004-2015: Founder and Director, Innocence Network UK (INUK) (click here for more information).
  • Between February 2004 – May 2013. Dr Naughton was a Founding Steering Group Member, Progressing Prisoners Maintaining Innocence (PPMI), which lobbies on behalf of prisoners maintaining innocence. ‘Progressing Prisoners Maintaining Innocence’ was the title of a public presentation that Michael gave on the challenges facing life-sentenced prisoners maintaining innocence at the invitation of Bruce Kent (PPMI’s first Chair). It led to the group being set up and gave PPMI its name (Click here for more information).
  • July 2003 – May 2013: Treasurer, Standing Conference for the Arts and Social Sciences (SCASS).
    July 2002 – July 2003: Steering Group Member, Standing Conference for the Arts and Social
    Sciences (SCASS).

Awards and Prizes

  • Attorney General’s Pro Bono Award: ‘Best Contribution by a Team of Students.’
  • Attorney General’s Pro Bono Award: ‘Law School Category.’
  • Michael Young Prize, sponsored by the ESRC and The Young Foundation.
  • Bristol Law Society Annual Pro Bono Award.
  • Inaugural University of Bristol Public Engagement Award.
  • Inaugural Radical Statistics Group Critical Essay Prize.
  • Evelyn Millar Barstow Prize for Outstanding Performance in Undergraduate Sociology, University of Bristol.


Michael teaches in the general area of crime and justice, always adopting a critical enquiring approach to his subject matter. A creative and innovative teacher who employs a critical pedagogy approach to highlight the power structures at the heart of notions of crime, justice and punishment in society, he has had teaching leadership roles in his subject areas throughout his academic career at the University of Bristol. Significantly, Michael devised and created the major units in his field that he coordinates or has coordinated in both the Law School (Crime, Justice and Society, 2004-2021, and Criminology, since 2015) and in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS) (A Sociology of Crime and Justice, since 2003) at the University of Bristol.


Michael’s research straddles sociology, criminology, law, philosophy and psychology.

It centres on successful appeals against criminal conviction and/or claims of factual innocence by alleged victims of false allegations and/or wrongful conviction and/or imprisonment unable to overturn their alleged wrongful convictions within the existing arrangements.

He has researched and written extensively on the criminal justice system to define and emphasise the likely scale, causes and forms of harm associated with miscarriages of justice, false allegations and/or wrongful convictions and the limitations and/or outright failings of the Parole Board, Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) and the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) in dealing with claims of factual innocence by alleged innocent victims of wrongful conviction and/or imprisonment.

Another feature of his researches is an evaluation of the construction and deployments of forms of criminal justice system knowledge. This has included conceptual analyses of how ‘truth’, ‘justice’, ‘innocence’, ‘fairness’, ‘integrity’, ‘harm’ and ‘victim’ are understood and operationalized by competing criminal justice discourses and how they shape individual thinking and public attitudes and provide consent and legitimacy to governmental exercises of criminal justice system power.

The practical concern at the heart of his researches is always to identify any lessons that might be learned and translated into legislative and/or policy reforms that might redress the harms caused to innocent victims of wrongful convictions and/or prevent the wrongful conviction and/or imprisonment of innocent victims from occurring in the future.

Social theorists that Dr Naughton has utilised in his research include Michel Foucault, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Zygmunt Bauman and Sigmund Freud


Michael 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 over 70 further publications in peer-reviewed academic journals, edited book collections, professional journals, broadsheet newspapers and official reports, many of which are freely available on this website (click here).

Academic presentations

To share his research within academia, Michael has given over 20 refereed conference papers on his researches to leading academic conferences relating to his fields of interest, including to the annual conferences of the British Society of CriminologyEuropean Society of CriminologySocio-Legal Studies Association (SLSA)Society of Legal Scholars (SLS) and the European Group for the Study of Deviancy and Social Control (click here for details).

Public Engagement

Michael has also given more than 50 invited presentations on issues relating to his research to professional, public and third sector conferences in the UK, including for 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 (IMB), 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) and Falsely Accused Teachers and Carers (FACT) (click here for details).


Michael has been interviewed widely in national newspapers and television and radio programmes on his work and a range of criminal justice issues, including for 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, as well as international newspapers, radio and television programmes in Norway, Armenia, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland (click here for details).


Michael has 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 his 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., several other invited consultations and conference papers in the United States, China, Armenia, Italy, Norway, Canada and several in Ireland.

These activities have contributed to several major reforms at home and abroad, including 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 the Bill for a new right of appeal for alleged victims of wrongful convictions in South Australia (click here further details).

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. Michael’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.

Michael was also invited by both the Law School and the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS), University of Bristol, to develop his impacts for the Research Exercise Framework (REF) 2021.


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