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 led to her research interest in the points of intersection between family and criminal law.

She obtained an MSc (Distinction)  from the University of Surrey in Criminology, Criminal Justice and Social Research in 2012. Her Masters research explored  the impact of motherhood as mitigation in criminal sentencing using interviews with members of the judiciary and an analysis of sentencing transcripts.

Shona then moved to the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford and funded by the ESRC she undertook DPhil research which analysed the place of children in maternal sentencing decisions in England and Wales. She explored the status of children of prisoners in English law and engaged directly with children and their carers to explore the nature of the impact of maternal imprisonment. She also interviewed members of the Crown Court judiciary to examine sentencing practice. She completed the DPhil in early 2017. She has produced briefing papers summarising the findings. The first on The impact of maternal imprisonment on children's wellbeing and the mother and child relationship, is available online

Shona is currently employed by the Faculty of Law as the Research Officer on an ESRC Impact Acceleration Award funded project in association with the Prison Reform Trust and Dr Rachel Condry.  ' Addressing the Impact of Maternal Imprisonment: Developing Collaborative Training' aims to build on the findings of her doctoral work and provide information, in the form of films, to sentencers and legal professionals to aid consistency and understanding in maternal sentencing decisions. 


Her report on 'Motherhood as Mitigation' won the John Sunley Prize 2013 and was published by The Howard League for Penal Reform in April 2014.

Her report co-authored and published by the Prison Reform Trust The Sentencing of Mothers, including proposals for sentencing reform, was published in November 2015. 

In early 2017 she was invited to address the Scottish Sentencing Council on the development of Sentencing Guidelines for Primary Carers. 









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  • Shona Minson, The Sentencing of Parents of Dependent Children (Scottish Sentencing Council, Edinburgh. 6th March 2017 2017)
    Presentation to the Scottish Sentencing Council 6th March 2017, based on 'Who Cares? Analysing the place of children in maternal sentencing decisions in England and Wales', Minson, S. (2017), DPhil Thesis, University of Oxford
  • Shona Minson, 'Who cares? Analysing the place of children in maternal sentencing decisions in England and Wales ' (2017) a (forthcoming)
    This thesis has been lodged with the Bodleian Library
    When children face separation from their parents as a consequence of state action in the family courts, their best interests are the paramount consideration of the court and they have legal representation. Children who face separation from their mother as a consequence of sentencing proceedings in the criminal courts are neither represented nor acknowledged. The thesis analyses this differentiated treatment and explores its consequences for children, society and the state. Explanations for the differentiated treatment are tested with reference to existing literature and original empirical research. The impact on children of imprisoned mothers is investigated to determine whether or not they suffer harm. The parameters of the state duty of care towards children are explored, to see if children of defendant mothers fall outside of it, and the way sentencing judges construct and interpret their duty towards mothers and their children within the sentencing process is examined. This thesis establishes that without legal or moral justification, children of maternal defendants are treated without the concern given to children who face separation from their parents in the family courts. Children of defendant mothers suffer as a consequence of the ‘secondary prisonisation’, ‘secondary stigmatisation’ and ‘confounding grief’ which they experience, and the state has failed to uphold their rights under Articles 3, 12 and 20, and is in breach of its duty under Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989. The guidance and mechanisms for considering their welfare exist but are not engaged with by the sentencing courts, local authorities, legislators or policy makers. This has negative consequences for children, their caregivers and wider society. The thesis concludes with consideration of the implications of these findings for the state and suggests changes to ensure equitable treatment of children of defendant mothers in England and Wales.
  • R. Condry, A. Kotova and Shona Minson, 'Social Injustice and collateral damage: The families and children of prisoners' in Jewkes, Y., Bennett, J., Crewe, B. (ed), Handbook on Prisons (Routledge 2016)
  • Shona Minson, 'Sentencing and Dependents: Motherhood as Mitigation' in J Roberts (ed), Exploring Sentencing Practice in England and Wales (Palgrave Macmillan 2015)
  • Shona Minson and R Condry, 'The visibility of children whose mothers are being sentenced for criminal offences in England and Wales' (2015) 32 Law in Context 28


Research programmes

Research projects

Research Interests

  • Women's Imprisonment
  • Children of Prisoners
  • Criminal Sentencing Policy
  • Rights of the Child 
  • Judicial Practice 

Options taught

Criminology and Criminal Justice, Crime and the Family

Research projects