Understanding UK criminal justice systems

How is criminal justice in the United Kingdom organised? How are the various institutions held to account? What is the relationship between politics and practice? How do citizens influence these powerful institutions?

These questions and more are explored in this major project on the United Kingdom criminal justice institutions.

Over more than a decade, through our ground-breaking UK Justice Policy Review (UKJPR) programme, we assessed criminal justice developments across the UK's three criminal justice jurisdictions: England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

This project builds on our UKJPR programme, exploring the converging and contrasting criminal justice institutional arrangements and developments across the three UK criminal justice jurisdictions.

Across four of the key criminal justice institutions – the police, the prosecution function, the courts, and prisons – we consider three sets of questions:

  1. Current governance and accountability structures.
  2. How the governance and accountability structures work in practice.
  3. How these structures and working practices changed over time; and what prompted these changes.

The project is as much interested in bottom-up developments – including the role of civil society in pressing for change – as it is in the formal top-down mechanisms of government, parliament and official bodies.

The work will culminate in a report, due in the autumn of 2021.