Introduction

Despite contending with issues as markedly theoretical and philosophical in nature as freedom of will and the legitimacy of sanctioning by the State, and drawing on the permanent relationship between the major principles of the constitutional order and the specific legal rules, Criminal Law, more than any other branch of the Law, has an eminently practical character - it can only be applied judicially and requires of the interpreter a subsuntive activity which involves a detailed analysis of the crime.

This ambivalence calls for a study involving researchers who are specialised in different areas of knowledge - besides criminal experts, criminologists, psychiatrists, psychologists and sociologists - and jurists dedicated, in several respects, to court procedures - judges, public prosecutors and lawyers.

The Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Sciences was created with the precise intention of responding to this need to articulate between the various areas of knowledge and between theory and practice, and with the primary aim being the development of the Criminal Sciences as a whole and dissemination of Criminal Law themes as citizenship issues. The list of founders of the Institute immediately provides a solid guarantee that this aim will be pursued.

Although linked in general terms to the Lisbon Faculty of Law, the Institute is free to cooperate with other institutions - whether these be courts or prison services, or bodies dedicated to criminal investigation or to social reintegration - and to welcome as members anybody interested in accompanying the criminal phenomenon. Only this diversity will allow the Institute to fulfil its intention of constituting a privileged space for free and informed scientific debate.

Whilst the Institute is strictly independent of any political power or sovereign bodies, it does not, however, cease to be interested in criminal policy issues. Hence, assessment of draft legislation and legal statutes and even the drawing up of drafts is included within its activities.

In the international arena, the Institute will seek to strengthen the scientific ties between Portugal and other countries, giving priority to the Member States of the European Union and to the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries. Knowledge of the legislative experiments and of legal theory in other countries, together with the dissemination of legal solutions and works of Portuguese authors abroad will constitute objectives of the external cooperation.

Maria Fernanda Palma
President of the IDPCC