Universiteit Leiden

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Research programme

Criminal Justice: Legitimacy, Accountability and Effectivity

How can and should tasks and competences for the purpose of the criminal justice system (i.e. legislation, enforcement, the administration of justice and sentencing) be defined and formulated, while at the same time taking into account the chain concept, adjoining national and international legal domains and standards arising from the democratic rule of law (i.e. legitimacy, accountability and effectivity)?

Duration
2016  -   2021
Contact
Jeroen ten Voorde

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. This description alludes to and provides the thematic framework for the Criminal Justice research programme.

Criminal justice system

The Crimal Justice research programme is thus essentially focused on the content and form of the decisions that are, could be and may be taken in the criminal justice system on the basis of the tasks and conferred competences 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.

Metaphor of a chain

In the context of these decisions, the chain principle implies that the actors’ assigned tasks and conferred competences are tailored to their role in the system as a whole, which should be interpreted to include the European/international legal systems as well. Although there are drawbacks to the metaphor of a chain, it serves as an important anchor point in Criminal Justice 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.

The central question of the research program is: How can and should tasks and competences for the purpose of the criminal justice system (i.e. legislation, enforcement, the administration of justice and sentencing) be defined and formulated, while at the same time taking into account the chain concept, adjoining national and international legal domains and standards arising from the democratic rule of law (i.e. legitimacy, accountability and effectivity)?

This question is permanently up to date. It must be taken into account that the criminal justice system in the Netherlands has further developed since 2009. In the first place, registered crime has dropped by about 30% since 2005. Even 40% of the crime reports reported by victims has dropped. Simultaneously, a large depopulation is visible in the prison system – also about 40% since 2005 – with the closure of twenty prisons in the period between 2014 and 2017 as a result.

Great change processes occur at both the police and the Public Prosecution Service. For example, ZSM (Zo Snel Mogelijk) became operational in 2009, which has resulted in far-reaching changes in the way in which matters are dealt with within the Public Prosecution Service. For a number of years, the modernization process of the Code of Criminal Procedure has started - , a project that has become increasingly voluminous and requires constant attention. The European Union does not stand still in the field of criminal law; The Dutch decision to participate in the European Public Prosecutor's Office is important for criminal law cooperation within the European Union. These developments raise many new questions for research.


In the coming years, we will tackle a number of themes in particular.

In the first place, the research will also have to be more comparative with other countries in the coming years and must focus even more on the consequences of global and European developments. Questions about international criminal law cooperation, within the context of the European Union and beyond, should not be answered solely on the basis of classical legal research. In the coming years we also want to focus on empirical research into and within the so-called multilevel legal system (where in addition to local and national law, the influence of European and international law has become increasingly visible and can no longer be ignored).

In the second place, we want to do more research into relationships between parts of the chain. Such research has gained in importance, for example, where fact-finding is concerned, which is not restricted to the courts, but also involves the investigation of the police and the Public Prosecution Service and other actors. We also note that there are various topics that affect the chain as a whole, such as the rapid technological developments that lead to new offenses, methods of investigation and punishment.

The normative framework of the Criminal Justice research program remains fully applicable and relevant. Legitimacy and effectiveness are corresponding vessels within the criminal justice system that sometimes seem at odds with each other, but which also keep each other in balance. Within the research program, normative and empirical research are not opposites to each other, but they can also challenge and reinforce each other - also with due observance of the well-known scientific-philosophical limitations. The cooperation between lawyers and social scientists gives excellent opportunities to further strengthen our expertise in the field of what is now referred to as empirical legal studies or the Law and Society approach.

Next steps: focus through cohesion

In the coming years, the research within the research program will concentrate within a few concrete theme groups:

  • criminalization / legislation
  • fact-finding
  • punishment
  • crimmigration

In terms of content, we seek collaboration with each other and with colleagues within Leiden University and beyond on a number of important current scientific and societal themes: the livable city, the significance of neurosciences for criminal law and criminology, the digitization of crime and its approach and youth crime. These are themes that already appear prominently in criminological and criminal education and / or research and that also closely fit in with themes that have been put on the agenda by large research organizations such as NWO, the VSNU and the European Commission. Legitimacy and effectiveness remain as normative starting points of a well-functioning criminal justice system. Furthermore, the research program continues to be characterized by its multidisciplinary, comparative and multi-methodical character.

Academic Staff

PhD Candidates

External PhD Candidates

Connection with other research

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