The focus of the research of Johannes Bijlsma is on how the criminal law should deal with mentally ill defendants and on the part of the criminal law that aims to curtail the risk of reoffending ('preventive justice'). In his PhD thesis, he has shown that Dutch criminal law lacks clear criteria for assessing the criminal responsibility of mentally ill defendants and developed a legal framework to adjudicate legal insanity. His more recent research on preventive justice focusses on the legal-philosophical underpinnings of preventive justice, the development of a legal framework through (new) principles, human rights, and law, and its relation with developments in forensic psychiatry, machine learning, and neurosciences. He has also published about the conditions for the indeterminate commitment of mentally ill defendants, on the conditional dismissal of criminal cases, on terrorism and mental disorder, and on risk assessment and standards of proof. Furthermore, Johannes writes about topics of substantive criminal law. Johannes intertwines his research with comparative research and with insights from philosophy and empirical disciplines. He cooperates regularly with experts from other fields. Johannes is involved in the research project Law and ethics of neurotechnology


Johannes Bijlsma graduated in law at the university of Groningen, specializing in criminal law and legal philosophy. He worked as an attorney from 2006 until 2009. From 2009 until 2018 he worked at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, lastly as assistant professor. He was a visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York in 2012. In 2016 he received his PhD (cum laude) from the VU, for a thesis on the defense of insanity. His thesis Stoornis en strafuitsluiting (Mental disorder and exemption from punishment) was awarded the bi-annual Moddermanprijs for a PhD thesis of extraordinary scientific quality in the field of criminal law. Since 2019 Johannes is afilliated with the Willem Pompe Institute and the Utrecht Centre for Accountability and Liability Law, of which he is programme leader as of September 2022. Since March 2023 Johannes is endowed professor of philosophy of criminal law (Leo Polak chair) at the University of Groningen. Click here for his inaugural lecture Risicostrafrecht en rechtsorde.