CLRN Network Project Process

CLRN Network Project Process

Reform projects within the Network will proceed across four stages.


Stage 1: Identifying the area of law 


The first task for each new project is to select a suitable area of law for review. This is done at a CLRN Network meeting, with members of the network encouraged to attend and/or provide written recommendations.

Our conference in September 2016 ‘Criminal Law Reform Now’ explored twelve ideas for potential law reform, focusing on legislative change. These proposals will be published as a collection later in 2018. Any of these proposals would make a viable project for the CLRN Network, but we are not limited to these proposals, and we are not limited to a legislative focus. There are very few restrictions on the kinds of project the CLRN Network can take on. We restrict ourselves to comprehensible ideas for specified reforms, excluding those which would only be expected to receive academic support or understanding. We will target areas where there is sufficient expertise to form a useful project team. However, we are open to exploring ideas which are comprehensible even though they might be thought likely to encounter political resistance, nor do we restrict ourselves to reforms which require legislation. We will be happy to consider projects across the criminal law piste: including procedural, evidential, sentencing and substantive issues, as well as topics that combine these.    


Stage 2: Identifying the issues, and forming the team


Having identified the area of law, the next stage is to reach out to members of the CLRN Network and beyond (principally though the SLS, and Halsburys Law Exchange) to find relevant experts working and/or researching in the field. These individuals are brought together for a full day conference exploring various aspects of the legal topic, and identifying issues that require further review within the project. Shortly after this scoping event, we will form a core Project Team of 4-6 authors.

The proceedings from the conference will feed into the working of the project team. They may also be published separately by the authors.  


Stage 3: Writing the Report, and flexible consultation


The project team are responsible for drafting the CLRN Network Report, exploring the relevant area of law and setting out recommendations for reform. Project teams, with support from the CLRN Network Directors and Committee, may also conduct consultation exercises as appropriate to the project. Reports will typically be less than 100 pages in length (sometimes much shorter), and written in an accessible style. Lastly, the CLRN Network Directors and Committee review the Report and offer comments, before it is finalised. We do not anticipate any project lasting longer than one year.


Stage 4: Dissemination and impact


CLRN Network Reports are intended to have maximum impact on their chosen target for legal reform. With this in mind, reports will be made immediately available for free on our CLRN Network webpage, Halsburys Law Exchange, as well as through the SLS. Further to this, print copies will be made and sent to relevant people within the targeted reform institution or body. A range of publicity will also be considered at this stage, including interviews with print media, launch symposium, public meetings etc. The CLRN Network Committee and Project Team will continue to work with the target reform institution or body to take the proposals forward. Team members will remain free to publish their contributions or adapted contributions, under their own name, outside the Network Report, respecting the copyright of other Network contributors.


Current Projects


Following an open meeting in June 2017 at UCL, we selected our first two projects.  


Review of the Computer Misuse Act 1990


We have chosen the subject of computer misuse as our first project because, notwithstanding being twice amended, there are particular reasons to think that the Act has still not kept up to date with advances in technology. At the same time, in some respects, it remains unsatisfactorily wide (the term “unauthorised access” is capable of very wide interpretation and common industrial practices such as time-locking may be technically illegal) and the absence of a public interest defence is seemingly inconsistent with the recent inclusion of such provision in relation to data protection laws.


Project Lead: Simon McKay


Status: We held a scoping symposium on this project in September 2017 at the University of Sussex; a Framework Document for the project was published in December 2017, and authors allocated; and a Scrutiny Symposium was held in May 2019 to provide feedback and guidance on draft chapters of the report. The final report will be published in January 2020.     


Review of Private Prosecutions


In 2009 the then Director of Public Prosecutions, without consultation, promulgated a new policy on overtaking private prosecutions, requiring the CPS to do so in any case where the CPS’s own Code tests (the evidential and public interest tests) were not met. This was held to be lawful by a 3-2 majority of the Supreme Court. Whether this is an appropriate policy requires a study of its effect on disappointed would-be private prosecutors and affords an opportunity to consider what purposes private prosecutions may serve and which offences are most effectively prosecuted privately. Reforms to this policy, if any, may be suggested to the CPS, suggestions may be made to the police about policies regarding the gathering of evidence for private prosecutors, issues relating to costs may require legislation, or the attention of judges who assess costs under present legislation. 


Project Lead: Jonathan Rogers


Status: We held a scoping symposium on this project in April 2018 at UCL; and a Framework Document was published in October 2018. The CLRNN Committee are currently forming a writing team, with draft chapters to be completed before the end of 2019. 




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