Scientifically sound verdicts

Genes, brains and criminality in context: assessment of knowledge development in genomics and neurobiology and the transfer thereof into psychiatric forensic practice

What are the possibilities and consequences of applying genetic knowledge and technologies to forensic diagnostics for the judiciary and the TBS sector as part of legal practice? 

Duration: January 2012 - present.

A remarkable legal sentence was passed in Italy in 2009: a man was convicted for murder, but received a milder punishment because he supposedly had a predisposition for having poor control of his aggression. In September 2011, a woman who murdered her sister was convicted to twenty years of detention instead of life imprisonment, because she had the same predisposition and on top of that, a scan showed abnormalities in her brain. The Netherlands haven't seen such cases yet, but it is certain that genetic and neurobiological knowledge has drawn very near Dutch courtrooms. 

The goal of this project is to investigate to what extent Dutch judges, prosecutors, lawyers and forensic psychiatrists are informed about this knowledge and particularly what they think about it. How do they expect to apply this new knowledge? Are their expectations realistic?

The central point of this study is to map the similarities and differences in the perspectives of these professional groups. Genetic and neurobiological knowledge is complex and by far absolute. Nevertheless it can possibly improve estimations of, for example, the risk of recidivism. This project has to make clear if this kind of knowledge is desired and whether the professional groups need education about these topics.