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The Emotiveness of Law: Criminalisation and Human Rights Guided by Sentiment

Wednesday, January 10, 2018, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm

Shock, anger and similar strong negative emotions experienced post-victimisation have been known to trigger legislative actions. Politicians have long discovered that naming a statute after the victim has a strong emotive pull, attracts media attention and assists them in building support for their legislative proposal aiming to prevent or punish more harshly similar offences in the future. While there may be some benefits to incorporating emotion into criminal law making, there may also be some significant downsides to an emotion-driven method of criminalisation. The main questions that will be explored in this presentation are whether there is a role for emotions in influencing criminalisation and criminal law policy in general, and if so, what their role is, which emotions should count and what limits there are to their influence on criminal law making. Juxtaposing the emotion-based criminalisation with more traditional grounds for criminalisation, the paper will also discuss some wider legal, criminological and societal implications of introducing emotion into criminal policy

Nina Peršak holds a doctorate in law from University of Ljubljana, and an LL.M. (master in law) and M.Phil. in social and developmental psychology from University of Cambridge. Until recently, she has been a tenured professor at the Faculty of Law, Ghent University in Belgium. She is a Scientific Director and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Criminal-Law Ethics and Criminology in Ljubljana, and a Senior Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study, Central European University. Her many authored and edited publications include Criminalising Harmful Conduct: The Harm Principle, its Limits and Continental Counterparts (2007), Legitimacy and Trust in Criminal Law, Policy and Justice (2014) and Regulation and Social Control of Incivilities (2016). She is one of the editors of RIDP (Revue internationale de droit pénal), a member of the Advisory Board of TEMIDA (journal on victimisation, human rights and gender), and a member of the European Commission's Expert Group on EU Criminal Policy.