Neuroscience in Australian Courtrooms: Responsibility, Liability and the Capacity to Punish

On the 25 June, we hosted the first Sydney Neurolaw Workshop:  Neuroscience in Australian Courtrooms: Responsibility, Liability and the Capacity to Punish at Sydney Law School.   The event focused on how new understandings of the brain and mind from the developing neurosciences, impact legal concepts such as responsibility and capacity, discrimination law, and even the process of judicial decision-making.  Four speakers across neuroscience, philosophy and law addressed various aspects of these questions, with an interdisciplinary panel of specialist commentators from general and forensic psychiatry, criminology, philosophy and the legal profession.

The workshop included contributions from the Brain and Mind Research Insitute’s Professor Max Bennett, Professor Nicole Vincent from Georgia State University, and Professor Neil Levy from Oxford University. It also presented an opportunity for early career researchers to showcase their work, including Dr Michael Sevel from Sydney Law School, and Dr Karen O’Connell from the Faculty of Law at UTS.  The event attracted  over 100 attendees from a broad cross section of universities and professional fields, including the NSW Bar, several law firms, Legal Aid, Justice Health NSW, NSW Drug Health Services, the Kirby Institute, the Commonwealth Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, and a number of Sydney hospitals. The university received excellent feedback after the event, and was a great endorsement of the broad interests and applications of  brain and mind research, and particularly its implications for law.

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