Universiteit Leiden

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Criminal Law and Criminology


The institute hosts criminal lawyers and criminologists who engage in high-quality scientific research that is also relevant for society.

The research conducted by the Institute is closely connected to the research programme Criminal Justice: Legitimacy, Accountability and Effectivity. The criminal justice system is central to this program. ‘Criminal Justice’ can be described as the collection of principles, regulations and legislation, types of interventions (i.e. practices) and institutions, by which – in the context of the democratic rule of law – the authorities sanction or ought to sanction socially undesirable behaviour and enforces or ought to enforce these sanctions. The CJ research programme is thus essentially focused on the content and form of the decisions that are taken in the criminal justice system and that are valued in the context of the democratic rule of law.

Decisions relating to criminal procedure are taken by various actors in various phases of the criminal justice procedure and affect legislation as well as prevention, investigation, enforcement, adjudication, implementation of sanctions and ‘after care’. These decisions are not only chronologically sequential, but in an idealised sense, could also be considered as a chain i.e. closely linked, interdependent, synchronised and balanced. The metaphor of a chain serves as an important anchor point in CJ research. A streamlined regulated chain would, after all, enhance the effectiveness of the criminal justice system. However, there is no guarantee that a well-regulated chain will meet the standards that apply in a globalising democracy based on the rule of law. Research in the field of Criminal Justice therefore makes it necessary  to also take into account the perspective of the democratic rule of law, which in the CJ programme concentrates on the notions of legitimacy, accountability and effectivity (or effectiveness).

Legitimacy relates to acceptance from the perspective of the democratic rule of law as well as support for and the authority of the judicial system and the actors and private citizens involved (and affected). Accountability relates to the responsibility of judicial professionals to carry out their work transparently and thus make it visible that they are performing their public task as it should be done. Effectivity concerns the matter of the extent to which legislation, enforcement, interventions and sanctions produce effects – both intended and unintended.

Scholarly and societal relevance

The institute aims to contribute to the production of knowledge and understanding of the capabilities, limitations, conditions, effects and side effects of government action in the context of crime and criminalization. Moreover, researchers aspire to enhance the quality of criminal justice by conducting high quality research. Scientific knowledge production, knowledge utilization and practice are therefore always related to each other in our research. Furthermore, our research agenda is closely connected and constantly adapted to relevant social, political and scientific developments.

Members of the institute are active in different kinds of advisory committees. The researchers bring their scientific expertise and contribute in that way to policy-making and concrete social practices. Scientists of the institute are embedded in a large number of academic and policy networks. They regularly do research commissioned by external organizations, including the Research and Documentation Centre (WODC), de Raad voor de rechtspraak (Judiciary Council) , Politie en Wetenschap (Police & Science) and the Koninklijke Marechaussee (KMAR, the Royal Military Police).

Broad focus

Dutch policy-making and the Dutch criminal justice system are important anchor points in our research focus, but we also do internationally oriented or comparative research. The institute aims to systematically compare research results with other criminal justice systems and legal domains. Scholars from abroad regularly visit the institute. The institute accommodates both discipline-oriented research in the field of law (national, international, European, comparative law), criminology, legal psychology, and forensics, as well as interdisciplinary research.

Research themes

The Criminal Justice research programme is dynamic and should remain adaptive to developments in society and the dynamic character of democratic rule of law. At this moment, these are our main research themes:


Evidence and the establishment of truth

Human trafficking

Legislation/criteria for criminalisation

Neuro law



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