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About us Faculty of Law Organization Departments Criminal Law and Criminology


Criminal law doesn’t exist in isolation from society, but is located at its centre. For that reason, the behaviours that are judged to be criminal acts and the importance attached in criminal enforcement to different purposes of criminal law are not constants. Changes in society mean that different demands are placed on criminal law and the law of criminal procedure and their application, as well as on investigation practice. Criminal law is tasked, among other things, with translating these demands into effective criminal law provisions. Research within this programme seeks to provide insights that, in light of these changes, enhance the effectiveness of criminal law and the law of criminal procedure in a modern Western society such as the Netherlands.

The research programme focuses on the implications of three social changes for crime and for the effectiveness of criminal law and the law of criminal procedure.

The first is the globalization, or internationalization, of our society, which has numerous implications for criminal law. Comparisons with the criminal law of other countries increasingly leads to amendments to national criminal law and the law of criminal procedure. European and international legal instruments that influence the functioning of national criminal law and the law of criminal procedure are becoming increasingly important. It appears at times that the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights has partially supplanted national law as the primary point of reference when applying the law of criminal procedure. Further development of supranational criminal law seems only a matter of time.

The second change, which partly relates to the internationalization of our society, concerns the changing role of governments. In the past, the application of criminal law was regarded very much as a task for the national government and public security as a task for national and local governments. Today, however, the picture is very different. European governments also have tasks in the field of (punitive) law enforcement. In addition, many private actors have since become involved in security and law enforcement. In keeping with this development, victims now play an increasingly important role. They are no longer content to passively stand by and observe how the government exercises its criminal law tasks . Instead, they actively desire, and should be able to promote, the adequate enforcement of criminal provisions by the government.

The third change concerns the increasing importance of science and technology in our society. DNA analysis, for example, has made a significant contribution to possibilities for establishing the truth but also has implications for investigation practices. While technological advances have generated new forms of crime, they also offer opportunities for combating crime. This third change is related to the first two. The international nature of internet crime brings with it its own challenges in terms of criminal law and the law of criminal procedure: adequate penalization and enforcement in other countries is also in the interests of the Netherlands (no safe havens). And without the enforced cooperation of third parties (service providers etc.), it is often almost impossible to establish the truth. Developments in the area of multimedia and social media call into question various aspects of the way that the enforcement, investigation, prosecution and sentencing of criminal offences is organized.

Last modified:09 July 2019 2.15 p.m.
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