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The McDonaldization of justice and the disappearance of fair trial?”

Unfortunately this conference has had to be postponed due to the recent Coronavirus outbreak. If you have registered your interest, you will be notified of new details once they become available. Apologies for any inconvenience.

Are preoccupations with managerialism, cost saving, preventive justice and the avoidance of trial supplanting the values of adversarial and inquisitorially rooted systems of criminal justice? What model of efficiency do these trends promote? As the trial becomes increasingly rare, along with opportunities to challenge the reliability of evidence, the accused finds herself encouraged to make an admission at the earliest opportunity based on the information gathered during the police investigation. The presence of defence counsel at strategic points in the process lends some legitimacy, but the practices of law reflect little of the safeguards and values so celebrated in the rhetoric of both adversarial and inquisitorial-type systems. Processes are being ‘simplified’ – not in ways that make the process clear and easy to navigate – but through the removal of fundamental safeguards deemed too costly and time-consuming such as juries, judicial investigation, or any form of trial or contestation of charges. Added to this are new types of evidence, gathered in as yet unregulated ways, the nature and provenance of which require careful scrutiny if they are to form the basis of prosecution and conviction. The result is what has been described by Ritzer as a kind of McDonaldization of criminal justice.

From a comparative perspective, this conference invites consideration of core issues within this theme. This might include, for example, the Swiss penal order and other ways of avoiding trial; how the defence is co-opted to provide guarantees that enable other safeguards to be reduced; the broad shift away from judicial and court roles, to a stronger prosecution function; or the role of machine learning (AI) in criminal justice.

This is the 11th conference in the series, the result of a collaboration between the Universities of Basel, Bologna, North Carolina, Warwick and Duke University.

All welcome to attend. Please contact law events to register.

Attendance at the Conference is free but participants are welcome to join the dinner on Friday evening at a cost of £35.
We have a limited number of bursaries to cover this cost for students. Please email for more details.

Conference Programme

McDonaldisation Poster