Laura Hoyano’s empirical study Cross-Examination of Sexual Assault Complainants on Previous Sexual Behaviour: Views from the Barristers’ Row was published by the Criminal Bar Association on 29 November 2018. The report (with errata corrected) may be downloaded here.

Laura Hoyano is Emeritus Professor of Law and Emeritus Fellow at Wadham College. Laura's career in academia and at the Canadian and English Bars focuses on the intersections between areas of law commonly regarded as disconnected: Child Abuse and Criminal, Tort, Human Rights, Family and Evidence Law (taking a comparative approach);  Evidence Law and Human Rights; Medical Law & Ethics, Tort Law and Human Rights. In 2008 her book with Caroline Keenan, Child Abuse Law and Policy across Boundaries (OUP 2007), examining how allegations of child abuse are litigated in criminal, family, tort, and human rights law, and the rules of evidence, across 76 jurisdictions, was awarded the first Inner Temple Book Prize for outstanding contribution to legal scholarship and public policy, a competition open to all legal publications in English in the world in the previous four years. The OUP published an updated paperback edition in 2010, and a further complete edition, single-authored by Laura, will be published by the OUP in 2022.  The new edition adds the Republic of Ireland and India as 77th and 78th jurisdictions, and a new chapter on public inquiries and historic allegations of abuse. See further below under Research Interests and Publications.

Laura graduated from the University of Alberta in Canada with two degrees in medieval history before being converted to law, receiving a JD (Gold Medallist) from the University of Alberta. She was called to the Alberta Bar in 1983 after clerking at the Alberta Court of Appeal, and practised commercial, insurance, public inquiries and medical law and catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death law for 10 years, interrupted by a sabbatical year in 1990-91 to read for the B.C.L. (First Class) at Balliol College, Oxford funded by the National Viscount Bennett Fellowship (awarded by the Canadian Bar Association). In 1994 she moved to England to an academic appointment at the Law Faculty of the University of Bristol, continuing part-time practice at the Alberta Bar. From 1999 to 2013 she held a Tutorial Fellowship at Wadham College and a joint appointment  (CUF) at the Faculty of Law, Oxford University. In October 2013 her Wadham post was converted to a Senior Research Fellowship to allow her to concentrate on her research in child abuse, evidence, tort law, and medical law. She continues to teach Human Rights Law, and to supervise postgraduate research in all of her research fields, including the law of Evidence.

Laura is a tenant at Red Lion Chambers, a leading criminal and regulatory set of barristers in London, where her practice mirrors her research interests. Laura currently represents the Criminal Bar Association on the End to End Review of the Prosecution of Rape and Other Serious Sexual Offences convened by the Ministry of Justice, Home Office and the Prime Minister's Implementation Unit. The Review is examining the systemic causes for the plummeting rate of prosecutions of these offences, and involves all criminal justice agencies from the Crown Prosecution Service and the police, the court services and Her Majesty's Inspectorates of Constabulary and the CPS. 

Laura's work as an academic and practitioner in advocating for reform of the criminal justice system, particularly in relation to child abuse and vulnerable witnesses, was examined by Counsel, the Bar Council's official magazine, in an in-depth article in 2020:

In 2009 Laura was elected as a Fellow of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, where she has served on the Education Committee and the Equality, Diversity & Social Mobility Committee, working to enhance access to the Bar from underrepresented groups.  She chaired the Human Rights Subgroup of the South Eastern Circuit's Access to Justice Working Party, which provided a 'rapid response' to government initiatives in the field of human rights.

Laura has conducted empirical research for the Crown Prosecution Service and the Home Office on prosecutorial decision-making and on child abuse prosecutions,  and has been a consultant for the Ministry of Justice, Home Office,  the Scottish Government, the Child Rapporteur for Ireland, the Norwegian Law Commission, and Oxfam. She chaired the Independent Advisory Committee on Child Maltreatment convened by Action for Children, which drafted a new offence of child maltreatment, part of which was enacted by Parliament. She also provides advice on law reform to the Centre of Expertise for Child Sexual Abuse (funded by the Home Office), the NSPCC, Action for Children, and the Loudoun Trust (which seeks to provide reliable research and educative materials on the root causes of child abuse).

In December 2012 she was invited by the Verma Committee on Amendments to the Criminal Law, appointed as a consequence of the furore sparked by a gang rape and murder in Delhi in December 2012, to advise them on reform of Indian substantive and procedural law pertaining to the prosecution of substantive sexual assault offences for adults, children and other vulnerable persons, and a range of issues pertaining to more effective trials of such offences, including special measures for vulnerable witnesses; her contribution was acknowledged in the Report and in the national press conference held by Chief Justice Verma. She was consulted by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabularies and the NSPCC with regard to their enquiries into the investigation of sexual abuse allegations against Jimmy Savile and legal and practice responses to the issues raised. She is also frequently consulted by the Ministry of Justice, the College of Policing, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Criminal Bar Association on a range of issues relating to child abuse and exploitation prosecutions, and the intersection of criminal justice and human rights more generally. For several years she was on the case commentary team for the Criminal Law Review, commenting on criminal judgments involving sex offences, child abuse and vulnerable witnesses, and she continues to write commentaries on human trafficking cases. She is frequently contacted by national and international news media for commentary and background information on legal issues, particularly child abuse, including the BBC, Channel Four,  The Times, The Guardian, The Economist, and New Scientist.

Laura has provided training and lectures, particularly on the handling of vulnerable witnesses, for the Criminal Bar Association, Middle Temple, the South Eastern Circuit  and other Bar Circuits,  the Family Bar Association, the Judicial Studies College, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee (on neuroscience and young offenders), the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Faculty of Forensic & Legal Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians.


Research Interests

  • Evidence
  • Human Rights
  • Medical Law & Ethics
  • Child protection law
  • Tort Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal  Justice