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Research Impact

Societal benefit through research and collaboration.

Our impact on the real world is an important part of the research undertaken in the School of Law. We're collaborating with partners in the private, public and third sectors to find real world solutions to real world problems. We have significant experience of applied research and engagement with user groups in fields of law, socio-legal studies and criminology. Types of impact include inputs into governments’ policy making and legislation, changes to professional practice in the legal and criminal justice systems, and influences on Parliamentary processes leading to substantive law reform.

The School treats impact as a fundamental part of research culture rather than as a separate activity. Engagement with practitioners, government bodies and user groups is at the heart of our mission to promote the interdisciplinary understanding of law, socio-legal studies and criminology globally.

Influencing Governments’ Policy and Strategy on Ombudsman Reform

Our research on the role of Ombudsmen within the Administrative Justice (AJ) system has: (1) changed the approaches of Parliamentary and Local Government Ombudsmen in the UK with a
view to improving their performance; (2) influenced government decision making on the reform of Ombudsman schemes in the UK and in Gibraltar; (3) contributed to forming opinions among parliamentary decision makers, via the Parliamentary Select Committee system; and (4) shaped debate and policy recommendations on administrative justice remedies within the Law Commission. The research has thereby addressed the challenges to the AJ system posed by the economic downturn and government austerity measures which carry the risk of deterioration in the
quality of services available to citizens for the redress of grievances.

Changing Practitioner and Policy Approaches to the Supervision of Offenders in the Community

Of the 200,000 offenders supervised in the community by Probation Area Trusts (PATs) in England and Wales, around half are reconvicted of another offence within two years. University of Sheffield research into why people stop offending (‘desistance’), funded by the ESRC and the Leverhulme Trust, has provided evidence to senior staff in PATs, government departments, and the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) enabling the development of initiatives aimed at supporting service users in their efforts to desist. The research has increased awareness and understanding on the part of professionals of the factors associated with desistance. Through the medium of a film about how people desist, the research has helped both to reinvigorate probation services’ professional practice and to develop training programmes with an emphasis on helping people to stop offending in place of the hitherto dominant focus on enforcement.

Protecting the Historic Built Environment by Increasing Understanding of Heritage Crime and Improving Enforcement and Sentencing

Heritage crime causes significant damage to a vulnerable and finite resource of great importance to the nation but currently sentencing of those convicted of such crimes rarely takes account of the full impact of the offence on the heritage asset. This research has increased understanding of the serious nature and consequences of heritage crime and has directly influenced the Sentencing Guidance for Heritage Crime, being drawn up by English Heritage. The adoption of this Guidance should enable Magistrates to adopt more proportionate and appropriate sentencing practices, reflecting the impact of the offence not only on the fabric of the heritage asset, but also the damage to the public interest value of the site affected and its importance to local amenity.