Dr James Thornton is a Senior Lecturer in Law and member of the Centre for Rights and Justice.
His chief area of interest is criminal law, which he teaches on the LLB, PGDL and LLM courses. He carries out research projects on criminal law and criminal justice issues and supervises undergraduate, masters and doctoral student research projects. He is also Course Leader for the full-time Postgraduate Diploma in Law and LLM (Law and Legal Practice) courses.
Potential doctoral students (PhD or Prof Doc) are very welcome to get in touch to discuss ideas. He would be especially interested in any student projects analysing the working practices of practitioners in legal settings (lawyers, judges, probation etc.) and how these are influenced (e.g. by internal or external pressures). Projects concerning the criminal justice system, access to justice and legal aid more broadly would also be very interesting.
James read Law as an undergraduate at the University of Southampton, graduating with 1st class honours. He was then awarded a Vice Chancellor/Presidential 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.
Broadly, James’ research examines the working practices of people in legal settings and how these are influenced – particularly how pressures are managed and decisions are made. He does so mainly through empirical methods, such as interviews and focus groups with affected people.
He is interested primarily in the criminal law and criminal justice setting - especially issues of access to justice. For example, 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 the parole board, sexual offending and penal policymaking.
Beyond criminal justice directly, he has also looked at how clinician (nurse, doctor, therapist, etc.) decision-making and working practices can be influenced by concerns around legal liability, especially involving AI decision support systems technology.
James occasionally works in the 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.
'Enhancing Trust in Clinical Decision Support Systems: a Framework for Developers' (2021) 28 BMJ Health & Care Informatics https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjhci-2020-100247 (with Caroline Jones and Jeremy Wyatt)
'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 https://doi.org/10.1111/jols.12179
'Where's the Next Generation of Defence Lawyers Going to Come From?' (The Justice Gap, 31st January 2020) https://www.thejusticegap.com/wheres-the-next-generation-of-defence-lawyers-going-to-come-from/
'Perverse Incentives: the Strange Economics of Criminal legal Aid' (The Justice Gap, 19th November 2019) https://www.thejusticegap.com/does-paying-defence-lawyers-less-impact-the-work-that-they-can-do/See all of James Thornton's publications...
- Public sector