Crime and Justice

The Crime and Justice Research Group is multi-disciplinary and collaborative. Our membership includes staff and postgraduate students with a range of research interests and expertise related to crime and criminal justice both theoretically and applied. The group’s research activities are structured thematically around four key areas contested concepts; critical social theory; criminal justice: system and process and organised crime. While our research activities span a range of projects our key areas inform our work, ensuring that methodology and analysis is informed by a critical investigation of criminological theory and applied research in the areas of crime and justice. Our work is underpinned by an appreciation of, and engagement with, interdisciplinary, comparative and cross-cultural perspectives. The group’s activities also contribute directly to the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR)a partnership between the Universities of Glasgow, Stirling, Edinburgh, Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian. 

Justice, Civic Engagement and the Public Sphere: Mapping Democratic Transformations in Scottish Society

Dr Margaret MallochDr Bill Munro, Ms Ashley Rogers

This study (which began in 2015) aims to examine the ways in which a re-invigorated public sphere shapes concepts of social justice and active citizenship. It examines the extent to which civic participation is sustained following the 2014 Referendum and explores the relationship between concepts of ‘justice’ and citizenship, and the institutional structures of governance (civil society) which sustains them. It draws upon our previous work which involved an examination of concepts of ‘justice’, ‘public sphere’ and ‘civil society’ (within and beyond nation states) and discourses surrounding these in terms of social cohesion and critical reflection through an analysis of processes of criminalisation within Central and Eastern European societies (Munro, 2013: Goodall, Malloch and Munro, 2013). The recent Referendum which took place in Scotland in 2014 provides a significant opportunity to examine the application of these key concepts (‘justice’, ‘public sphere’ and ‘civil society’) in a notably different context – and links in with our ongoing work on the ‘construction of problematic identities’. In contrast to the often, major upheavals which were a feature of Central and Eastern European state transformations, responses to calls for change in Scotland were marked by democratic participation and civic engagement which for many, took precedence over the eventual result, as a marker of social engagement.

We aim to examine the impact of political engagement and activity on the formation and reimagining of the public sphere, particularly in relationship to the formation of public opinion, people’s self-understanding as citizens and conceptions of social justice; in particular the role of ‘grass-root’ organisations in shaping concepts of justice.  The study is due for completion in November 2016.

Constructing ‘Problematic’ Identities

Dr Margaret MallochDr Niall Hamilton-SmithDr Bill Munro, Ms Jennifer Hoolachan

Emerging from work that was ongoing at the University of Stirling and with colleagues across SCCJR (Community Impact of Public Processions; Offensive Behaviour at Football Matches), our work on the construction of ‘problematic identities’ has developed to consider the construction and reconstruction of identities in relation to legislation, policy and criminal justice practices.  Our engagement with practitioners, policy-makers and academics resulted in a successful application to the SCCJR Capacity Building Fund which, along with support from the School of Applied Social Science at the University of Stirling, allowed us to host a seminar in December 2016.  The key objectives of the seminar were:

  1. To consider the ways in which some individuals and groups become ‘problematised’ and subject to regulation as a result of their attachment to cultural and/or national constructs, while others may feel that their security is threatened by the same cultural and/or national constructs;
  2. To explore the gap between law and rights-based approaches to policy within specific cultural contexts;
  3. To examine the antinomies and contradictions surrounding ‘civic society’ and explore the efficacy of civic society approaches to challenging and addressing ‘intolerance’.

These objectives were derived from discussions and debates surrounding the meanings of identity and nationality which were heightened in the lead up to, and in the aftermath of, the Scottish Independence Referendum in September 2014.  Building on these themes, this ongoing project aims to unpack the ways in which identities are defined within cultural and policy contexts and how they have resulted in problematic depictions, and consequent regulation, of individuals and groups.  These issues are particularly reflected in the criminal justice system, raising concerns about processes of criminalisation, surveillance and access to justice.  

Crime, Critique and Utopia

Dr Margaret MallochDr Bill Munro,

The concept of utopia covers a variety of meanings and interpretations which differ in content, form, political alignment and intention, however, one of the key characteristics of utopian politics lies in the imagining of political systems radically different from existing contemporary ones. This ongoing and developing work which began in 2010 explores utopia as a means of reimagining the constraints on theory and practice within critical criminology and continues through ongoing debate with colleagues within SCCJR and internationally, within the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control (2016).​

We have applied this work, which is a continuous thread in most of our developing work – in informing theory, practice and resistance, in a variety of ways which have included:

  • The publication of an edited book Crime, Critique and Utopia published by Palgrave Macmillan as part of their Critical Criminological Perspective Series in 2013;
  • A Pecha Kucha presentation - ‘Finding ‘Justice’ in Utopia’, Utopias, Futures and Temporalities: Critical Considerations for Social Change, Bristol Zoo 19-20 May 2015 (organised by University of Bristol) (with Sarah Armstrong).
  • Guest editorship of Scottish Justice Matters (March 2016) Reimagining Punishment and Justice;
  • Contributions of articles to the forthcoming first edition of Justice, Power and Resistance, the journal of the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control.

Human Trafficking: The Complexities of Exploitation

Dr Margaret Malloch, and Dr Paul Rigby

Following the completion of a successful programme with the Scottish Universities Insight Institute, we recently published an edited collection on human trafficking. The book aims to highlight the complexities that feature in ‘human trafficking’ and how it is defined, understood and responded to.  Despite legislative developments and the introduction of national and international interventions, definitions of this form of exploitation, estimates of its extent and nature, and responses to victims and perpetrators, have thus far been limited. Furthermore, aspirations to prioritise a human rights model within a wider discourse of ‘vulnerable people’ on the move are frequently overtaken by law enforcement and border control priorities.  This work set out to go beyond political and media discourse to examine the competing dialogues surrounding human trafficking. 


More about our past and current projects can be found here




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