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Neuroethics

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 255–270 | Cite as

Neurolaw in Australia: The Use of Neuroscience in Australian Criminal Proceedings

  • Armin AlimardaniEmail author
  • Jason Chin
Original Paper

Abstract

Recent research has detailed the use of neuroscience in several jurisdictions, but Australia remains a notable omission. To fill this substantial void we performed a systematic review of neuroscience in Australian criminal cases. The first section of this article reports the results of our review by detailing the purposes for which neuroscience is admitted into Australian criminal courts. We found that neuroscience is being admitted pre-trial (as evidence of fitness to stand trial), at trial (to support the defence of insanity and substantial impairment of the mind), and during sentencing. In the second section, we evaluate these applications. We generally found that courts admit neuroscience cautiously, and to supplement more well-established forms of evidence. Still, we found some instances in which the court seemed to misunderstand the neuroscience. These cases ranged from interpreting neuroscience as “objective” evidence to admitting neuroscience when the same non-neuroscientific psychiatric evidence would be inadmissible for being common sense. Furthermore, in some cases, neuroscientific evidence presents a double-edged sword; it may serve to either aggravate or mitigate a sentence. Thus, the decision about whether or not to tender this evidence is risky.

Keywords

Neurolaw Australian criminal justice system Neuroscience Criminal law Law and science Law and technology Sentencing 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to Prof. Gary Edmond, Dr. Allan McCay, Prof. Nicole Vincent and anonymous reviewers for providing feedback that greatly improved the manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of LawThe University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.TC Beirne School of LawUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.School of PsychologyUniversity of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia

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