Punishing mothers

10th April 2014

News, Student news, Alumni news

Research by Wadham DPhil student, Shona Minson (2012, Criminology) exploring the impact of motherhood as a mitigating influence on sentencing decisions in England and Wales has been published in a new report from The Howard League for Penal Reform.

  • Shona Minson

Shona's research, carried out at the University of Surrey, won the John Sunley Prize in 2013 - a prize which recognises outstanding Masters research which offers new insights into the penal system and furthers the cause of penal reform. That research explored the impact of motherhood as mitigation in criminal sentencing through qualitative interviews with members of the judiciary and an analysis of sentencing transcripts.

After graduating from St.Anne's College, Oxford in Jurisprudence, Shona was called to the Bar of England and Wales and practised criminal and family law from 1 King's Bench Walk, London. Her professional experience has led to her research interest in the points of intersection between family and criminal law. Shona obtained an MSc (Distinction) from the University of Surrey, in Criminology, Criminal Justice and Social Research.

“Whilst undertaking that study, I realised that there was very little research on the way in which sentencing takes account of the primary caring responsibilities of a defendant, and consequently the impact of short term maternal imprisonment on children,” said Shona who was awarded an ESRC scholarship to enable her to undertake DPhil research at Wadham, supervised by Dr Rachel Condry and Professor Julian Roberts.

“The research explores the status of children of prisoners in English law and whether current sentencing policy protects children from 'all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status or activities... of the child's parents' (Article 2 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child). The research will engage directly with children and their carers to explore the nature of the impact of maternal imprisonment, and with the judiciary to examine sentencing practice,” Shona added.

Shona is part of the I-Hop Academic/workforce development task force which is an initiative of Barnardo's and the Department of Education to bring together resources and those with an active interest in the children of prisoners.

Study on the impact of maternal imprisonment on children: Call for participants

As part of her research, Shona is looking to meet with children whose mothers are in prison to find out about their experiences and what it has been like for them. She would also like to speak with their carers. To find out more, contact her on:  shona.minson@crim.ox.ac.uk or on 07407 763053