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Areas of Research Activity

Central to the work of the CCJVS is a commitment to top-quality, doctrinal research on substantive criminal law and the rules of criminal evidence and procedure. The CCJVS boasts leading Irish experts in this area, many of whom have published the seminal texts on Irish criminal law, evidence and procedure. Excellent examples include Professor Shane Kilcommins’, Criminal Law in Ireland: Cases & Commentary (co-authored with Campbell and O’Sullivan) and Professor Paul McCutcheon’s Criminal Liability (co-authored with McAuley). Centre members also regularly publish their research of specific aspects of the law in this area in both national and international peer-reviewed academic journals. CCJVS members lecture on all aspects of criminal law, evidence and procedure within the School of Law as well as delivering training in this area to external stakeholders such as the Law Society of Ireland and An Garda Síochána. Further, members actively contribute to the development of criminal law and policy in Ireland via submissions on law reform to the Department of Justice and Law Reform Commission, as well as collaborative submissions and lobbying efforts which are conducted in partnership with criminal justice stakeholders and non-governmental organisations. We are committed to ensuring that our research has a meaningful impact on Irish criminal law and policy, fostering mutually beneficial strategic partnerships with key stakeholders to ensure that our work responds to the needs of the Irish criminal justice system and can positively influence its future development.

Key CCJVS researchers in this area: Professor Shane Kilcommins, Professor Paul McCutcheon, Dr Alan Cusack, Dr Ger Coffey, Dr Susan Leahy, Ms Jennifer Schweppe, Dr Michelle Stevenson

PhD candidates in this area: Grainne Jennings, Andrew Lacey, PJ Ryan, John Walsh.

The centre has a very strong focus on victim studies with a number of researchers working actively in this area. In 2015, Dr Susan Leahy organised a one-day conference, ‘Victims’ Rights: An Agenda for Change’, which was attended by over 100 delegates from all criminal justice stakeholders, as well as representatives from key victim support groups. At this conference, the CCJVS was formally rebranded to recognise the centre’s strength in this area. Researchers in the centre have worked on national and international funded research projects on victims’ rights. Professor Shane Kilcommins has worked on projects funded by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the National Disability Authority, which examined to the rights of victims with disabilities in the criminal justice process. Professor Kilcommins also worked on an EU-funded project with Dr Andrea Ryan and Dr Susan Leahy that examined aspects of the identification and referral processes surrounding victims of crime in Ireland in the aftermath of the implementation of the Victims’ Directive. Dr Eimear Spain and Professor Shane Kilcommins have also conducted funded research with Cosc in relation to domestic abuse. Shane, Eimear and Susan are co-authors (with Dr Kathleen Moore-Walsh) of The Victim in the Irish Criminal Process, published by Manchester University Press in 2018.

Members of the Centre serve on the boards of relevant victim support and representative organisations, as well as providing pro bono consultative and advice services for both non-governmental organisations and other criminal justice stakeholders. The research conducted by centre members in this field has influenced law reform and policy development. For example, in 2017, Dr Susan Leahy, together with adjunct professor Ellen O’Malley Dunlop and the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre were influential in the introduction of a statutory definition of consent into Irish sexual offences law (section 48 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017).

Key CCJVS Researchers in this area: Professor Shane Kilcommins, Dr Alan Cusack, Dr Johnny Connolly, Dr Susan Leahy, Dr Andrea Ryan, Dr Eimear Spain.

PhD researchers in this area: Stephen Strauss-Walsh, Carolanne Lynch, Michelle McCarthy.

The CCJVS has a strong research focus in examining offending behaviour from a socio-legal and criminological standpoint, exploring key themes in offender management both prior to entering the formal criminal justice system and upon release from prison. Our researchers are examining the practical application of policy making in areas like youth justice, Garda diversion projects and post-release offender management, as well as exploring the ramifications of community-based punishments and programmes and the treatment of particular groups such as those with sexual offence convictions. There is a focus upon examining processes of reintegration and desistance, as well as research exploring the legal and social implications of having a criminal record in modern Ireland.

Key CCJVS researchers in this area: Dr Margaret Fitzgerald-O’Reilly, Dr Johnny Connolly, Dr Sean Redmond, Mr Eoin O’Meara-Daly, Dr Catherine Naughton, Mr John Reddy, Dr Michelle Stevenson.

PhD researchers in this area: Lorraine Barron, Beth Duane, Eoin Guilfoyle, Michelle McCarthy. 

A relatively new and emerging field of research, hate studies examines the causes and consequences of hate crime as well as the means by which hate crime can be combated. Thus, it spans many of the areas of specialisation of the CCJVS, incorporating analyses, for example, of the form and utility of legislation as a means to combat hate crime, the manner in which hate is evidenced in both the investigation and prosecution of a crime, the European and international frameworks that impact on national contexts, and the impact that hate has on its victims.

The Hate and Hostility Research Group (HHRG) is affiliated to the CCJVS and led by Jennifer Schweppe, also a member of the CCJVS along with Dr Amanda Haynes of the Department of Sociology. The HHRG is the centre for the study of hate crime in Ireland, and much of the leading literature on hate crime in an Irish context comes from the University of Limerick. The aims of the HHRG are fivefold:

  1. To contribute to a deeper understanding of the specificities of hate crime and hate incidents from a theoretical perspective
  2. To foster an appreciation of the relevance of intersectionality to hate crime and hate incidents with a view to developing critical mass among the stakeholders
  3. To generate a body of empirical research in an area which is under-researched in an Irish context
  4. To contribute to evidence-based policy and legislative developments in the area
  5. To understand and develop civic and educational means to combat hate crime

The HHRG works closely with civil society organisations in progressing policy and legislative change in the area of hate studies. UL research in the area of hate crime has been funded by the European Union and the Irish Research Council. As the centre for excellence in the area of hate studies in Ireland, UL has close links with the International Network for Hate Studies, and hosted the second biennial conference of the Network, ‘The Politics of Hate: Community, Societal and Global Responses’ on campus in May 2016.

Key CCJVS researchers in this area: Ms Jennifer Schweppe

Criminal justice scholars are often drawn to traditional ‘real crime’ (homicides, violent assaults, organised crime, sexual offences, requirements of mens rea and actus reus, and general defences) whilst ignoring regulatory offences that are often enforced by specialist agencies. They have tended to be preoccupied with the punitive regulation of the poor―a project closely tied to a police-prisons way of knowing―that focuses on ‘crime in the streets’ rather than ‘crime in the suites’. The narrow exclusivity of this approach is a mistake because regulatory criminal law is becoming increasingly influential, not least because criminalisation is now more than ever viewed as a panacea for almost any social problem. More and more we are witnessing the increasing and extensive use of regulatory strategies by the Irish state. In areas such as competition law, environmental protection, health and safety law, and consumer and corporate affairs, there has been a move towards using criminalisation as the last-resort strategy when compliance through negotiation and monitoring has failed.

CCJVS researchers have considerable expertise in the area of regulatory crime, having published nationally and internationally on this topic. In this particular area of research, CCJVS members work closely with their colleagues in the International, Commercial and Economic Law (ICEL) Research Group which is also based in the School of Law. The availability of expert researchers from both criminal justice and commercial law backgrounds to work on this challenging area situates the School of Law in UL as a unique centre of excellence for the development of top-quality, innovative research outputs in this area. 

Key CCJVS researchers in this area: Professor Shane Kilcommins; Dr Eimear Spain

PhD candidates in this area: William Poutch

While the Irish criminal justice system is the primary focus of the Centre's activities, particular attention is devoted to how Ireland contributes to and is affected by the European Convention on Human Rights and European Law, including international cooperation in criminal justice matters. Over the past two decades, the work of the Centre has embraced a broad spectrum of themes, including European and International Criminal Justice. Members of the Centre frequently engage as the Irish national experts in EU-wide criminal justice projects funded by the European Commission. Three members of the Centre, Dr Andrea Ryan (project leader), Prof. Shane Kilcommins and Dr Susan Leahy, recently completed a project on the Victims Directive funded by the European Commission "Developing Directive - compatible practices for the identification, assessment and referral of victims" (JUST/2014/JACC/AG/VICT/7406). Previous European Commission funded projects include a study on the prospects for the creation of a European public prosecutor (2011) and Feasibility study on the creation of a database on investigations and prosecutions (2003).

Key CCJVS Researchers in this area: Dr Andrea Ryan; Dr Ger Coffey

The CCJVS is proud to include the Research Evidence into Policy, Programmes & Practice (REPPP) project group members amongst its membership. The presence of this group of researchers within the centre situates it as a centre of excellence for this important criminal justice research. Based in the School of Law, the Research Evidence into Policy, Programmes and Practice (REPPP) project was established in September 2016 to contribute to the development of evidence informed youth crime policy in Ireland. The REPPP project engages in primary research, evidence review, programme evaluation, practice consultation and collaboration with other third level institutions. REPPP research output is intended to be practical and to assist in the advance of reform of youth justice, ensuring a focus on better outcomes for young people and communities. The research team consists of Prof. Sean Redmond, Eoin O’Meara Daly, John Reddy, Dr Catherine Naughton and Deirdre Fullerton.

The following research projects are included in the REPPP work programme 2017-2019:

  • The Greentown study which examines the role that criminal networks play in influencing children’s offending behaviour
  • Improving the measurement of effectiveness in the Irish Youth Justice System
  • The development of a model of evidence review to assist youth crime policy-decision making in Ireland
  • Evaluation of Ireland’s first bail supervision programme to reduce the need for remanding children to detention

Key CCJVS researchers in this area: Dr Sean Redmond, Dr Catherine Naughton, Eoin O’Meara Daly, John Reddy, Deirdre Fullerton.