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Criminal Law Making Policy: When Lawyers Need Criminologists (and Vice Versa?)
You may think that Criminal Law Making Policy is a topic scientifically dominated by a legal approach. Well, think again.
Legal scholars´ main concerns don´t usually include events that take place before legislation is actually passed and ready to be implemented. The paradigm which has dominated the last centuries is still influenced by the “presumed rationality of legislation”, which means that law can and will be criticised or interpreted once it is passed, but the process by which it is made will not be questioned.
On the other hand, Criminology and other connected fields of knowledge do pay attention to legislative decision making processes, that is, policies in preparation. Studies about lobbies (mass media, experts, victims associations, etc.), for instance, are not numerous but constant topics in our ESC Conferences.
Also connected with legislative decision making is policy evaluation, another field of great interest. Once decisions have been made and policies have been implemented, evaluation studies are a great source of information for future policies, as well as a tool for public transparency and accountability. Legal approaches on this matter have almost exclusively focused their work on legal standards-based evaluation (i.e. proportionality), leaving out of their scope other standards and methods (e.g. efficiency, process, outcome, impact).
Once again, Criminology, Sociology, Psychology and Political Science offer a wide range of concepts and tools to provide us with a deep understanding of criminal policy making.
That being said, in recent years there has been an estimable growth of scientific interest in criminal law making among legal academics. We believe the Spanish situation is a paradigmatic example of this. In our country, Criminal Law experts and Criminologists are pursuing a common interest together: to increase the rationality of decisions that result in the form of criminal legislation. The evolution is clear: the number of legal scholars becoming interested in other social sciences and looking for conceptual and methodological tools for criminal policy analysis is growing.
Such interest encouraged us to form the Criminal Law Making Policy ESC Working Group (mirrored by a Spanish Group with the same objectives) in 2013. We founded the European Working Group in Budapest (2013) and were able to organise two panel sessions in Prague (2014) with colleagues from Australia, Hungary, Colombia, Belgium, Brazil and Spain.
We believe two important things were clear then: 1) the concern over how criminal legislation is being made is deep and shared among scholars in many countries; and 2) a multidisciplinary approach is the best way to guarantee a determined impulse to this field of research and practice.
We are currently working on the publication of a book with some of the contributions presented so far and were eager to carry on with our multidisciplinary and cross-national discussions in Porto. For last year´s conference, two new panels were accepted for presentation, this time with an interesting focus on evaluation and transparency of criminal law-making processes.
Moreover, a new meeting took place about how best to continue and expand our activities. Anyone interested was, of course, invited.
You will find more information about our Group at http://www.esc-eurocrim.org/workgroups.shtml#law.
José Luis Díez-Ripollés is Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Malaga
José Becerra is Assistant Professor of Criminal law at the University of Malaga