Guest Editors’ Introduction to Special Edition: Limits and Prospects of Criminal Law Reform—Past, Present, Future

Queensland Uuniversity of Technology
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Journal Article
International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 2017, 6 (3), pp. 1 - 7
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This special issue traces multifaceted readings of criminal law reform in the context of developments in Australia, North America and Europe. It addresses a range of criminal law legislative regimes, frameworks and issues confronting criminal law reform including as they relate to family violence, organisational liability for child sexual abuse, drug‐driving and Indigenous under‐representation on juries. In doing so, the articles variously assess the impacts of past criminal law reforms, current processes of reform, areas in need of future reform and the limitations of reform. It poses a number of challenges: Who does law reform serve? What principles should guide the work of criminal justice reform? What is the role and responsibility of universities in law reform? Who are the natural allies of academics in agitating for reform? Is reform of criminal law enough for progressive social change? Do public inquiries and law reform assist with progressive change or do they have the potential to undermine the struggle for more humane and equitable social responses? The term criminal ‘law reform’ is a broad one that encompasses any government legislation, policy or measure, and the articles in this issue reflect such breadth. However, the analysis in this Introduction to the special issue—responding to some of the for bearing questions—is concerned with the potential for law reform as an antidote to the myopic politics of social control. The use of the term ‘law reform bodies’ denotes a government agency dedicated to the considered and balanced appraisal of policy and operates relatively insulated from populist politics. Law reformers more broadly—including academics, community legal centres and other non‐government organisations—have the potential to counterbalance the impetus for politicians to pursue knee‐jerk policy. These bodies provide a voice of dissent, including in the public arena and through the processes of petitioning, ministerial lobbying and activism.
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