Panic-driven policies explored at criminal justice conference

Panic-driven policies explored at criminal justice conference

The current state of the British and Irish criminal justice system will be examined at a two-day conference beginning today (Friday, October 17) at the University of Aberdeen.

Academics from across the UK and Eire will gather at the University's School of Law to explore topics ranging from sexual offences – including the role of memory in rape cases – to how housing associations are regulating crime.

All the papers given will, in various ways, examine the idea that the criminal justice system is in a state of crisis.

Organiser Dr Liz Campbell, Lecturer in Law at the University of Aberdeen, said: "There is now a strong argument that the application of laws, the rights of the individual and the development of policies in the criminal sphere are increasingly being influenced by a sense of crisis.

"Despite the government's recent Lord's defeat on the 42 day detention plan, emergency provisions, whether to deal with terrorism or the threat of organised criminality, are undoubtedly gaining currency in the play-off between liberty and security, and not just in the UK.

"The fight against illegal drugs, for instance, is characterised as a war that requires robust measures, while a similarly tough approach is taken regarding sexual offences.

"However, the panic around crime has formed the justification for the erosion of core due process rights. Traditional norms in the justice system have been altered, with civil tactics being used to deal with what were once strictly criminal matters and a growing involvement by parliament in the domain of sentencing."

The papers being given at the conference will cover the following areas:

  • Criminal justice and society
  • Sexual Offences
  • Avoiding the criminal justice system
  • Crisis and Populism in criminal justice
  • Procedural Rights in times of Crisis

Dr Campbell added: "In the current climate penal policies seem to by driven by populist and pragmatic demands; sentencing involves a growing emphasis on retribution; and a strict distinction is increasingly drawn between the majority and the criminal 'other'.

"The aim of the conference is to attempt to address all of these issues and we hope it will be the start of many similar seminars examining an area that is absolutely fundamental to our society."

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