Claire Bessant


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Sharenting; Children's privacy; Family privacy; Domestic Abuse

Willing to speak to media

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Personal profile


Dr Claire Bessant joined Northumbria University’s School of Law in 2002 having made the decision to move to academia from private practice where she worked as a solicitor specialising in family law. She has since published in the fields of family law, privacy law, data protection, information sharing and human rights, and has contributed to government and parliamentary consultations, on both domestic violence and online privacy.  

Claire is a member of the Society of Legal Scholars and an elected member of the Society of Legal Scholars Executive Committee. She is a member of the Socio-Legal Studies Association and in 2023 was appointed as one of the mentors for the SLSA's pilot mentoring scheme. In January 2024, with colleagues at Northumbria, she co-organised and co-hosted the SLSA's PGR conference 2024.  Claire is also a member of the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) and has twice served as PGR mentor at the AoIR's annual conference.

Claire is a member of the ESRC, AHRC and UKRI Talent Peer Review Colleges.

At Northumbria, Claire is a member of Northumbria Law School's Law and Society Research Group and is a member of and part of the management group of Northumbria's Gender, Violence and Abuse Interdisciplinary Research Theme.

Claire’s teaching currently focuses upon information law (including data protection, access to environmental information and inter-agency information sharing for child protection purposes).  Claire has also led the postgraduate research skills module and has taught on the undergraduate and postgraduate Childcare Law and Family Law modules and on the undergraduate distance learning English Legal Systems module.

Claire currently fulfils two administrative roles at Northumbria: PGR Lead for Northumbria Law School and Ethics lead for Northumbria Law School. She has previously undertaken a variety of administrative roles including Faculty Director of Programme Approvals and Review, Director of Education for Postgraduate Law Programmes and Director of Education for Law. 

Claire is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, a reviewer for the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme and has sat as an expert member on several panels considering the validation of law-related programmes at other institutions.

Claire is joint Managing Editor of the open-access Journal of Law, Technology and Trust. 

Research interests

Much of Claire's research explores how family privacy impacts upon the law in practice. Family privacy is here understood as an ideology which protects the family from the intervention of state and society and enables the family (notably parents) to take decisions about the family and children’s upbringing. Claire's doctoral thesis titled 'Parental Views about the Importance of Family Privacy and its Protection in English Law'used empirical methods to explore parents’ understanding of family privacy and the laws protecting such privacy.  The thesis proposed a new framework for understanding the relationship between family, state and society and a new definition of family privacy which reflects both how parents understand the term and jurisprudential views on the family and how it should be protected from state and society. Claire's thesis findings have been published in abridged form in the leading family law journal Child and Family Law Quarterly ('Twenty-First Century Family Privacy' 2023 CFLQ 35(3) 251-274). Claire is currently working on a monograph, to be published by Routledge, Family Law, Privacy and Ideology, which will explore the application of this framework in practice, and consider how the law currently operates to protect the family's privacy from state, individuals and big tech.

Claire's research on family privacy has been used to provide a new perspective to discussions regarding children's privacy, online harms, and the role parents and Government should play in protecting children from such harms (Parental approaches to protecting children from online harm: Trust, Protectionism or Dialogue? in Setty, Gordon and Nottingham, Children, Young People and Online Harms Palgrave Macmillan, 2024). Claire is also currently undertaking empirical research exploring educators' understanding of the legal obligations imposed upon them where children are at risk of/have suffered female genital mutilation, again using family privacy as a lens through which to explore the state's role in protecting vulnerable family members.  

Claire's research also explores the impact of technology upon children's privacy.  Claire's research on 'sharenting' (a term used when parents share information about their children online) and the legal remedies afforded to children in the UK whose information is shared online by their parents was published in Communications Law in 2018. Her consideration with Dr Maximillian Schnebbe of the application of the UKGDPR and EUGDPR to the phenomenon of shareting was published in Datenschutz und Datensicherheit in 2022. During 2021-2 Claire worked with an international, interdisciplinary team of academics to develop further understanding of the sharenting phenomenon, the benefits that sharenting brings and the risks that it poses, with a view to identifying further avenues for research and developing policy recommendations. This research forms the basis of a recent publication Sharenting in an Evolving Digital World: Increasing Online Connection and Consumer Vulnerability in the Journal of Consumer Affairs

Claire's interests in exploring the impact of digital technologies upon children has also led to another international collaboration which is currently exploring parents' awareness of dark design, an intentionally deceptive user interface designed to manipulate users, including children, into certain behaviours, including the sharing of their personal information.

In 2020-21 Claire formed part of the Observatory for the Monitoring for Data-Driven Approaches to Covid-19 (OMDDAC), a collaboration between Northumbria University & the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), funded by AHRC to research data-driven approaches to Covid-19.  Claire led on OMDDAC's research with young people which asked 'Are young people aware of how data (including their own personal data) has been used during the pandemic and if so, what views do they hold about its use?' The findings and recommendations drawn from this research are now available in the European Journal of Law and Technology: Children, Public Sector Data-Driven Decision-Making and Article 12 UNCRC

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

Law, PhD, Parental views about the importance of family privacy and its protection in English Law, University of Leicester

30 Sept 201320 May 2021

Award Date: 20 May 2021

Academic Studies in Education, MA, MA Academic Practice


Award Date: 1 Nov 2011

Law, LLM, LLM Advanced Legal Practice


Award Date: 1 Jul 2002

Law, LLB (Hons), LLB (Hons) Law with French

1 Sept 199030 Jun 1994

Award Date: 1 Jul 1994


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