Laureate’s research courts our criminal history

Professor Mark Finnane has been awarded a prestigious Australian Laureate Fellowship for a research project exploring Australian criminal jurisdiction

Griffith University academic Professor Mark Finnane has been awarded a prestigious Australian Laureate Fellowship for a research project that goes to the heart of the criminal justice system.

Offered through the Federal Government’s Australian Research Council, the fellowship will fund what Professor Finnane has dubbed “The Prosecution Project”, an investigation to advance understanding of the successes, failures and limitations of the criminal trial in Australia from the mid-1800s to the 1960s.

A chief investigator with Griffith’s ARC Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security (CEPS) and a Professor of History at the School of Humanities, Professor Finnane said the project would cover all six states and provide an enduring foundational knowledge of Australian criminal jurisdiction in its historical and international contexts.

The project’s time-frame will incorporate some of the most notorious cases in Australian criminal history, including the trials of bushranger Ned Kelly and Ronald Ryan, the last man legally executed in Australia.

“Prosecution lies at the core of the criminal justice system. It is the object of investigation and can end in punishment,” Professor Finnane said.

“Yet as remarkable as the Kelly and Ryan cases may be, our courts mostly deal with much more common crimes, such as those against property.

“In tracing the modern history of prosecution, the stories of offenders and victims, causes and consequences in these cases can be brought to light, examined and understood.”

By using modern technology to access the vast archives and media resources available today, Professor Finnane said the project would map the changes in prosecution over time, analyse these in relation to evolving social attitudes and explore the growth and impact of criminology and training in the practice of law.

Pro Vice Chancellor (Arts, Education, Law), Professor Paul Mazerolle, said the Laureate Fellowship validated Professor Finnane’s depth and scope as a scholar, endorsed Griffith University’s commitment to world-leading research and acknowledged programs within CEPS and the School of Humanities.

“Only a few of these fellowships are given out and they are highly competitive across the academic disciplines, so this is recognition of both the qualityof Professor Finnane’s work and where it is being conducted,” Professor Mazerolle said.

A thrilled Professor Finnane was among 17 of Australia’s most outstanding researchers awarded a total of $47 million through the 2013 Australian Laureate Fellowships. He paid particular tribute to CEPS and Griffith University’s Office for Research for offering constant encouragement and infrastructural support.

The Federal Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, presented the fellowships at a ceremony at Monash University in Melbourne.