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. Karen obtained a Bachelor of Civil Law in 2000 (University College Dublin). She was admitted to the integrated LLM/PhD programme at University College Dublin in October 2000, and was awarded a PhD in 2007. Her PhD thesis examines the phenomenon of infanticide from the perspective of the disciplines of law, history, and anthropology, focusing particularly on historical and contemporary criminal justice responses to maternal infant murder in Britain and Ireland, and on the development of infanticide laws in Britain, Ireland, and elsewhere. During her postgraduate studies at UCD, Karen was a Tutor and Senior Tutor in Criminal Law. Between July 2006 and December 2007, she acted as researcher to the Criminal Law Rapporteur on the Legal Protection of Children in the Republic of Ireland. In October 2006, Karen was appointed to the position of lecturer in law at Queens University Belfast. She joined the School of Law at the University of Essex in January 2012. Sh e currently teaches criminal law and evidence. Karens main research interest is infanticide and the law. She is currently developing her doctoral research, focusing on the criminal justice and legislative response to maternal infanticide in twentieth-century Ireland. She has also recently begun a project examining the criminal justice and legislative response to this crime in the U.S.A. Karens other research interests are on the topics of abortion and age-related child sex offences.


  • 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

Criminal Law and Criminal Justice

Gender and Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice History

Current research

Criminal justice and legislative responses to maternal infanticide in twentieth-century Ireland

Infanticide and the law in the USA

Conferences and presentations

Traditions of English Liberal Thought: The Boundaries of Justice and Irish Infanticide, 1922-1949, Association for the Study of Law Culture and Humanities Annual Conference, University of Nevada, 11-12 March 2011

Murdering Mothers and Gentle Judges: The Criminal Justice Response to Infanticide in Ireland, 1950-2000, Nottingham Trent University, School of Law Seminar Series, 12 May 2010(Invited Speaker)

Emotion or Science?: A History of Infanticide Legislation, Annual Meeting of the International Academy of Law and Mental Health, New York University, 28 June 2009

The Price of Protecting Young Girls, Not Alone From Lustful Men, But From Themselves: Reform of Statutory Rape Law in the Republic of Ireland, SLS Annual Conference, London School of Economics, 15-18 September 2008

Abortion and a Devolved Assembly: A Northern Irish Dilemma, SLSA Annual Conference, University of Manchester, 18-20 March 2008

Abortion in Northern Ireland: Problems and Possibilities, 25 Years of Protection? Art 40.3.3, The Unborn Child and Abortion in Ireland, University of Limerick, 8 March 2008(Invited Speaker)

Infanticide and Scientific Rationalism, SLS Annual Conference, Durham University, 10-13 September 2007

The Infanticide Act, 1949, North-South Criminology and Criminal Justice Conference, University of Limerick, 20-21 September 2006

The Infanticide Act, 1949, Annual Conference of the Irish Association of Law Teachers, Cork, April 2006

The Modern History of Child Killing Legislation in these Islands, British and Irish Legal History Conference, University College Dublin, July 2003

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)


Journals (6)

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)

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

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

Chapters (1)

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