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Effective Criminal Law

Societal changes result in other requirements being imposed on criminal law, as well as on criminal investigation practice and criminal policy. Criminal law must translate these requirements into ‘effective criminal law provisions’. The consequences of three societal changes for criminality and the effectiveness of criminal law are the focus of this research programme.


The first change relates to the globalization of society. Globalization has many consequences for criminal law. Comparisons with criminal law frameworks in other countries are increasingly leading to adjustments in the national criminal law framework. International legal instruments which affect the operation of national substantive and procedural criminal law are becoming more and more relevant. It sometimes seems that the ECtHR’s case law has supplanted domestic legislation as the chief reference point for applying procedural criminal law. Further development of supra-national criminal law appears to only be a matter of time. Globalization has also had an impact on the criminological sciences. In many cases, criminal policy today is dictated in a large measure by international bodies and international developments.

The role of the government

The second change, concerning the role of the government, is partly due to the internationalization of our society. In the past, the application of criminal law was predominantly viewed as a task for the national government. This no longer holds true, however. European government bodies also have tasks relating to punitive legal enforcement. Numerous private actors have become involved in policing activities and legal enforcement. The increasing importance of the position of victims is consistent with this development.

Science and technology

The growing significance of science and technology in society represents a third change. DNA testing, for example, has not only substantially bolstered fact-finding possibilities, but also had consequences for criminal investigation practice. Technological developments have generated new forms of crime, as well as provided possibilities for fighting crime. This change is related to the two above-mentioned changes mentioned. The international nature of internet crime has brought its own challenges for substantive and procedural criminal law. Fact-finding is often almost impossible without the compulsory cooperation of third parties. Developments in the multimedia and social media arenas have raised questions about different aspects of the organization of the enforcement, investigation, prosecution and adjudication of criminal facts, as well as criminal policy.

Last modified:28 September 2016 12.08 p.m.