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James Thornton

Dr James Thornton

Lecturer/Senior Lecturer

Nottingham Law School

Staff Group(s)
Academic Division Nottingham Law School staff


Dr James Thornton is a Lecturer in Law, Course Leader for the full-time Graduate Diploma in Law course and a member of the Centre for Rights and Justice. His chief area of interest is criminal law, which he teaches on the undergraduate LLB and postgraduate GDL programs. He carries out research projects on criminal law and criminal justice issues and supervises undergraduate, masters and doctoral student research projects. He welcomes enquiries from potential doctoral students (PhD or Prof Doc) in his areas of research expertise.

Career overview

James read Law as an undergraduate at the University of Southampton, graduating with 1st class honours. He was then awarded a Vice Chancellor’s Scholarship in order to research his PhD there. At Southampton, he was also a Research Assistant for criminal justice and medical law projects, taught criminal law and equity & trusts, and jointly ran the Law School’s successful housing and employment pro bono legal advice service.

Research areas

James’ research interests are in criminal law and criminal justice - especially (given his pro bono experience) issues of access to justice. He focuses on the impact of law and legal policy changes on the work and experiences of people in the justice system - mainly through empirical methods, such as interviews and focus groups. His PhD examined the impact of cutting criminal legal aid fees on the work of defence lawyers and he is conducting similar further research in this area.

He has also worked on larger joint research projects concerning penal policymaking, sexual offending, medical technology and the recruitment of judges.

External activity

James occasionally works at the local criminal courts and is also non-executive director of a sports charity (British Student Taekwondo Federation).

Outside of academia, he holds a blackbelt in Taekwondo and is a former British National and British Student National sparring champion. Although he does continue to fight nationally (and sometimes internationally) in competitions, he is begining to accept that his knees might be getting a bit old for it.


'Is Publicly Funded Criminal Defence Sustainable? Legal Aid Cuts, Morale, Recruitment and Retention in the English Criminal Law Professions' (2020) 40(2) Legal Studies 230

'The Way in Which Fee Reductions Influence Legal Aid Criminal Defence Lawyer Work: Insights from a Qualitative Study (2019) 46(4) Journal of Law and Society 559

'Where's the Next Generation of Defence Lawyers Going to Come From?' (The Justice Gap, 31st January 2020)

'Perverse Incentives: the Strange Economics of Criminal legal Aid' (The Justice Gap, 19th November 2019)

See all of James Thornton's publications...

Press expertise

  • Crime
  • Law
  • Public sector