In the coming weeks the nominees for the Ben Feringa Impact Award (BFIA) 2023 will introduce themselves and their impactful research or project. This week: Laura Peters in the category reaseacher for her research project 'agreements for the sake of judicial economy in criminal cases.'
My name is Laura Peters. I’m an Assistant Professor of Criminal Law in the Department of Criminal Law & Criminology.
The Faculty of Law
The subject of my research is agreements for the sake of judicial economy in criminal cases. An agreement for the sake of judicial economy is when the Public Prosecution Service and the defence formulate a joint proposal to settle a criminal case, which they then present to the criminal court to be assessed by the judge. The agreements in the proposal state that the accused has agreed to cooperate in order to speed up the trial (by pleading guilty, for example, or by calling more witnesses). In exchange, the Public Prosecution Service agrees to request a reduced sentence. An independent judge ultimately decides whether the accused is guilty, and whether the proposed sentence is appropriate. The idea stems from legal systems in other countries, which are already operating in this way. After having analysed their experiences closely, I’ve drawn up the basis for a similar model in the Netherlands.
Our criminal justice system has become bogged down. There are too many criminal cases, and many of them are taking far too long. One of the main causes is that the Public Prosecution Service and the defence act as opponents during a trial, with both sides doing their utmost to get the very best outcome. This isn’t always necessary. Until recently, there was little point in trying a different strategy.
But these long, drawn-out criminal cases come at a huge financial cost to society, and then there’s the saying: ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’. Stimulating the Public Prosecution Service and the defence to work with each other instead of against each other by offering something in exchange, will ensure more streamlining and shorter criminal trials. My research was part of the reason that the Dutch judiciary accepted this concept. It also shows where improvements can and cannot be made. The Supreme Court has conditionally approved the system of making agreements for the sake of judicial economy, and there are plans for legislation.
As a legal scholar, I’m keen to help optimize our system of criminal law. This entails a continuous search for the right balance between conflicting interests, such as establishing the truth, providing a fair trial, and the financial confines within which legal practice must operate. This research enabled me to generate a considerable, highly valuable network of Dutch and international legal practitioners and legal scholar, and gave me a better understanding of the practical dynamics. Most importantly, I learned how innovative academic research can contribute to finding solutions to problems in legal practice and society. Conducting research isn’t just a theoretical exercise. Realizing this, and being able to pass on my knowledge to future generations of students and researchers, has been an enormously rewarding experience!
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