Our research

Centre for Law and Social Justice

Michael Thomson at his desk

Law and Social Justice explores the role that law has in addressing inequalities and achieving a more just society. It aims to generate research which addresses the global challenge of inequalities. The research group recognises the aspiration that many have in Law Schools to be part of egalitarian projects.

In the specific context of Law at Leeds, Law and Social Justice provides a vibrant and productive research home for a significant number of academics and researchers, as well as recognising and building upon the School’s long tradition in these areas both academically and in terms of its engagement with local communities. It seeks to make an impact within the local and global community.

The research group promotes all research in law and social justice whether doctrinal, empirical, socio-legal, interdisciplinary, theoretical, inter-theoretical, or policy focused, and our research is national and international in its scope. We foster an active and flourishing academic environment for teaching and research.

The Centre for Law and Social Justice recently submitted a response to the Government Consultation on 'Reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004' (with The Manchester Centre for Regulation and Governance and Public Law, School of Law, University of Manchester). You can download the consultation response here.

Law and Social Justice recently produced written submission to the Women and Equalities Committee Inquiry into Transgender Equality, which will soon be made available on the Committee's website: Transgender Equality - publications

Download written evidence submitted by the Centre for Law and Social Justice, University of Leeds, and Intersex UK

Research themes

Accessing and enacting justice

Burgeoning research within L&SJ seeks to reveal and critically engage with the diverse contexts and ways in which individuals and groups struggle to access and attempt to enact justice. Problems with the unevenness of access to justice are longstanding and occur across the globe. In the UK, many such inequalities have increased in recent times because of cuts to legal aid funding, increased court and tribunal fees, (proposed) reductions in the number of courts, and so forth.

For some individuals and groups access to justice is not synonymous with traditional modes of legal representation. Responding to limitations in traditional legal processes a number of Centre members explore other forms of justice (for example, restorative justice practices, Native American driven justice, and sex worker-led initiatives and protests, and so forth) to enact justice in ways that challenge and exceed formal legal representation.

Members’ work is focussed on a range of specific and overlapping contexts where access to, or the enactment of justice, is a central feature. Although access to justice is a unifying theme, members’ research projects engage with a range of cross-cutting issues and perspectives including: disability, race, gender, class, social diversity, human rights, childhood and health.

These issues are variously explored by: Brown (financial services); Cruz (access to justice and sex workers); Aiello, Clements, Ellison, Lawson and Lewis  (access to justice and disability (including mental health); Halliday (advanced decision making); Hendry (indigenous justice); Harding, Karemba and Huang (legal cultures); Clements, Huang, Lawson, Lewis, Keeling, Pearl,  and de Sabbata, (legal capacity); Lewis and Lewis (youth justice); Marder (restorative justice); Lewis, Mukherjee, Teimouri, Zavoli, and Altamimi (justice and international legal orders); Sarela and de Sabbata (medical decision-making); Francis, Solanke, and Sommerlad (diversity in the professions); Thomson (family court decision-making); Travis, Francis, and Sommerlad (legal ethics); Trispiotis (law and religion); Francis, Sommerlad, Wallbank and Mant (legal aid, access to justice and the family courts). The accessing and enacting justice theme clearly has significant relevance across all research centres within the School.

Law and social sustainability

Social sustainability research is concerned with the formal and informal processes, systems, structures, and relationships that actively support current and future generations to create fair, healthy, liveable, diverse, equitable and inter-generationally sustainable communities.

Law has a central role to play in these progressive projects. Approaches to social sustainability generally connect environmental, economic, and social sustainability. The study of social sustainability directs attention to a range of issues and values, including social justice, ethical regulation, social and cultural capital, capitalism and the future of work, corporate social responsibility, human rights, health equity, community development and support, activism and social movements.

A number of colleagues work in the area of social sustainability. There is notable strength in terms of people working with human rights, rights theory and the merits and problems associated with international standards which set basic normative standards which governments must reach to create a fairer, healthier and equal world (de Beco, Clements, Cruz, Keeling, Lawson, Lewis, Mason, Mukherjee, de Sabbata, Trispiotis), activism and social movements (Clements, Cruz, and Tara-Chand), labour rights and basic income (Cruz), equality and discrimination (Blair, Lawson, Solanke), intersectionality (Solanke and Tara-Chand), education (Blair, de Beco, Lewis), agriculture (Cardwell and Epstein), and theoretical models that seek to achieve greater social justice, for example relational theory, vulnerability analysis, the capabilities approach, and the social model of disability (Aiello, de Beco, Clements, Clough, Cruz, Dietz, Hendry, Huang, Keeling, Lawson, Lewis, Mant, Pearl, Sarela, Tara-Chand, Thomson, and Wallbank). Again, this theme clearly has significant relevance across the School and the University.

(Legal) embodiment

The academy has seen significant moves away from the body as an object of study to a theoretical concern with embodiment. Embodiment recognises that lived experience takes place at the intersection of the corporeal, the institutional and the discursive. In other words, we experience our bodies and our place in the world through our body, discursive understandings of these bodies, and the material effects of institutions.

More specifically, legal embodiment is an analytical framework which recognises the constitutive and epistemological effects of legal discourses and practices which regulate health, embodied choices, gendered, raced, sexed, disabled bodies, and so forth (Dietz, Thomson, Travis). As part of Law & Social Justice, work on embodiment problematizes the various constructions of bodies and their legal regulation, in terms of their material effects. The work also challenges liberal approaches to the body and associated concepts such as autonomy, equality, individualism, justice, rights etc. Work in L&SJ on embodiment includes work on health (Halliday, Thomson, Wallbank, Wincup, Yeomans) as well as those working with the social model of disability.