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Workshop - Professionals at the sharp end of criminal justice: The price of McDonaldization

Professionals at the sharp end of criminal justice:
The price of McDonaldization

A workshop supported by the Institute of Advanced Study Fernandes Fellowship

Jackie Hodgson, School of Law, University of Warwick UK
Mojca Plesnicar, Institute of Criminology, Ljubljana, Slovenia

14th October 2022


The metamorphosis to which criminal justice has been subjected in recent decades (Hodgson, 2020) has produced systems that differ significantly from the envisioned adversarial or inquisitorial models or traditions of criminal justice. Despite the different starting points, many systems have undergone a similar transition: one that leads towards more simplified procedures offering less procedural safeguards, a more streamlined process of providing justice in both procedural and substantive decisions, an emphasis of efficiency and swiftness. The result is what has been described by Bohm (2006) as a kind of McDonaldization of criminal justice, drawing on Ritzer’s (2004) McDonaldization of society.

Research in this area tends to focus on the declining rights of the accused and procedural changes following reductions in the justice budget, together with the preoccupation with managerialism within criminal justice. The impact on those who continue to work in the system and to administer justice – police, probation officers, judges, defence lawyers, prosecutors and other criminal justice actors – is less well understood. This workshop aims at starting to fill this gap by considering what this process has meant for key professionals involved in the trial of criminal offences.

With this in mind, the workshop will revolve around two key questions:

  • How has the metamorphosis of criminal justice affected the idea of professionalism in criminal justice? What has happened with professionals’ discretion and their autonomy? How has the role of judge, prosecutor and defence lawyer changed?
  • How have the changes affected professionals and their well-being? Is there greater emotional labour involved in this new reality of emphasised productivity and changing expectations, changes in working routines and habits, the increased public and media attention and scrutiny? How do professionals cope?

The workshop will explore these issues using two double lenses: a comparative one seeking parallels and differences between two very different legal systems: England and Wales on the one hand, and Slovenia on the other hand; and an epistemological one combining the viewpoints of academics and practitioners working in the respective systems.

The aim of the workshop is to begin a discussion on these issues and identify the most relevant themes on which future research should focus. Participants are warmly encouraged to participate actively in the discussion regardless of their type of participation – online and live.

In order to be more inclusive, the conference will be held in a hybrid form; live in the conference room of the Institute of Advanced Studies and online via MSTeams.

Attendance is free, but participants must register via email at first to secure a place.



Professionals at the sharp end of criminal justice: The price of McDonaldization







10.50 – 11.00




11.00 – 12.30

Morning session

Jackie Hodgson, University of Warwick:

'The death of professional autonomy in criminal justice', position paper


Laurène Soubise, University of Leeds

Ciril Keršmanc, District Court Judge, Ljubljana



12.30 – 13.30




13.30 – 15.00

Afternoon session

Mojca M. Plesničar, Institute of Criminology Ljubljana:
'The emotional and psychological burden of being a professional', position paper



Cyrus Tata, University of Strathclythe

David Fanson, Solicitor and Higher Court Advocate, Bristol




Close of workshop


  Ciril Kersmanc

 Cyrus Tata


  David Fanson

Jackie Hodgson

Laurene Soubise

Mojca Plesnicar