Criminal justice

Our work in criminal justice

Contact with the criminal justice system can have a significant impact on people’s chances in life, particularly for those who are very young or who are vulnerable or disadvantaged, for example by homelessness, substance misuse and mental health problems. At the same time, many of those from vulnerable groups are over-represented within the criminal justice system, as both victim and perpetrator.

Youth justice is our main focus in criminal justice research. Through our research, we explore the factors that lead to young people coming into contact with the justice system, what could have been done to intervene earlier, and the extent to which their interaction with the system can help (or hinder) them to stop offending and improve their educational outcomes and wider life chances.


Our team

  • Ash Patel
    Programme Head, Justice

  • Director, Justice

Our impact in criminal justice

  • Research from the Prison Reform Trust has been influential in the campaign for reform of the controversial law of joint enterprise, whereby defendants can be convicted of the same offence even where they have different levels of involvement in the incident. The report informed a Parliamentary briefing and subsequent debate, as part of a body of evidence revealing the extent of miscarriages of justice under the law.

  • Our work with the Michael Sieff Foundation to secure implementation of the recommendations of the Carlile Report on the effectiveness of the Youth Court has had some early impact. For example, the Bar Standards Board has introduced standards for barristers dealing with youth cases, and we are funding the Centre for Justice Innovation to pilot problem-solving courts for children.

  • Research we co-funded with the NSPCC led to improvements in policy and practice for young witnesses in criminal proceedings, as well as revealing areas in which the state is failing in its commitment to enable young witnesses to give their best evidence. This work, presented in our Measuring Up? reports was updated by the NSPCC in 2019.

Criminal justice projects

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View other justice topics

We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.


COVID-19 response

Nuffield-funded social scientists are conducting COVID-19 research in real-time, to capture people’s experiences of the social, cultural and economic impacts of the pandemic.