Neuroscientific Evidence and Criminal Responsibility in the Netherlands



Insights from neuroscientific research are increasingly advancing our understanding of the neural correlates of human behaviour, cognition and emotion and can therefore be of significant practical use in a legal context. One of the most fundamental legal applications of neuroscience refers to the assessment of criminal responsibility. Recent empirical studies have established links between certain brain structures and antisocial or criminal behaviour. Three areas of brain abnormalities that are relevant for assessments of criminal responsibility can be differentiated: (1) impairments in the frontal lobes and associated problems with impulse control, aggressiveness and the processing of information that is evocative of moral emotions, (2) abnormalities in the limbic system and associated problems in affective processing and (3) the potential side effects of neurotechnologies and associated problems with impulse control, aggressiveness and disinhibited behaviour. This chapter addresses recent research findings in these three areas and how these could affect responsibility assessments. In addition, eight cases are discussed in which insights from neuroscientific research have been used by Dutch courts in responsibility assessments. By illustrating how neuroscientific evidence has already entered the courtroom in the Netherlands, the possible conditions and implications of such practice are addressed.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and SocietyTilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands

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