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Professor Caroline Derry

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Professional biography

Caroline Derry joined the Open University in April 2017, teaching subjects including criminal and evidence law. She is Professor of Feminism, Law and History. Her other roles include Deputy Director Research Degrees and Law School EDI Champion.

Caroline qualified as a barrister, practising in criminal defence law, and as a solicitor in a large, central London legal aid practice. She then taught for fifteen years at London Metropolitan University, where she was a senior lecturer in criminal and evidence law and gender & law, and course leader for the LLB Law. She has been a visiting lecturer in criminal law at SOAS and at Paris Descartes (Masters in Common Law).

Caroline is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and of the HEA.


Research interests

Gender, sexuality and criminal law, particularly temporalities, the law on sexual consent, and the legal regulation of relationships between women from the seventeenth century to the present. Caroline's forthcoming monograph, Legal Temporalities of Sexual Consent, will be published by Edinburgh University Press. Recent invited presentations include '''Networks of influence, gender, class and lesbianism in Woods and Pirie v Cumming Gordon (1810-12)' (Alan Watson Legal History Seminar, Edinburgh University, 2023), 'The Wolfenden Report, homosexuality, and women’ (The Neglected Decade: law in the 1950s, IALS, 2022) and the forthcoming ‘Louise Mourey, the Labouchère amendment, and the non-criminalisation of sex between women’ (Oscar Wilde, Sexuality & the State, UCLA, 2024).

Recent work on law and literature focuses upon lesbianism in Agatha Christie's novels and the criminal courts. It is being shared with academic and public audiences including in a forthcoming talk at the International Agatha Christie Festival. 

Early women lawyers: Caroline researches several of the first women to qualify as barristers in Britain. She has published and presented widely on these, and on feminist biographical methodologies, and is a participant in projects on the first women lawyers and early ethnic minority lawyers. Recent conference papers include ‘Understandings of women’s citizenship after the Representation of the People Act 1918: Ethel Bright Ashford’ (International Congress on Feminism, Law and Citizenship, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, 2022), ‘Olive Clapham and the complexities of “firsts”’ (keynote address, Diversity, Dilemmas and Discoveries, The Open University, 2021).

Caroline is Academic Lead of the Legal Histories research cluster, whose activities include the Diversity, Dilemmas and Discoveries conference series which attracts international participation. Themes have included women's entry into the legal profession, histories of legal education, legal history in the curriculum, and legal histories/local histories. She also convenes the Society of Legal Scholars' Legal History Subject Section.

Teaching interests

  • W111 Criminal law and the courts
  • W250 Evidence law.
  • W340 Law, society and culture
  • Y035 Business and law Access

Prior to working at the Open University, Caroline led a range of undergraduate and postgraduate modules including:

  • Criminal Law
  • Evidence and Advocacy
  • Gender and Human Rights
  • Criminal Justice and Human Rights

She is the co-author of textbooks including Complete Criminal Law, 6th-8th editions (with Janet Loveless and Mischa Allen, OUP, 2018, 2020, and 2022) and Gender and Law (with Judith Bourne, Routledge, 2018).


Impact and engagement

Caroline has contributed to a range of consultations including the UK Government consultation on evidence in sexual offences, Scottish Goverment consultations on victims' rights and the not proven verdict, and the Criminal Law Reform Now Network project 'Reforming the Relationship between Sexual Consent, Deception and Mistake'.

She has published in the Law Society Gazette, The Conversation and OpenLearn, and contributed to exhibitions and events at the Inns of Court. Recent blog posts include:

Caroline's EDI work has been shared at conferences and events including the Association of Law Teachers' 2023 annual conference, AdvanceHE EDI Conference 2023, a Lincoln's Inn qualifying session on Gender Inequality and Intersectional Discrimination, and on OpenLearn, and in public talks for LGBT+ History Month. She is currently leading research on the experiences of Gypsy, Roma, Traveller, Showperson and Boater students in higher education distance learning.


The ‘legal’ in socio-legal history: Woods and Pirie v Cumming Gordon (2022-12)
Derry, Caroline
Journal of Law and Society, 49(4) (pp. 778-799)

Ethel Bright Ashford: more and less than a role model (2020)
Derry, Caroline
Women's History Review, 29(4) (pp. 615-635)

Lesbianism and Feminist Legislation in 1921: the Age of Consent and 'Gross Indecency between Women' (2018-07-12)
Derry, Caroline
History Workshop Journal, 86(Autumn) (pp. 245-267)

‘Female Husbands’, Community and Courts in the Eighteenth Century (2017)
Derry, Caroline
Journal of Legal History, 38(1) (pp. 54-79)

Lesbianism and the Criminal Law: Three Centuries of Regulation in England and Wales (2020-01-14)
Derry, Caroline
ISBN : 978-3-030-35300-1 | Publisher : Palgrave | Published : Basingstoke

Criminal Law Amendment Act 1922 (2024)
Derry, Caroline
In: Auchmuty, Rosemary; Rackley, Erika and Takayanagi, Mari eds. Women’s Legal Landmarks in the Interwar Years: Not for the Want of Trying
ISBN : 9781509969722 | Publisher : Hart Publishing (In Press) | Published : London

Monica Geikie Cobb (2024)
Derry, Caroline
In: Auchmuty, Rosemary; Rackley, Erika and Takayanagi, Mari eds. Women’s Legal Landmarks in the Interwar Years: Not for the Want of Trying
ISBN : 9781509969722 | Publisher : Hart Publishing (In Press) | Published : London

Beyond firsts: feminist biography and early women barristers (2023)
Derry, Caroline
In: Barnes, Victoria; Honkala, Nora and Wheeler, Sally eds. Women, Their Lives, and the Law: Essays in Honour of Rosemary Auchmuty (pp. 43-59)
ISBN : 9781509962082 | Publisher : Hart Publishing | Published : London

Sustained identity deceptions (2023)
Derry, Caroline
In: Criminal Law Reform Now Network, ed. Reforming the Relationship between Sexual Consent, Deception and Mistake (pp. 19-27)
Publisher : Criminal Law Reform Now Network | Published : London

Consenting to Sexual Activity (2020)
Derry, Caroline
In: Claydon, Lisa; Derry, Caroline and Ajevski, Marjan eds. Law in Motion: 50 years of Legal Change (pp. 136-148)
ISBN : 978-1-4730-3148-7 | Publisher : The Open University Law School

DPP v Jonathan Cape and Leopold Hill (1928) (2018-12)
Derry, Caroline
In: Rackley, Erika and Auchmuty, Rosemary eds. Women's Legal Landmarks: Celebrating 100 Years of Women and Law in the UK and Ireland
ISBN : 978-1782259770 | Publisher : Hart Publishing

Criminal Law (2018-04)
Derry, Caroline
In: Auchmuty, Rosemary ed. Great Debates in Gender and Law. Palgrave Great Debates in Law (pp. 37-48)
ISBN : 9781137610997 | Publisher : Palgrave

Law in Motion: 50 Years of Legal Change (2020-12)
Claydon, Lisa; Derry, Caroline and Ajevski, Marjan eds.
ISBN : 978-1-4730-3148-7 | Publisher : Open University Law School | Published : Milton Keynes

Ashford, Ethel Bright (1883–1980) (2018-11-08)
Derry, Caroline
Oxford University Press

Clapham, Olive Catherine [married name Miles] (1898–1973) (2018-11-08)
Derry, Caroline
Oxford University Press

Cobb, Monica Mary Geikie (1891–1946) (2018-11-08)
Derry, Caroline
Oxford University Press