Neurolaw in Australia: An Empirical Study of the Use of Neuroscientific Evidence in Sentencing

Mr Armin Alimardani1
1University Of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

In the contemporary scholarly neurolaw literature, neuroscientific evidence is frequently characterized as conceptually at odds with the core features of the criminal law. This makes it seem as if the use of neuroscientific evidence in criminal proceedings presents new and potentially difficult conceptual and doctrinal challenges. This paper presents the findings of the first Australian study, and one of just a few studies worldwide, that does not simply theorise about the use of neuroscience in criminal courts, but instead uses an empirical methodology that involves the systematic collection and analysis of criminal cases in which reference is made to neuroscientific evidence. The findings of this study indicate that various forms of neuroscientific evidence (e.g. structural and functional imaging and neuropsychological testing) have evidently been used in an unproblematic manner in Australian criminal courts since 1975. Such evidence has been used in a range of contexts including moral culpability, deterrence, rehabilitation, custodial hardship, and recidivism. This suggests that Australian courts do not think that this evidence presents any special challenges or problems, but rather they treat it just like they would any other evidence, like traditional psychiatric assessments which include diagnoses of disease or disorder of the mind. The study is confined to the sentencing procedure of New South Wales, Australia. A comprehensive search was conducted on two general legal databases (Caselaw and AustLII) and on the Australian Neurolaw Database, with 215 decisions before 2016 ultimately considered.


Author biography: Armin is a Ph.D. candidate in law at UNSW, Australia, and he is conducting an empirical study of the use of neuroscience in sentencing in Australian Criminal Courts. He commenced his Bachelor of Law in 2007 in Iran and completed his Master of Criminal Law and Criminology in 2014 in Iran. His thesis focused on the relationship between genetics and criminal law and published it as a book titled ‘Genetics and Crime’. He was elected as the author of the distinguished Persian book of the year in students’ section by Iranian Students Booking Agency (ISBA). In 2016, Armin joined the Australian Neurolaw Database Project ( on analysing cases in the Australian courts that involve neuroscience. Although Armin’s main focus is on biological sciences and law, he is also passionate about the intersection of other areas with law, such as mathematics and computer sciences.


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