Science and criminal law : a critical view at the annual meeting of the Dutch-Flemish Association of Criminal Law

In October 2018, the Dutch-Flemish Association of Criminal Law (Nederlands-Vlaamse Vereniging voor Strafrecht) had its yearly meeting. This year’s theme was forensic proof in criminal cases. After the pre-counsellors made a fascinating presentation on the subject, our junior associate, Julie Petersen, shared – as advisor – a critical view on this contemporary subject.
Julie broadened the problem by asking herself more precisely if the scientification of criminal law really leads to more objectivity and legal certainty. Even if, at first sight, the answer to the question seems logical, Julie proved that nothing is as it seems in the difficult relationship between law and science. Indeed, every scientific finding is by hypothesis only temporarily ‘true’ and thus always needs a critical interpretation by the judge in a criminal procedure. The judge is seeking the legal truth. It is inherent to this quest that he would have the final word – even if science would think differently. A penal judgment is a normative verdict which cannot always be reduced to an empiric factuality. Thus Julie gave this outstanding academic audience food for thought….

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