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André van der Laan appointed Professor by Special Appointment of Juvenile and Adolescent Crime

André van der Laan has been appointed Professor by Special Appointment of Juvenile and Adolescent Crime at Leiden University, a chair established by the Leiden University Fund (LUF) and the Dutch Research and Documentation Centre (WODC). It is the first time that a professorship by special appointment has been established with funding from the WODC.

André van der Laan (Foto: WODC)
André van der Laan (Foto: WODC)

Van der Laan will combine the chair with his position as a senior researcher and coordinator of the Juvenile Crime expertise section at the WODC.

The chair at Leiden Law School will focus on the interpretation and clarification of developments in juvenile and adolescent crime, as well as the evaluation of (extrajudicial) criminal law approaches aimed at these age groups. Van der Laan wishes to give specific attention to the observance of children's and human rights in practice.

Multidisciplinary research

André van der Laan views the appointment as an honourable assignment: ‘I believe it is important to conduct multidisciplinary research on developments in juvenile and adolescent crime. One of the focal points will be the interpretation of trends, such as the impact of changing policies and regulations. And I want to investigate the intended and unintended consequences of certain (policy) approaches. In doing so, it is important to also look at compliance with and implementation of children’s and human rights. In the coming years we will evaluate the approach used by Halt [an organisation in the Netherlands which aims to prevent and combat juvenile crime] in a collaboration between the WODC, Leiden University, and Utrecht University. The outcomes will be used to support policy in relation to justice and security.’

At Leiden University, André van der Laan will join the teaching staff of the master’s programme Jeugdrecht (Child Law) and the course Children in the justice system of the Advanced Master Programme in International Children’s Rights. His specific focus will be on developments in juvenile delinquency over time and the assessment of (extrajudicial) criminal justice approaches, such as the Halt intervention or criminal law applicable to young adults.

‘Cross-pollination’ of science and policy research

The combination of Van der Laan's chair at Leiden Law School with his research position at the WODC will be beneficial in two ways. Van der Laan: ‘On the one hand, the research at the university adds a substantive and multidisciplinary dimension to the studies we are already conducting within the WODC Juvenile Crime expertise section. On the other hand, the applied (policy) research there provides significant practical knowledge for fundamental research.’ Van der Laan also considers it important to extend collaboration with academic colleagues as well as social partners.

Strengthening collaboration

Professor Ton Liefaard, Head of the Department of Child Law where Van der Laan will be working, is delighted with the new collaboration. ‘Our department is very much looking forward to working with André van der Laan, who, with his knowledge and extensive research experience, will further strengthen and develop research and teaching within our department, faculty and university in the field of juvenile and adolescent criminal law.’

Gerty Lensvelt-Mulders, Director of the WODC, is particularly proud of this first professorship by special appointment on behalf of the WODC. ‘Juvenile and adolescent crime is an important topic. In this respect, cooperation in scientific research is an important priority for the WODC. As a research institute, we are keen to contribute to the academic and public debate. I have every confidence that André van der Laan will make an excellent contribution to this.’

Public interest

Each year, around 1.5 to 2% of adolescents come into contact with the police in relation to crime. However, the percentage of young people who themselves say they commit crimes is higher. We want to provide young people with a safe living environment. Knowledge of developments over time concerning juvenile and adolescent crime and its background are important, as policy can offer leads to improve that living environment. 

Insights into the consequences of policy approaches (laws and regulations) as well as (criminal) sanctions and interventions are also needed. This scientific knowledge helps when establishing legislation, effective policies and approaches. Since police and judicial approaches intervene in children's rights – through restrictions and deprivation of liberty – it is necessary to monitor the observance of these rights in practice. This in turn can identify starting points on which policy and implementation can focus.


André van der Laan studied developmental psychology at Leiden University. In 2004, he was awarded a PhD from Groningen University with research on resistance among young people in a general population and young people who come into contact with judicial authorities. Since 2004, Van der Laan has worked for the WODC as a researcher in the field of developments in juvenile crime. Among other things, he has conducted research on the backgrounds of young people who have come into contact with the police and judicial authorities, experiences of young people with (juvenile) detention, young cyber criminals, and girls and young women who commit crimes. In the period 2014-2022, he led a research programme on the effect of adolescent criminal law on young adults. Since 2010, Van der Laan has been project leader of the Monitor Jeugdcriminaliteit, a long-term multisource and multimethod monitoring project of developments in juvenile crime. He coordinates the research conducted by the Juvenile Crime expertise section at the WODC, where he supervises researchers from various disciplines who are working on research on juvenile crime and the evaluation of (extrajudicial) criminal law approaches aimed at juveniles and adolescents. He is also a member of the editorial team of a criminology journal, Tijdschrift voor Criminologie, and a member of the editorial advisory board of Secondant, a platform for public safety.

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