Guest lecture: Erring on the Side of Safety
Risk assessment, expert knowledge, and the criminal court - held by professor Lucia Zedner.
It is a commonly accepted axiom that where the stakes are high, we should err on the side of safety - even though this would seem to be an open invitation to make mistakes. Despite the acknowledged difficulty of determining who poses a threat, determinations of risk inform many decisions in the criminal court that have profound consequences for the liberty of the individual upon whom preventive measures or indefinite detention may be imposed.
This lecture examines whether we have a right to be presumed harmless; when and under what conditions that presumption might be rebutted; and how individual interests are to be weighed against the larger interest in public protection. Much turns upon determining what constitutes a risk and who poses a threat. Actuarial risk assessment instruments (ARAIs), clinical diagnosis and expert psychiatric analysis, and the exercise of judicial judgment come together in the criminal court in ways that, despite their profound consequences for individual liberty, have not yet been fully explored by criminal lawyers or criminologists.
This lecture initiates just such a critical enquiry into the uses and abuses of risk within the criminal court and considers on what basis preventive detention might be justified.
Guest lecturer is professor Lucia Zedner, Oxford University.
This is an open lecture.