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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 at Nottingham Law School 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 and postgraduate research projects.

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. Whilst researching his PhD, he was a Research Assistant for criminal justice and medical law projects, taught criminal law and equity & trusts, and jointly ran Southampton 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 assisted with larger joint research projects concerning penal policymaking, sexual offending, medical technology and the recruitment of judges.

External activity

James has a voluntary role at the local criminal courts and is also non-executive director of a sports charity.


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

'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

'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