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Finding the truth - Easier said than done?

Starting March 2015, the Honours Class ‘Miscarriages of justice and fact-finding in (Dutch) criminal procedure’ has given me, a student of Education and Child Studies, the opportunity to submerge myself into this area of law, together with twelve other enthusiastic students.

Change in mindset

Fuelled by the media, miscarriages in justice have been a hot topic in the Netherlands. During the lectures, well-known examples such as the case of Lucia de B. and the Schiedammer parkmurder were of course addressed. Through these ongoing public debates, we all entered the course with a certain view on these cases. However, every week the very diverse expert lecturers gave us a different perspective on the subject. This encouraged us to take a step back and see the known miscarriages of justice in a different, hopefully more well-considered light.

Multidisciplinary justice

Although I assumed this class organised by Leiden Law School would give me some interesting insights into the Dutch judicial world, it soon became clear that the class would be much broader than that. The first lecturer, prof. Ton Derksen sharpened our minds by addressing truth finding in a more philosophical way, whereas in the second part of the course the focus shifted towards ways to carry out justice. Prof. Ate Kloosterman for example showed us how to analyze a DNA profile, which is not a subject I, as a student in social sciences, ever expected to get lectured on.

Challenge accepted?

Overall,  this honours class was a valuable addition to my regular, very different, courses. Not only the subject, but also the open, critical mindset that was stimulated and the small scale of the course contributed to this. Don’t be afraid of stepping outside your own discipline: reflect from different perspectives and be surprised.

15/06/2015 / Roos ter Elst

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