Photo of Heather KeatingHeather Keating
Emeritus Professor


My main areas of research are the criminal law and family (especially child) law and the role played in each by the concept(s) of responsibility. 

In 2006 I presented a paper on the responsibility of children in the criminal law to the second Sussex symposium on responsibility, law and the family which formed the basis for my article in CFLQ 2007. In 2007 I gave a paper to  'Parenting: An Interdisciplinary Workshop' at the  Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities  at the University of Cambridge on the physical punishment of children: the role of the State in protecting children and guiding parents building upon my article in Legal Studies in 2006.

In 2010 I presented a paper to the Current Legal Issues, Law and Childhood Studies Colloquium at UCL, on Children, the Criminal Law and Sexual offences which explored the relationship between the age of consent and the age of crminal responsbility. This was published in Current Legal Issues, Law and Childhood Studies, volume 14 (2012, OUP) as 'When the kissing has to stop: children and sexual offences'.

In 2012 I presented a paper to a symposium on wealth and poverty in close personal relationships (in Onati, Spain) which considered whether the emphasis upon individual parental responsbility for child support was consistent with the objective of eradicating child poverty by 2020, returning to an earlier research interest but within the framework of responsibility. This was subsequently published in Wealth and Poverty in Close Personal Relationships (edited by Susan Millns and Simone Wong) as 'The Role of Child Support in Tackling Child Poverty'.

In 2013 I presented a paper, 'Children's Rights and Children's Criminal Responsibility' at a symposium at University College, London to celebrate the work of Michael Freeman. This was published as part of an edited collection, Law in Society: reflections on Children, Family Culture and Philosophy (ed by Alison Diduck, Noam Peleg and Helen Reece) in 2015. I drew upon this work in my professorial lecture in December 2013 and in June 2014 I  presented a paper, entitled, 'A Tale of Two Bills: responding to children's harmful and anti-social behaviour' to the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law, in Vancouver, Canada.  In 2015 I gave a paper on children's responsibility and fitness to stand trial at the International Academy of Law and Mental Health conference in Vienna.

In September 2016 I presented a paper at the Criminal Law Reform Now conference at the University of Sussex; this was subequently expanded and was published as 'How should the criminal law respond to the "special status" of children?' in the edited collection, Criminal Law Reform Now (ed by John Child and Anthony Duff) in 2019.

I have contributed to a number of consultations and reports, including the Law Commission's report, Fitness to Plead (2016). I was asked by the Welsh Public Policy Institute to prepare a report for the Welsh Government on what works when legislating to remove the defence of reasonable chastisement: this was presented to the Welsh Government and published in 2019 as, Legislating to Prohibit Parental Physical Punishment of Children.

I was joint editor (with Craig Lind) of a special issue of the Journal of Law and Society, 'Children, Family Responsibilities and the State' (arising from proceedings at the second Sussex symposium on responsibility) published in 2008 (and as a book by Blackwell).  The proceedings from the first symposium, 'Responsibility, Law and the Family' were published by Ashgate in 2008 (edited by Jo Bridgeman, Heather Keating and Craig Lind). I was also a contributor to this volume, with an essay exploring the concept of responsibility in the context of offending by children.  Two further edited collections, arising from an international and interdisciplinary conference held at Sussex Law School and organised by Jo Bridgeman, Craig Lind and myself, 'Taking Responsibility: Law and the Changing Family' (2011) and 'Regulating  Family Responsibilities' (2011) were also published by Ashgate. The latter volume contained an essay written with Jo Bridgman which explored caring responsibilities, harm and compassionate acts. This essay formed the basis of further work between us on the case for a partial defence of compassionate killing, which was published in the Modern Law Review in 2012. We presented our work at the SLS conference in 2013 and I  developed it further in a paper to be given at the University of Surrey in March 2014.

I have also organised three one-day workshops around the theme of the responsibility of the state and families towards older people, drawing together academic and practising lawyers, social workers and social scientists. I convened the Criminal Law and Criminal Justice stream of the SLSA conference which was held at Sussex in April 2011. Jo Bridgeman, Craig Lind and myself organised a two day workshop to celebrate twenty-one years of the Children Act 1989 which was held at Sussex in October 2012.

I have supervised MPhil, DPhil and PhD dissertations on: Art fraud; Business Crime (a comparison between French and English law); International child abduction; Juvenile offending within the school context (a comparison between England and Korea); the implementation of referral orders into the Youth Criminal Justice system, the implementation of the Children Act 1989, a  comparative study (of England and Sweden) of joint residence orders under the Children Act 1989,  obstacles to women's rights in Tajikistan: the criminal justice system response to violence against women and the resurgence of interest in rehabilitation in the criminal justice system I am currently supervising a PhD on the new offence of coercive control.

I am particularly interested in supervising research which explores the criminal law's response to offending by children but am happy to consider research proposals across Family / Child law and Criminal law.

I supervise LLM, GDL and undergraduate dissertations across a range of criminal law /family law subjects.