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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Dr Emma Milne, PhD Sociology, MA History, BA (Hons) History and Sociology

Assistant Professor in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice in the Durham Law School

(email at


Dr Emma Milne joined Durham Law School in September 2020 as an Assistant Professor in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice. Emma obtained her PhD in sociology from the University of Essex, funded by the Consortium of the Humanities and the Arts South-east England (CHASE), who are funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Following this Emma worked as a Lecturer in Criminology at Middlesex University and the University of Plymouth.

Emma is actively involved with a number of learned societies:

Follow Emma on Twitter.

Teaching Areas

  • Criminal law

Emma is a Fellow of the HEA and holds a Postgraduate Certificate of Higher Education (Middlesex University).

Research Areas

Emma is a socio-legal scholar, with research interests in the fields of feminist legal studies and feminist criminology. The focus of Emma’s research is the social and legal regulation of women, particularly in relation to sex and reproduction. Her PhD and post-doctoral work considers legal and criminal justice responses to women suspected of causing the death of their newborn children, analysing contemporary examples of criminal court hearings. The wider context of Emma’s work is a consideration of social controls (including legal and criminal justice regulations) on all women, notably in relation to pregnancy, sex, and reproduction.

Research Projects

Emma is currently finishing her monograph focused on criminal justice response to women suspected of killing their newborn children (published with Emerald in 2021). This project uses court transcripts of criminal hearings of women who have been convicted of offences related to newborn child death in England and Wales between 2010 and 2019. The key finding from this project is the connection drawn between pregnancy and expectations of motherly behaviour: it is assumed that women will put the needs of the foetus before their own, and so act to protect their unborn ‘child’. Such expectations fail to consider the incredibly difficult situations accused women find themselves in and the experience of a crisis pregnancy. Emma concludes that, despite the born alive rule, criminal law is being applied to punish women who have failed to embody the role of the ‘responsible’ pregnant woman, and so the ‘good’ mother. The use of criminal law in this way has serious consequences for women’s rights.

In 2021 Emma will be starting a new project looking at attitudes and perspectives of core legal professionals (solicitors, barristers, prosecutors, and judges) to criminal law and criminal justice responses to women suspected of killing newborn children or harming foetuses. This project is funded by the BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grants 2020. Emma’s previous research has illustrated which laws are used and what is formerly said about accused women during criminal hearings, but there remains a gap in our knowledge about the perspectives of those who work to apply the law. Qualitative interviews with legal professionals will directly address this under-researched issue. This research will promote understanding of the societal contexts of professionals’ responses, examining how gendered ideas of women’s roles as mothers, and perceptions of female offending, figure in professionals’ assessments of these cases. As such, this research will enable clearer conclusions to be drawn about the law’s current appropriateness.

Research Groups

The Centre for Criminal Law and Criminal Justice (CCLCJ)

Centre for Ethics and Law in the Life Sciences (Durham CELLS)

Durham Centre for Law and Philosophy

Gender and Law at Durham (GLAD)

Research Groups

Durham Law School

  • Gender & Law at Durham

Research Interests

  • Feminist legal studies
  • Social and legal regulation of women's sexuality and bodies
  • Criminal liability of pregnant women
  • Women's reproductive rights/freedom
  • Legal protection of the foetus
  • Infanticide/neonaticide/maternal filicide
  • Feminist criminology
  • Women who offend
  • Violent women
  • Gender and crime

Selected Publications

Authored book

  • Fanghanel, Alexandra, Milne, Emma, Zampini, Giulia F., Banwell, Stacy & Fiddler, Michael (2021). Sex and Crime. London: Sage.

Edited book

Chapter in book

Journal Article

Show all publications

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Crime:
  • English Law:
  • Gender and law:
  • Sociology:


Selected Grants

  • 2020: BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grants 2020 (£10,000): Prosecuting, Defending, Sentencing: Infant Killing and the Role of the Law and Courts in England and Wales
  • 2019: Socio-Legal Studies Association Research Grants Scheme 2018 (£2,987.19): Judging the Failed Mother: Women Suspected of Killing Their Newborn Children and the Courts