Professor Teela Sanders

Professor in Criminology

Teela Sanders

School/Department: Criminology, School of



Professor Teela Sanders’ research sits on the borders of criminology and sociology, exploring the inter-relationship between gender, sexuality and socio-legal structures. I have expertise in relation to police, law enforcement and violence and have been appointed the academic lead for the National Police Chief Council Sex Work and Policing working group since 2018. I work with the National Crime Agency, Ofcom and input research evidence into parliamentary processes to promote safety, working conditions and partnership work.

I am currently working in a research leadership position as the Dean for Research and Enterprise for the College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities. I am specifically involved in supporting 11 research centres in the College, leading on the research strategy and Panel C & D for the REF2029. I am leading on supporting the development of one of the University of Leicester’s key priorities around arts, culture and heritage partnership work, setting up our first Institute of Policy and the development of the humanising space concept.


Sitting on the borders of criminology and sociology, I explore the inter-relationship between human sexuality and socio-legal structures. My focus has been on the intersections between gender, regulation and the state, focusing on the UK sex industry.

I regularly advise governments, the police, higher education institutes, NGOs and the broader third sector, forging collaborative relationships with partners to move forward evidence based policy and practice.

Professor Sanders is the Principal Investigator on the University’s ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (login required).

Understanding Sexual Violence in Sex Working Populations: Law, Legal Consciousness and Legal Practice in Four Countries (ESRC)

Sex workers, especially street-based workers, sex workers of color and transgender sex workers are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence on the job. Our research project (funded by the ESRC for 3 years) will explore how the socio-legal context in four different legal environments shape the experiences of sexual violence among people engaging in sex work by comparing four different legal environments: legalisation (Nevada USA), criminalisation (Northern Ireland), decriminalisation (New Zealand) and partial criminalisation (Great Britain).

The role of adult service websites in addressing modern slavery (AHRC)

The landscape of where modern slavery and sexual exploitation takes place has changed over the past decade with the onset of digital technologies dominating the organisation of the commercial sex industry. Professor Sanders is leading a team from the University of Leicester, the National Crime Agency, National Police Chief's Council, and the Unseen to investigate what role adult service websites can play in preventing human trafficking and sexual exploitation in the UK, and their role in wider policies and laws on this issue. Funded by the AHRC via the Modern Slavery Policy and Evidence Centre, the findings will directly inform policy around regulating the online sex industry. For more information about the project click here: 

Professor Sanders is exploring the impact of the virus and its management on female sex workers in Kenya

Through Professor Sanders’ Nairobi-based partner organisation, the Bar Hostesses Empowerment and Support Project (BHESP), it has come to light that many of the restrictions designed to contain the outbreak are creating conditions that adversely affect the sex worker community. These measures include a night curfew and closure of public spaces including bars and clubs. Health facilities have been drastically reduced and transport prices have increased, reducing access to essential services. These changes have had an immediate and intense impact on sex workers, leading to greater exposure to danger and risk. Professor Sanders is researching these changes and developing ways to deliver health care to sex workers during the restrictions. She is exploring new and enhanced technological ways to deliver these services whilst adhering to COVID-19 restrictions.

Beyond the Gaze: Working Practices, Safety and Regulation of Internet Based Sex Workers in the UK – ESRC (2015-2018)

Dr Rosie Campbell and I have been funded by the ESRC to investigate how digital technologies have affected the sex industry. So far, the research team has conducted a survey with sex workers and customers, and interviews with sex workers, police officers across forces in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, and key players in web design/marketing for platforms.

This study will lead to the development of an outreach info service for sex workers via the internet and a Netreach toolkit for good practice guidance on models of internet outreach and work with internet based sex workers.


I am happy to accept applications to supervise PhDs on the following topics:

  • Crime and gender
  • Regulation and the sex industry
  • Gender/crime policy & practice
  • Women in the cjs
  • Acid/weapon crime


  • Understanding Criminological Research (Undergraduate)

Administrative responsibilities

  • Dean of Research and Enterprise College Arts, Social Science and Humanities

Press and media

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