Jackson Allen

Thesis title: Rethinking Reverse Burdens: Developing A New Approach


I am originally from Houston, Texas and began my academic career studying politics at Texas A&M University, where I was an Undergraduate Research Scholar. I graduated from Texas A&M in 2013 with a BA in Political Science. I then spent three years studying Law at the University of Nottingham, leaving in 2017  with an LLB and LLM (Merit) in Human Rights Law. 

In September 2017, I joined Edinburgh Law School as a doctoral researcher studying the law of criminal evidence. My thesis focuses on reconciling our commitment to the presumption of innocence for those accused of crimes with statutes which reverse the burden of proof and force the defendant to prove their innocence.

I am also involved in a number of other projects around the Law School, notably the Criminal Law Discussion Group, which I co-founded in 2019. The CLDG brings in speakers from across the UK and beyond to discuss issues of substantive criminal law, criminal law theory, and criminal procedure. I have been a co-convenor of the group since the 2019/20 academic year. I also convened the Postgraduate Research Student Board in 2018/19, where I used my position to lobby for a number of reforms to the PhD programme.


BA (Hons) Political Science - Texas A&M University

LLB (Hons) Law - University of Nottingham

LLM (Merit) Human Rights Law - University of Nottingham

Undergraduate teaching

I am responsible for delivering tutorials on the Criminal Law (Ordinary) and Evidence (Ordinary) courses as part of Year 2 of the LLB programme and for marking the formative assessments associated with those courses. 

Research summary

My doctoral research seeks to reconcile two seemingly irreconcilable features of the criminal law. The first is the common law's commitment to presume the innocence of everyone accused of a crime and to give them a fair trial. This commitment manifests itself in a variety of ways, including by requiring the prosecution in a criminal trial to prove the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt, or else acquit them. 

The second feature is that of Parliamentary supremacy, which allows the UK Parliament to legislate on any matter, anywhere, at any time. This means that Parliament can (and does) legislate to put a burden of proof on the accused in some circumstances. However, there is no clear principled approach to the creation of such reverse burdens, nor is there a satisfactory explanation of why and how they operate in English criminal law. 

To date, Anglo-American legal scholarship has principally analysed this issue in terms of the presumption of innocence, with limited success. My PhD seeks to broaden the approach to this issue by deepening our understanding of the nature and rationales of reverse burdens, and to construct a framework for analysing reverse burdens based on a 'thicker' understanding of the presumption of innocence, understood as a general norm of the criminal law.

Current research interests

My research interests are mostly in the fields of criminal law and the law of evidence. However, I take a human rights-based approach to these topics, using international and domestic human rights law as a lens through which to analyse issues of criminal law and evidence. As such, I am also interested in the ongoing development of domestic and international systems of human rights law, especially the ECHR.