I started my academic career in 1995 after graduating in law and in 1997/8 gained an ESRC scholarship to support my PhD studies with Professor R.D. Mackay at De Montfort University, Leicester. I gained my PhD in 2001; my thesis title was Involuntary Action and the Criminal Law. I have remained interested in criminal responsibility throughout my career. My main research interest is in the overlap between neuroscience and the criminal law. I am particularly interested in what cognitive neuroscience may tell us about excusing conditions in criminal law defences and the implications of the use of brain computer interfaces to allow patients in locked in states to communicate their wishes to those who care for them. More broadly I am interested in the use of neuroscience to inform decisions by the courts when it is used in evidence in the courtroom. I am also interested in the ethical issues raised by the claims made by neuroscientists as to the application of their findings in a broader societal context.
I research criminal law and I am particularly interested in mental condition and other defences which are based on excusing conditions. I am actively researching the intersection between cognitive neuroscience and the criminal law. I have just successfully completed an AHRC funded project entitled A Sense of Agency which was led by Professor Patrick Haggard of the Insititute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London. This project examined neurocognitive and legal approaches to a personal sense of agency. I am working at present on researching what neuroscience may tell us about memory in the courtroom and looking at the effect of alcohol and drugs on criminal responsibility. I continue my research on involuntary action and the criminal law.
At The Open University I teach on the Public and Criminal Law module, and on Law, Society and Culture. I am module leader for an undergraduate, level 3, independent study module called Exploring Legal Boundaries. This module provides undergraduate students with research training and allows them to explore an area of interest to them which is law related. I am interested in the pedagogy of learning and have a particular research interest in factors tending to promote the engagement of undergraduate students with their learning.
I have considerable teaching experience and have taught criminal law, crime and society and public law subjects at undergraduate level and law and neuroscience and law and bioethics at postgraduate level.
I have been a Programme Committee member of the International Neuroethics Society and I am a Steering Committee member of the European Association for Neuroscience and Law. In 2011 I was appointed to the Royal Society working group on Neuroscience and Law. Together with my colleague Paul Catley of The Open University I have researched the use of neuroscientific evidence in the appeal courts in England and Wales over an eight year period. The same research was mirrored by colleagues from five other jurisdictions: The United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Singapore and Malaysia.
The international collaboration between colleagues from five jurisdictions has been an interesting collaboration informing my teaching in the Law School module W340 Law, Society and Culture as well as leading to publications from each of the participating countries. My collaboration with Professor Patrick Haggard of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London has helped developed a greater understanding of how the brain generates a sense of agency over our behaviour.
I work with colleagues from all over the world to explore and add to our understanding of the interconnectedness of three disciplines cognitive neuroscience, law and philosophy. I have worked to support two organisations which have developed networks to further this knowledge. These are the International Neuroethics Society and the European Association for Neuroscience and Law. The websites for both of these organisations are given below: