Dr Karen Brennan

School of Law
Dr Karen Brennan
  • Email

  • Telephone

    +44 (0) 1206 874832

  • Location

    4SB.5.17, Colchester Campus

  • Academic support hours

    Monday 09:00 - 10:00 and Thursday 14:00 - 15:00



Dr Karen Brennan is a lecturer in the School of Law at the University of Essex. She holds a Bachelor of Civil Law (2000, University College Dublin), and a PhD (2007, University College Dublin). She was awarded a Government of Ireland Scholarship by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (2002-2004). Prior to joining the University of Essex in 2012, she held a lectureship at Queen's University Belfast (2006-2011), and also acted as researcher to the Criminal Law Rapporteur on the Legal Protection of Children in the Republic of Ireland (July 2006 - December 2007). Her research and teaching interests are in the area of criminal justice, with a particular focus on socio-historical and gendered issues. She recently co-edited a book on women and the criminal justice system (Women and Criminal Justice System: Failing Victims and Offenders? Palgrave-Macmillan, forthcoming 2018). She has published extensively on the subject of infanticide in national and international journals, taking a socio-legal, historical, and feminist approach to this subject. She has also published on abortion and family homicide. Her work engages with a range of themes, including social norms, compassion, medicalisation, and reproductive rights. She is currently developing her research across three areas: maternal obligation to the foetus/newborn child, with a particular focus on the criminalisation of women who harm the foetus/baby; obstetric violence; and assisted dying.


  • BCL (University College Dublin), 2000

  • PhD (University College Dublin), 2007

  • Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education Teaching (Queens University Belfast), 2011

Research and professional activities

Research interests

Gender and Criminal Justice

Criminal Law and Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice History

Current research

Maternal Obligation and the Foetus/Newborn Child

Compassion, Assisted Dying and the Law

Criminalising Obstetric Violence

Socio-legal, Historical and Feminist approaches to Infanticide

Teaching and supervision

  • Criminal Law (LW104)

  • Final Year Research Project (LW304)

  • Law of Evidence (LW316)

  • Contemporary Issues in Criminal Justice: Law, Policy and Practice (LW349)


Journal articles (6)

Brennan, K., Social Norms and the Law in responding to Infanticide. Legal Studies

Brennan, K., Murdering Mothers & Gentle Judges: Paternalism, Patriarchy and Infanticide. Yale Journal of Law and Feminism

Brennan, KM., (2013). “A Fine Mixture of Pity and Justice:” The Criminal Justice Response to Infanticide in Ireland, 1922–1949. Law and History Review. 31 (04), 793-841

Brennan, K., (2013). Punishing Infanticide in the Irish Free State. Irish Journal of Legal Studies. 3 (1)

Brennan, K., (2013). Traditions of English Liberal Thought: a History of the Enactment of an Infanticide Law in Ireland. Irish Jurist. 50, 100-137

Brennan, K., (2007). Beyond the Medical Model: A Rationale for Infanticide Legislation. Northern Ireland legal quarterly.. 58 (4), 505-535

Book chapters (2)

Brennan, K., (2017). Homicide in the Family. In: Law and the Family in Ireland 1800 - 1950. Editors: Howlin, N. and Costello, K., . Palgrave Macmillan. 160- 180

Brennan, K., (2008). The State of Abortion Law in Northern Ireland. In: The Unborn Child, Article 40.3.3 and Abortion in Ireland: 25 Years of Protection?. Editors: Schweppe, J., . Liffey Press. 247- 275. 9781905785513

+44 (0) 1206 874832


4SB.5.17, Colchester Campus

Academic support hours:

Monday 09:00 - 10:00 and Thursday 14:00 - 15:00