Limits of criminal law in the pre-harm phase

Monday 23 October 2023, 2:30 pm
PhD student
E.A.J. Nab mr.
prof. mr. P.H.P.H.M.C. van Kempen, prof. mr. M.I. Fedorova
Faculty of Law

In recent decades, Dutch legislators have increasingly criminalised behaviour that does not yet in itself cause harm or injury, but mainly creates danger. Consider the introduction of the general criminalisation of preparatory acts and the independent criminalisation of terrorist financing, grooming, training for terrorism, and the extension of the collusion regime. Due to these so-called pre-harm offences, criminal law is increasingly concerned with situations that primarily involve a risk of future harm or injury. 
This research study focuses on how such pre-harm offences should be assessed in the light of four classic principles of substantive criminal law: the actus reus principle, the substantive unlawfulness principle, the ultimum remedium principle, and the lex certa principle. For example, how does criminalisation of pre-harm offences relate to the principle that criminal law is concerned only with behaviour, and not with thoughts and intentions? Is behaviour that creates danger actually punishable as such? Is criminal law really the appropriate tool for responding to danger? And to what extent is it possible to formulate and delineate such criminalisation with sufficient clarity? Through different political-philosophical perspectives on these questions, the limits of criminal law in the pre-harm phase are explored. 

Elco Nab was born on 1 September 1991 in Nijmegen. He graduated cum laude in 2016 with a Master's degree in International and European Law from Radboud University, having also spent a year studying at Stockholm University. In August 2017, he graduated cum laude from the two-year Research Master's programme in Public Law at the University of Groningen and Radboud University, specialising in criminal law. From September 2017 to March 2023, he worked as a lecturer and PhD candidate in criminal law at the Department of Criminal Law and Criminology of the Research Centre for State and Law at Radboud University. In March 2023, he was appointed Assistant Professor of Criminal Law and Criminology at this same department.