Dr John Child

Dr John Child

Birmingham Law School
Reader in Criminal Law

Contact details

Birmingham Law School
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr John Child specialises in criminal law, doctrine and theory, and the relationship between criminal law and neuroscience. John co-authors a leading criminal law textbook, Smith, Hogan and Ormerod’s Essentials of Criminal Law, as well as co-directing the Criminal Law Reform Now Network.


  • PhD, University of Birmingham


John has been at Birmingham since 2018. Prior to this, John held posts at Sussex Law School (2013-2018); Oxford Brookes Law School (2010-13); and the Criminal Law Team at the Law Commission for England and Wales (2007-8). John has held visiting positions at Boston University; the University of Birmingham; as well as the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law in Freiburg. John is dyslexic (so please excuse the 'live' spelling), and grew up in a working-class family in Norfolk. 


John specialises in Criminal Law, convening and/or teaching crime related modules at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Postgraduate supervision

John is interested in doctoral candidates in criminal law doctrine and theory, comparative criminal law, and/or criminal law and neuroscience.

John's previous successful doctoral students include:
* Rachel Gimson, ‘Captured red handed: the impact of social media on the evolving concepts of the criminal defendant and the presumption of innocence’ - Completed in 2016;
* Stavros Demetriou, 'Anti-Social Behaviour and Civil Preventive Measures: Creating Localised Criminal Codes?' - Completed in 2017;
* Nicholas Sinclair-House, ‘Sentencing Intoxicated Defendants’ - Completed in 2018.

Find out more - our PhD Law  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


Problem-solving in criminal law - John Child

John’s research interests centre on criminal law theory, and particularly the internal structuring of offences and defences within the general part, where he has published widely. 

Across a range of criminal law topics, John's research aims to bridge the divide between conceptual debate and doctrinal application; and to demonstrate how a greater theoretical understanding of the law can be translated into an effective counter to the global expansion of criminal proscriptions (ie, inappropriate or over-criminalisation). This includes work challenging whether certain wrongs are deserving of criminalisation (eg, his work on prior-fault; complicity; inchoate offences; etc), as well as defending minimum doctrinal requirements within the law from philosophical critique (eg, his work on the voluntary act requirement). John is regularly engaged in collaborative and interdisciplinary projects that allow him to gain different insights into a legal problem, as well as to produce more robust recommendations for legal reform. See 'Problem Solving in the Criminal Law'.

John has contributed to several law reform and review exercises, including:

  • Law Commission consultations on Attempt; Conspiracy; Assisting and Encouraging; Intoxication; Bribery; Offences Against the Person; New Programmes of Law Reform;
  • House of Common's Justice Committee - Post Legislative Scrutiny of the Serious Crime Act 2007;
  • Cabinet Office - consultancy on corruption legislation.

John provides expert peer review for the Criminal Law Review; Oxford Journal of Legal Studies; Criminal Law and Philosophy; Legal Studies; Netherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy; and the AHRC (Peer Review College).



Other activities


Recent publications


Child, J & Ormerod, D 2021, Smith, Hogan and Ormerod's Essentials of Criminal Law. 4th edn, Oxford University Press.

Child, J & Ormerod, D 2019, Smith, Hogan, & Ormerod's Essentials of Criminal Law. 3 edn, Oxford University Press.

Child, J & Duff, A (eds) 2018, Criminal Law Reform Now: Proposals and Critique. 1 edn, Hart Publishing. https://doi.org/10.5040/9781509916801


Child, J & Hunt, A 2021, 'Beyond the present-fault paradigm: expanding mens rea definitions in the general part', Oxford Journal of Legal Studies.

Child, J 2021, 'Knowledge by any other name: Alexander Sarch on wilful ignorance', Jurisprudence, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 236-246. https://doi.org/10.1080/20403313.2021.1930372

Sullivan, GR, Crombag, H & Child, J 2021, 'Loss of control in the appeal courts', The Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly, vol. 72, no. 2, pp. 200-223. https://doi.org/10.53386/nilq.v72i2.564

Goldberg, A, Child, J, Crombag, H & Roef, D 2021, 'Prior-fault blame in England and Wales, Germany and the Netherlands', Journal of International and Comparative Law (JICL), vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 53-86. <https://www.jicl.org.uk/journal/june-2021/prior-fault-blame-in-england-and-wales-germany-and-the-netherlands>

Child, J 2020, 'Defence of a basic voluntary act requirement in criminal law from philosophies of action', New Criminal Law Review, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 437-470. https://doi.org/10.1525/nclr.2020.23.4.437

Child, J, Crombag, H & Sullivan, R 2020, 'Defending the delusional, the irrational, and the dangerous', Criminal Law Review.

Crombag, H, Child, J & Sullivan, G 2020, 'Drunk, dangerous and delusional: how legal concept‐creep risks overcriminalization', Addiction. https://doi.org/10.1111/add.15024

Sinclair-House, N, Child, J & Crombag, H 2019, 'Addiction is a brain disease, and it doesn’t matter: prior choice in drug use blocks leniency in criminal punishment', Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, pp. 1-58. https://doi.org/10.1037/law0000217

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Crombag, H & Child, J 2022, Drugs, Criminaliteit en het Strafrecht. in H Otgaar, M Jelicic & H Merckelbach (eds), Rechtspsychologie.

Child, J & Sullivan, R 2018, The Current State of Murder in English Law, Wrong Turns and All. in A Reed & M Bohlander (eds), Homicide in Criminal Law: A Research Companion. Substantive Issues in Criminal Law, Routledge.


Crombag, H, Child, J & Sullivan, GR 2020, 'Debating Intoxication: response to commentaries', Addiction, vol. 115, no. 12, pp. 2210-2212. https://doi.org/10.1111/add.15257

Commissioned report

Child, J (ed.) 2020, Reforming the Computer Misuse Act 1990: Criminal Law Reform Now Network Report. Criminal Law Reform Now Network. <http://www.clrnn.co.uk/media/1018/clrnn-cma-report.pdf>

View all publications in research portal