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Law and Society

The Law and Society Signature Research Area engages critically with the challenges facing contemporary society at the intersection of law and society. The group brings together a broad range of academics who adopt an interdisciplinary approach to the study of law, focusing on law in its social, cultural, historical and/or theoretical contexts. 

Law and Society promotes and encourages innovative research of international quality focusing on socio-legal, empirical and theoretical analyses of laws, legal institutions and processes and the impact of social, political, economic and scientific influences on law, legal professions and legal activities. It specifically promotes sociological and socio-legal methodology including empirical research methods in legal science. The group encourages inter-disciplinary to collaboration on solutions to pressing social injustices, and incubates people, ideas and projects which engage critically with the challenges facing contemporary society at the intersection of law and society.

Membership includes established and experienced academic staff, early career researchers, PhD students and members of the local judiciary.

Research Highlights

Research into international disputes on water rights by Professor Alistair Rieu-Clarke, is helping to provide new insights into regional conflicts around the globe. The Professor has served as a legal advisor to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe responsible for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Illustrative of our collaborative work, Professor Christopher Newman is involved in pioneering work on the governance framework for human activity in outer space. Professor Newman worked with Northern Space and Security as part of a consortium providing horizon scanning for the UK Space Agency. This led to the Law School signing a memorandum of understanding with a leading space debris removal company to help to change the way in which space is managed and incorporate sustainable practices into our activities in space. 

Professors Ray Arthur, Nicola Wake and Dr Rachel Dunn have used new methodologies to engage with young offenders which has led to an international collaboration with the Auckland Institute of technology in New Zealand. Prof Arthur, Dr Dunn and Carole Burrell have also secured funding from the British Academy to engage with young people in mental health hospitals. This research will aim to give a voice to a hard to reach and previously under-researched population of vulnerable young people.  

Kayliegh Richardson and Ana Speed’s research focuses on how cost-saving measures in the family justice system have compromised the effectiveness of the government’s strategy to tackle gender-based violence (GBV) through multi-agency collaboration, by adversely impacting the ease with which victims of GBV are able to access legal advice and representation, gather evidence and engage specialist support services. The research has led to a range of initiatives which have increased provision for pro bono legal advice for victims of GBV, developed the capacity of support workers to assist victims throughout legal proceedings and resulted in direct changes to regional policing practices, including the development of a police disclosure protocol. Those initiatives have been instrumental in transforming the response to multi-agency working in the North East of England and beyond. 

The Law and Society research group brings together many of the Law School’s best researchers who work in distinct research interest groups based around various specialist themes. The groups cover a rich and interesting range of topical areas, from international human rights and mental health to the internet and fashion law. Our members undertake quality research, supervise PhD students and co-ordinate events in their areas of expertise. Collectively, they are dedicated to advancing the systematic and critical study of law and legal problems in modern and contemporary society. Their key interests are in legal thought, regulatory and policy development and civil society including issues of privacy and data protection, family justice and addressing inequalities. Outputs include, not only academic research, but also policy papers, briefings, evidence and consultancies. 

Full details of our research interest groups and members can be accessed below. 


Events & activities 

Members of the Law & Society group hold regular seminars, guest lectures and events featuring leading academics. A selection of our recent activities includes:

26 January 2018

The role of the legal profession as a catalyst of social change: embedding the child’s voice in child law and policy

Professor Shannon is Deputy Director of Education at the Law Society of Ireland. He is a solicitor, children’s rights advocate and leading authority in child law and family law. He has held a variety of roles including Chairman of the Adoption Board and its successor the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI). In 2006 he was appointed as the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection. The Rapporteur is entitled to consult with Departments of Government and the Ombudsman for Children about any legislative initiatives designed to enhance child protection. He has been re-appointed by successive Governments to this role as an independent legal expert. In 2010, he was appointed by the Government to chair and co-write the Independent Child Death Review. The Independent Child Death Review Group (ICDRG) examined the deaths of 196 children who died in state care between 2000 and 2010. Professor Shannon has been selected by the European Expert Organising Committee as the Irish expert member of the Commission on European Family Law. He has also been involved in judicial training on all aspects of international family and child law. He has written or co-written 30 books, 36 articles in refereed journals and 42 articles in professional magazines on the area of child law and family law. He is also the founding editor of the Irish Journal of Family Law. He has been the recipient of the Canon Maurice Handy Award for the period January 2006 to December 2007. He is also the recipient of an Award by the Chamber of Commerce for Outstanding Contribution to Children and the Special Merit Award at the 2013 Irish Law Awards. In 2017, he was presented with the DSBA award of Outstanding Contribution to Legal Scholarship.

1 November 2017

Guest lecture by Professor Bill Rolston of the Transitional Justice Institute, Ulster University entitled ‘Taking the Visual Seriously – Mural-Hunting: Politics, Propaganda & Taking to the Streets in the Name of Research’.

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30 October 2017

Judge Nicola Shaw visited the Student law Office to speak with law students.


5 October 2017

Guest lecture by Professor Joanne Conaghan, Head of Bristol University Law School on ‘Policing, Professionalism & Liability for Negligence’. 

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3rd July 2017

On behalf of the Law & Society Signature Research Area and Centre for Environmental and Global Justice (MDRT) I am pleased to announce that on Monday 3rd July Justice Brian J Preston SC Chief Judge Land and Environment Court of New South Wales  will be visiting the School of Law, Northumbria University, to deliver the following talk:

Title: ‘Access to Justice, Human Rights and Judicial Decision Making in Environmental Matters.’

12 May 2017

‘Through a Legal Lens’ conference convened by Dr Clare Sandford-Couch.

A conference investigating inter-disciplinary perspectives on themes around images or crime and criminals, law & lawyers.  It provided a forum for discussion, debate and the presentation of research from a number of disciplines including law, literature, history & visual culture.  World-leading academics who presented at the conference included Professor Linda Mulcahy (LSE) and Professor Les Moran (Birkbeck). 

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Research interest groups within Law & Society

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Offence to Sentence: A Sexual Violence Victim’s Journey

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