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Principles of Sentancing Recidivist Offenders in Europe


Submitted By AnneSaddler
Words 9462
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Paper delivered at Conference on “The Limits of the Criminal Law” at Leiden University, January 23, 2008 and subsequently published in Cupido (ed), Limits of Criminal Law (Nijmegen, 2008).[1]

Tom O’Malley
Senior Lecturer in Law
National University of Ireland Galway

First, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to the students of Leiden Law School for having organised this conference. Thanks to their vision and energy, representatives from several European countries have gathered in this historic venue to discuss some key aspects of criminal law and criminal procedure. More often than not, we think of European law solely in terms of European Union law, the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights or both. Needless to say, the study of European law even in this limited sense is of the highest importance given its impact on our national legal systems and our daily lives. However, growing levels of legal and political integration now demand that we broaden our vision of European law to encompass the domestic legal systems of individual European states. Some work has already begun in this regard,[2] but it is only on rare occasions such as this that we can engage in a meaningful exchange of ideas and information on areas of common concern. Criminal justice is a most appropriate and worthy topic with which to begin.

In times past, sentencing would not have featured very prominently at a conference of this kind. Back in 1965 when Sir Rupert Cross decided to devote his inaugural lecture as Vinerian Professor of Law at Oxford University to the topic of “Paradoxes in Prison Sentences”[3] he felt constrained to begin with a rather lengthy explanation as to why an academic lawyer might choose such a topic. He referred, for example, to a recent government report[4] which had

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