Associate Professor Mai Sato

PhD (King's College London)
Associate Professor
College of Asia & the Pacific

Areas of expertise

  • Criminology 1602
  • Sociological Methodology And Research Methods 160807
  • Human Rights Law 180114


Mai is an Associate Professor at the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet). Before joining RegNet in February 2019, Mai worked for the School of Law, University of Reading (2015-2018 as Lecturer; 2018-2019 as Associate Professor); the Centre for Criminology, the University of Oxford (2011-2015 as research officer); and the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, Birkbeck, University of London (2008-2014 as Post-doctoral research fellow).


Researcher's projects

Mai's research topics include the death penalty, miscarriages of justice, trafficking of goods, policing, and international human rights law. 


[Death Penalty]

Mai’s research on the death pealty focuses on public attitudes to the death penalty around the world including Japan, India, Kenya and Zimbabwe. She uses survey work, social experiments, and deliberative consultation as her methodology to determine the effect of information and deliberation on support for the death penalty. Her monograph ‘The Death Penalty in Japan: Will the Public Tolerate Abolition?’ (Springer, 2014) received the Young Criminologist Award 2014 from the Japanese Association of Sociological Criminology. In 2015, she published a policy report (with Paul Bacon) - Public Opinion Myth: Why Japan Retains the Death Penalty - which influenced the decision by the Japan Federation of Bar Associations to become an abolitionist organisation for the first time in October 2016; the work was cited in their declaration (click here). The report is accompanied by a documentary - The Wavering Public? The Death Penalty, Justice and Public Opinion (available in Japanese with English subtitles 20min and 59 min versions –click here for the website). The film captures a social experiment exploring what the death penalty means to ordinary citizens living in a retentionist state - one in which much of the practice surrounding the death penalty is little understood and rarely discussed.

She is currently working on a project looking at attitudes towards the death penalty in Kenya. 


[Wrongful Convictions]

Her most recent book - ‘Reasons to Doubt: wrongful convictions and the Criminal Cases Review Commission’ (OUP, 2019, with Carolyn Hoyle) - examines what happens to applications for post-conviction review when those who believe they are wrongfully convicted apply to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), the only body that can refer a case back to the Court of Appeal. The first empirical study of all stages of decision-making within the CCRC, this book starts from the premise that the test applied by the CCRC (the ‘real possibility test’) is not inflexible. Though created by statute and refined through case law, it must be determined on a case-by-case basis, drawing too on cultural and structural variables, alongside fresh evidence gathered by the CCRC.



Mai set up a website CrimeInfo with Center for Prisoners' Rights (an NGO based in Japan). The website provides information on the Japanese criminal justice system including the death penalty. The project is funded by the European Commission. 


Current funded projects: 

  • ‘Strengthening the rule of law in Kenya’, funded by the European Commission (EuroAid) with The Death Penalty Project, Katiba Institute, and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights —£129,710 (2018-2020) 
  • ‘Engagement with Civil Society in Japan on Fundamental Rights: Death Penalty and the Criminal Justice System’, funded by the European Commission (EuroAid) with the Center for Prisoners' Rights—£115,385 (2017-2019)

Previously funded projects

  • ‘Public attitudes towards the death penalty in Zimbabwe’, funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Magna Carta Fund)—£20,000 (2017-2019)
  • ‘Elite interviews in India’, funded by the Swiss Foreign Office—£7,500 (2016-2017)
  • ‘Screening of the documentary “Wavering Public?”’ funded by the Sasakawa Foundation—£1,600 (2016-2017)
  • ‘Public attitudes towards the death penalty in Japan’, funded by multiple foreign governments (UK foreign and Commonwealth Office, German Foreign Office, Swiss Foreign Office, and Norwegian Foreign Office), the European Commission, and the Daiwa Foundation—£150,000 (2014-2015).
  • 'Improvement of Civilian Oversight of Internal Security Sector - Phase 2' (United Nations Development Programme, funded by the European Commission in collaboration with the Turkish Ministry of Interior)—£10,000 (2014-2015)
  • ‘Deliberative polling and online survey in Japan’, funded by Suntory Foundation, Safe Society Foundation, Sasakawa Foundation, Daiwa Foundation, and the University of London Central Research Fund (£23,480).



Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  10 July 2020 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers