Dr Michelle Donnelly

Lecturer in Law

Law Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Stirling, FK9 4LA

Dr Michelle Donnelly

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About me

About me

Dr Michelle Donnelly is a Lecturer in Law and the Director of the BA Law programmes at Stirling. Her interests lie in child and family law and criminal law and justice. She holds an LLB (Hons) and a PhD in Law from the University of Strathclyde, as well as a Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education from the University of Stirling. Before joining Stirling as a Lecturer, she was appointed as a Teaching Associate at Strathclyde Law School where she taught at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. She previously held posts as a Research Associate at Strathclyde Law School and a Research Assistant in the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research within the Faculty of Social Sciences at Stirling.

Dr Donnelly's research explores compulsory state intervention in the lives of children and young people. Her major area of focus is the Scottish children’s hearings system, which brings together her interests in family and criminal law. Her PhD research examined the characteristically unitary nature of the children’s hearings system as an integrated youth care and justice forum. She has contributed to a number of funded projects examining aspects of children's hearings practice, including research on: reporter decision-making and the grounds of referral; the role of safeguarders in children's hearings proceedings; and, joint referrals to procurator fiscals and children's reporters in respect of serious offences allegedly committed by children and young people. She gave evidence to “Kilbrandon Again”, an inquiry into Scotland's youth care and justice system, commissioned by the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland and Action for Children. More recently, she has been working with the British Academy on its Childhood Policy Programme - a multidisciplinary project examining childhood policy throughout the United Kingdom. As part of this, she was commissioned by the British Academy to write an article on Scottish Youth Justice and invited to speak at a panel discussion event on youth justice policy.

Dr Donnelly is a Fellow of Advance HE, an Associate of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research and Member of the Socio-Legal Studies Association.

Other Project

The Public Interest and the Child's Best Interests: Jointly Reported Children in Scotland
University of Strathclyde and The Carnegie Trust

The Role of the Safeguarder in the Children's Hearings System
University of Strathclyde and Scottish Government


Dr Donnelly is interested in how the law responds to youth and vulnerability. Her work aims to improve legal responses to children in need of compulsory state intervention, whether due to care and protection concerns or offending behaviour. Her research mainly focusses on child law, broadly construed as including: youth justice, child care and protection and children’s rights. Her wider interests relate to family law and criminal law and justice more broadly.

Dr Donnelly's work is predominately socio-legal in nature. She adopts doctrinal and empirical methodologies and has expertise in qualitative research methods. She is particularly interested in decision-making processes and practices in child welfare interventions. She has conducted research with a diverse range of participants from social workers to safeguarders, panel members to children’s reporters and procurator fiscals to sheriffs.

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Dr Donnelly holds a postgraduate qualification in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She has taught across the law curriculum and developed teaching specialisms in family and criminal law. She leads the BA Law programmes at Stirling, including BA (Hons) Law, BA (Hons) Business Law, BA (Hons) Law and Politics, Law and Spanish, and Law and Marketing. Her current teaching includes: Youth Justice; Family Law; Child Law; Law Dissertation.