Faculty of law blogs / UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

Centre Academics Visit NLU Delhi


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Staff from the Centre for Criminology have recently returned from a visit to the National Law University, Delhi. Conceived as a way of initiating longer-term collaboration between the Centre and colleagues in India, the centerpiece of the visit was a two-day workshop entitled When Criminal Justice Goes Wrong.

India- and UK-based researchers spoke on a number of issues over the two days. Presentations from the Indian perspective covered topics such as wrongful arrests, access to the criminal justice system, the death penalty, and sexual offences. Most, as the title of the workshop suggests, were concerned with problems in the Indian criminal justice system across these and other issues.

Oxford Criminology with their academic partners at NLU Delhi
Presentations from Centre staff also concerned different aspects of the criminal justice system, many mixing concerns over the functioning the CJS with wider theoretical or methodological issues.

Carolyn Hoyle's presentation revealed what happens to applications for post-conviction review when those in England and Wales who consider themselves to have been wrongfully convicted, and have exhausted direct appeal processes, apply to have their case assessed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC). It drew on her empirical study of decision-making within the CCRC (with Mai Sato), which aims to understand how discretion operates at the individual and institutional level. The focus here was on the ways in which the CCRC investigates its cases, in response to criticisms that the organisation is too ‘desk bound’ and legalistic in its approach to investigations. Hoyle demonstrated that there is much variability among caseworkers and Commissioners in their approach to investigations 'beyond the bundle', and in their normative stance on how much investigative work can be justified, given the limited resources at the disposal of the CCRC and the queues of applications awaiting their attention.

Sarah Turnbull presented a paper on waiting and uncertainty in immigration detention, drawing on data collected as part of a larger research project on the in-detention and post-detention experiences of (im)migrants in the UK. Her presentation highlighted how the material and structural conditions of detention shape how detainees ‘do time’, exacerbating the difficult aspects of waiting for vitally important decisions about their futures.

Alpa Parmar presented a paper on security policing between Delhi and London, in which she described the securitization of Muslim groups in India and the UK, based on a pilot study conducted in Delhi and London in 2011. The process of security policing and securitization act as a comparative and post-colonial theoretical lens to understand the ways in which border control, ordinary policing and counter-terrorism policing are increasingly enmeshed, in both places. In extending this thesis, her paper went on to outline a research agenda for future collaborative research between India and the UK.

Criminology staff in Delhi presenting on When Criminal Justice Goes Wrong

Ian Loader offered a critical review of existing models of private security regulation and proposed a new framework for aligning the private security more closely with the public interest. His paper, co-authored with Adam White, outlined a regulatory framework intended to help align markets in security goods and services with considerations of the public good, in order that they support rather than undermine the democratic promise of modern security.

Finally, Ben Bradford’s paper might well have been titled ‘when Criminal Justice research goes wrong’. Presenting findings from the ScotCET study (a project run in conjunction with Sarah MacQueen at the University of Edinburgh), he described how the intention behind the project was to replicate a QCET, an RCT of procedural justice in road traffic policing. The experimental intervention was intended to boost perceptions of procedural justice, satisfaction with police, and police legitimacy among those who received it. Instead, however, where the intervention had an effect this was negative – rather than enhance trust and satisfaction, these were undermined. Among other things, this result shows how difficult it is not only to replicate experimental studies from one context to another but also to get the intervention ‘right’.