RiLG Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Kai Ambos has initiated a project on the foundational principles and concepts of Anglo-German Criminal Law and Justice. The project participants come from Ger-manic and Anglo-American jurisdictions, and have been carefully selected to reflect a diversity of backgrounds with either a more theoretical/normative or a more empirical focus. All are dis-tinguished international scholars. The general editor of the project is Prof. Kai Ambos, the edito-rial committee consists of Prof. Antony Duff (University of Minnesota/ University of Stirling), Prof. Julian Roberts (University of Oxford) and Prof. Thomas Weigend (University of Cologne).

Criminal law and criminal justice is becoming increasingly globalised. The era in which indi-vidual jurisdictions developed their own codes, statutes and systems of justice with little regard to other systems and countries is long over. In its place there is a growing desire to develop com-mon approaches to common problems and to learn from the diversity of current practice in differ-ent countries. That development, however, requires a thorough, systematic, multi-jurisdictional comparative analysis, of a kind that has not been provided by recent and existing comparative projects—which are still relatively infrequent, and typically focus on a specific topic or issue. The aim of such a systematic analysis would be to see whether it is possible to articulate a common grammar or set of foundational concepts that could ground productive trans-jurisdictional discussion and progress. This project will explore that possibility.

At present, attempts at trans-jurisdictional debate and agreement are too often beset by mutual misunderstanding. Although English is the new lingua franca in international and comparative criminal law (as well as in international criminal justice institutions), there are many ambiguities and uncertainties with regard to foundational criminal law concepts. The principal reason for this is that they do not exclusively originate from the English-speaking common law world but are to a great extent taken from the civil law jurisdictions of France, Germany and Italy. As a result, the application of these concepts in English – by and within international institutions and even in academic discourse – is often ambiguous or even misleading. Professionals working in these or-ganisations and academics engaged in collaborative comparative (criminal) law projects often do not understand each other, using the same terms with different meanings or different terms mean-ing the same. There is no consensual common language. One of the purposes of the current project is to see whether it is possible to develop such a common grammar for fundamental concepts. If such a grammar can be developed, this will facilitate and enhance collaborative, cross-jurisdictional exchanges, leading to comparative and theoretical insights.

To make the project manageable, it will initially focus on the Germanic (Germany, Austria, Swit-zerland) and principal Anglo-American jurisdictions (England and Wales, Scotland, the USA, and Canada), to establish whether they share a set of foundational concepts. In a second phase, we may extend the inquiry beyond these jurisdictions, to broaden the basis of our findings, and may include further civil law jurisdictions (particularly France, Italy, and Spain as well as Scan-dinavian countries); further, we will have to consider to look beyond Europe and North Ameri-ca—to Africa, to China, to Japan and Latin America. The method of analysis is comparative (multi-jurisdictional), analytical and empirical, with an initial focus—as noted above—on Ger-manic and Anglo-American jurisdictions.

The project group has already met to conduct a project ‘scoping’ meeting in Cambridge (in June 2016) and further meetings are scheduled for Göttingen and Oxford in 2017. The intention is to mount two meetings each year, alternating between Germany and the UK.

Given the multijurisdictional and multidisciplinary approach of the project, we aim at having co-authored papers for different topics on Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure and Criminal Jus-tice, with authors from different jurisdictions as well as theoretical and empirical backgrounds. The editorial committee, consisting of the General Editor, the Domain Editors and the Advisor, will take the final decision on publication of a paper. As to publications, we are in negotiations with Cambridge University Press which have a strong interest to publish the scholarly output of the project. A first publication is envisaged for 2018, with further volumes and an online publica-tion format to follow. Subject to ongoing discussions with the publisher, we envisage a dynamic and innovative dissemination strategy. In addition to a hardcopy volume there will be online and updated versions of the chapters.


Representative Topics

Criminal Law

General Principles/ General Part

  • Criminalisation Criteria (harm, Rechtsgut, violation of rights, interests)
  • Action and omission (conduct)
  • Participation
  • Culpability/Mens Rea/Liability (psychological-normative level)
  • Criminal Negligence
  • Attempts, incl. inchoate liability
  • Grounds Excluding Responsibility/Defences (Exculpation)
  • (In)determinacy (legality principle, nullum crimen)
  • Structure of the criminal offence/liability
  • Responsibility for outcomes (causation/ imputation)
  • Criminal Law and Human Rights
  • Normative Pluralism/structure (Codification, common law, general/special part, general principles etc.)
  • Responsibility for acts of others

Crimes/ Special Part

  • Preparatory Offences
  • Murder/ Homicide
  • Sexual Crimes
  • Offences of Endangerment
  • Cybercrime
  • Economic Crime
  • Terrorist offences
  • Regulatory offences (administrative offences, contraventions)

Criminal Procedure

  • The Origins of Civil and Common Law in Comparative Criminal Justice
  • Negotiated Justice/consensual disposal (guilty plea, plea bargaining, conformidad, Verstän-digung, transactie)
  • charges (accusation, indictment)
  • Taxonomy and Criminal Procedure
  • Due process
  • Coercion (general, coercive/investigative measures)
  • Grounds of suspicion (prima facie, reasonable grounds, beyond reasonable doubt, intime conviction)
  • Search for truth
  • Constitutional Criminal Law
  • Victims (status, participation)
  • Abbreviated/simplified Procedures
  • Appeal (factual, legal) and revision
  • Res judicata (‘chose jugée’, ‘materielle Rechtskraft’)

Criminal Justice

  • Actors (police, prosecutor, judge, parole board/judge of execution)
  • Proportionality of punishment/sentencing
  • Structuring Judicial Discretion at Sentencing: Forms of Guidance
  • Executing Punishment/ Enforcement of Sentences
  • Procedural Justice
  • Judicial Discretion
  • Prosecutorial Discretion
  • Cosmopolitan Criminal Jurisprudence (International Criminal Justice)
  • Censure
  • Efficiency
  • Mercy and Forgiveness
  • Wrongful convictions and search for truth


III. Current Participants

General Editor

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Kai Ambos (Georg-August-University of Göttingen)

Domain Editors

Criminal Law: Prof. Antony Duff (University of Stirling/ University of Edinburgh)

Criminal Procedure: Prof. Dr. Thomas Weigend (University of Cologne)

Criminal Justice: Prof. Julian Roberts (University of Oxford)


Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Kai Ambos (Georg-August-University of Göttingen)

Dr. Stefanie Bock (Georg-August-University of Göttingen/Philipps-University Marburg)

Prof. Dr. Christoph Burchard, LL.M. (NYU) (Goethe-University Frankfurt a.M.)

Prof. James Chalmers (University of Glasgow)

Prof. Luis E. Chiesa (University at Buffalo)

Dr. Antje du Bois-Pedain (University of Cambridge)

Dr. Matthew Dyson (University of Cambridge)

Prof. Richard Frase (University of Minnesota)

Prof. Dr. Luís Greco (University of Augsburg)

Prof. Dr. Stefan Harrendorf (Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald)

Dr. Alexander Heinze (Georg-August-University of Göttingen)

Prof. Neha Jain (University of Minnesota)

Prof. Máximo Langer (UCLA, California)

Prof. Dr. Frank Meyer (University of Zürich)

Prof. Dr. Carsten Momsen (FU Berlin)

Prof. Thomas O’Malley (NUI Galway)

Prof. Kent Roach (University of Toronto)

Prof. Julian Roberts (University of Oxford)

Prof. Paul Roberts (University of Nottingham)

Dr. Findlay Stark (University of Cambridge)

Prof. Dr. Carl Friedrich Stuckenberg (University of Bonn)

Prof. Malcolm Thorburn (University of Toronto)  

Prof. Jenia Iontcheva Turner (SMU Dedman School of Law)

Prof. Richard Vogler (University of Sussex)

Prof. Alec Walen (Rutgers)

Prof. Dr. Thomas Weigend (University of Cologne)

Prof. Lucia Zedner (University of Oxford)

Prof. Sir Anthony Bottoms (University of Cambridge)

IV. Time frame/ schedule

The project is a long-term project with a duration of several years (at least five, probably more). It was created at a meeting in Cambridge on 18 July 2016. Follow-up meetings are scheduled for 27/28 March 2017 in Göttingen and 18/19 September 2017 in Oxford. A first book publication is planned for 2018.