Other people's crimes - new research on our right to know

  • Date

    Wed 26 Apr 23

photo of Dr Kat Hadjimatheou with British Academy logo in background

Dr Katerina Hadjimatheou from the Department of Sociology has received £127,000 to undertake the first research project of its kind to analyse our right to know about the criminality of our fellow citizens.

The British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship will allow Dr Hadjimatheou to pursue this major piece of research that advances understanding in the conflict between the rights of convicted criminals to privacy and the need for the public to understand potential risks and to see justice served.

Dr Hadjimatheou said: “In today’s increasingly technologically-driven and risk-assessed world, someone with a criminal record can expect their conviction to be more visible and for longer than ever before. Trends towards ever-greater exposure are changing individual experiences of criminalisation and raising the stakes of long-standing questions about the role of publicity in criminal justice.

“This is an interdisciplinary project combining philosophical and criminological analysis to address the question: Do we have a right to know about the crimes of others?

“Currently, there is no consensus -public or scholarly- about the relative importance of different values and interests at stake. How do we balance the rehabilitation of offenders against the need to manage the risk to the public posed by people with a history of abuse? How much publicity around the identity of those with criminal records is required for transparency in criminal justice, the just punishment of offenders, public confidence in the criminal justice system, or freedom of expression?

“This project seeks to resolve these tensions. First it looks more closely at current practices of publicity and disclosure, using qualitative empirical research to understand their aims and impacts, especially in the field of crimes of abuse which are often perpetrated through secrecy, lies, and misrepresentation of the past. Second it looks beyond current practices, to more fundamental questions about the status of criminal activity in a liberal democracy, and the rights of citizens as such to know about it.”

Dr Hadjimatheou’s research is at the intersection of criminology and ethics. Her work examines developments in technologies and data for policing, criminal justice and security. Her areas of expertise include domestic abuse, surveillance, criminal records, and human trafficking.

Head of the Department of Sociology, Professor Pam Cox said: “Congratulations to Kat. I am delighted that The British Academy has recognised Katerina as a ‘champion’ in her field. This award will further the public understanding of the ethical issues involved in privacy and criminal justice.”

Dr Hadjimatheou is one of 43 outstanding mid-career academics awarded funds for research which will promote public engagement. The awards total over £6.5 million.