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Theorising miscarriages of justice

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

Naughton, M. (2022) ‘Theorising miscarriages of justice.’ Islamic Perspective. Published by the Institute for Critical Social Theory. Volume 28. Winter: 93-116.


This article is premised on the straightforward notion that innocent victims of miscarriages of justice who are unable to overturn their wrongful convictions undermines the legitimacy of the criminal justice system, signalling an urgent need for transformation in the interests of justice. It acknowledges the contribution made by the existing discourses on miscarriages of justice, but argues for a distinction between such descriptive forms of information based on analyses of individual cases of successful appeal against criminal conviction and social theoretical analyses that can explain the power relations that characterise and underpin the structures and workings of the criminal justice system. In so doing, it provides a Foucauldian account and critique of current theoretical orthodoxies in understanding miscarriages of justice from Durkheimian and Marxist perspectives. This highlights the apparent ideological stance of the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), the body set up to assist alleged victims of miscarriages of justice to overturn their convictions, as well as certain miscarriage of justice practitioners and intellectuals themselves, who might be characterised as quasi-Durkheimian for their defence of the existing arrangements, which can and do fail innocent victims. The overall aim is to contribute to the project of theorising miscarriages of justice to provide a better understanding of the rationale and workings of the existing mechanisms for overturning alleged wrongful convictions at the post-appeal stage in the hope that they might be more effectively challenged.

Keywords: Miscarriages of justice; Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC); Emile Durkheim; Karl Marx; Michel Foucault.

Article available in Volume 28, Winter, at:

Dr Michael Naughton is the Founder and Director of Empowering the Innocent (ETI). He currently holds a Readership in Sociology and Law at the University of Bristol. Click here for more about Michael.

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