Dr David Hayes

School of Law


Deputy Director of Postgraduate Research

Programme Director, LL.B. Law and Criminology

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+44 114 222 6778

Full contact details

Dr David Hayes
School of Law
Bartolomé House
Winter Street
S3 7ND

This role is my first academic post, which I took up in September 2014, after completing my PhD at the University of Nottingham. My PhD thesis examined the experience of community penalties supervised by the Probation Service (as it then was) as punishments in their own right. The research identified a range of penal impacts of community penalties that suggest they are not (always, or necessarily) the ‘soft option’ that public discourse tends to dismiss them as.

Since 2014/15, I have published a number of journal articles drawing on my doctorate and my increasingly theoretical interest in the measurement of penal severity more generally. My first monograph, Confronting Penal Excess: Retribution and the Politics of Penal Minimalism, was released in November 2019.

  • PhD 
  • MA Socio-Legal and Criminological Research, University of Nottingham
  • LLM Criminal Justice, University of Nottingham
  • LLB(Hons) Law, University of Nottingham
Research interests

My research clusters around three key overlapping and intersecting themes (in no particular order):

1. Measuring Penal Severity: The first theme in my research aims to explore the possibilities of introducing greater subjectivity and recognition of difference into the measurement of penal severity by academics, policy-makers, and sentencing authorities. It confronts the challenges of recognising difference without compromising our ability to compare and contrast individual cases with one another, in ways that complex human systems can deploy as simply, consistently, and justly as possible.

2. Retribution and Penal Minimalism: My second research theme explores the politics of retributive penal philosophies. Retributivism sells its penal philosophy in part on the basis that its focus on proportionality encourages penal minimalism and respect for individual freedom. However, since the 1990s, as retributive theories have become more deeply ingrained in penal decision-making, penal systems have only tended to grow bigger and more intrusive. My work explores this phenomenon, asking to what extent retributivism can be blamed for this ‘penal excess’, and constructing a new approach to retributivism that pursues penal minimalism more thoroughly.

3. Over-Criminalisation and the Mythic Functions of Criminal Law: My final research theme, which I am currently developing, explores the cultural and political causes of the overuse of criminal law (one of the key drivers of penal excess). I argue that law serves a number of ‘mythic functions’ - roles that used to be played by mythology in pre-modern European societies, and which have now been taken up by other, supposedly rational limbs of the State. By exploring these mythic functions I aim to identify a fuller range of the causes of penal excess, and consider their ramifications for how we create (criminal) law, as well as how we use and think about law in everyday life.


Journal articles

Book reviews

Research group

I am a member of the Centre for Criminological Research.


Title/Description: Leverhulme Research Fellowship - 'Over-Criminalisation and the Mythic Functions of Criminal Law'

  • Awarding Body: The Leverhulme Trust
  • People Involved: David Hayes
  • Dates: 1st August 2022 - 31st January 2024
  • Amount (£): £48,840
Teaching interests

For me, the study of law and criminology are part of a course of personal development towards a capacity for critical citizenship – that is, political participation enriched by an awareness of context and a capacity to identify the costs and values of particular courses of action at a personal, community, societal, and international levels. In my teaching, I therefore try to emphasise the way in which law is contingent upon its social, political, and cultural contexts.

Central to this process is the individual development of one’s own skills and values. In my role as a Personal and Academic Tutor I encourage students to reflect upon their strengths and weaknesses, and to think about legal and criminological phenomena outside of and across modular and disciplinary boundaries.

In 2022/23 I am on research leave and will not be teaching on any undergraduate or postgraduate modules.

Teaching activities


  • LAW135 Criminal Law and Justice.
  • LAW208 Advanced Criminal Law and Justice.
  • LAW217 Punishment and Penal Policy.
  • LAW307 Criminal Evidence.


  • LAW6907 Issues in Comparative Penology.
  • LAW6410 Theorising Punishment in a Global Perspective.
Professional activities

I am a member of the European Society of Criminology (ESC), the Socio-Legal Studies Association (SLSA), and the network for Empirical Research on Sentencing (ERoS).

I am on the Editorial Board of the journal Incarceration.

Recent Invited Papers and Keynote Lectures

  • David Hayes, ‘Putting the “Mass” in Mass Supervision’, European Society of Criminology Annual Conference, 8th-10th September 2021 (online).
  • David Hayes, ‘Ben Crewe on the Bench: Bringing the Dimensional Pains of Punishment into the Courtroom’, Turning the Lens: Researching Sentencers (N-ERoS seminar series), 17th September 2020 (online).
  • David Hayes, ‘Confronting Penal Excess: Retribution and the Politics of Penal Minimalism’. Centre for Criminological Research Seminar, 14th October 2020 (online), Author Meets Critics session, with Prof Lucia Zedner and Prof Dirk van Zyl Smit discussing.
  • David Hayes, ‘Retributivism and the Criminological Imagination: Notes towards a Research Agenda’, European Society of Criminology Annual Conference, 10th-11th September 2020 (online).
  • David Hayes, ‘Confronting Penal Excess: Retribution and the Politics of Penal Minimalism’. Criminal Justice Research Centre (University of Nottingham), 25th March 2020 (online), Author Meets Critics session, with Prof Nicky Padfield and Prof Rob Canton discussing.
  • David Hayes, ‘Retributivism and Penal Minimalism: Notes on a Penal Theory of Political Action’, Society of Legal Scholars, Annual Conference 2019, University of Central Lancashire, 3rd-6th September 2019.
  • David Hayes, ‘To the Pain: Towards Measuring Penal Severity in Terms of the Pains of Punishment’, Centre for Criminological Research, Methods and Data in Sentencing Research: Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches, University of Sheffield, UK, 11th-12th July 2019.
  • David Hayes, ‘Inclusion and Exclusion within and beyond the Prison: Exploring the Punishment of Men Convicted of Sex Offences in England & Wales and Norway: Comment’, COMPEN, Punishment and Imprisonment in the Nordic Countries: Comparative Perspectives, University of Agder, Norway 13th-14th June 2019.
  • David Hayes, ‘The Power Behind the Thrown: Navigating between Reform and Abolition’, Centre for Criminological Research/Humanities Research Institute, Humanities Perspectives on Crime and Justice, 31st May 2019.