Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism Bergen

Normative perspectives’ effect on court decisions

NEW PHD: Audun Løvlie will study experts as premise providers for court decisions.

Audun Løvlie  is a sociologist by education, with an interest in government intervention into the private lives of citizens. In his PhD project, he will focus on the interaction between experts and the courts in England and Norway.

Of particular interest is the experts’ normative perspectives, and how these affect the legal proceedings in child protection and child removal cases.

My aim is to elucidate the interaction and convergence of normative perspectives in different expert systems. Hopefully, this will further increase the awareness of potential systemic discrimination in child protection and child welfare systems.

The power of professional discretion

Audun’s background as a former theatre student, working in acute psychiatry and studying sociology, honed his interest in the interaction of experts in systems that regulate and sanction behavior in society.

– The questions concerning how we make use of experts to inform and guide policy is, in at least one respect, an ethical and moral decision about what kind of society we desire. 

This interest led him to explore the power wielded – formally and informally – by professions like psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, social workers and lawyers.

The Acceptability-project, which Audun will be a part of, offer an unique opportunity to study the issues and challenges with use of experts as premise providers.

The assessment of someone’s ability to take care of a child is an exercise of power with potential far-reaching consequences. However, we don’t know much about how the normative perspectives of child protection workers, psychologists and social workers affect the outcome in child removal cases. There is clearly a need for more knowledge.

High ambitions

It is the curiosity to find and formulate questions,  and then find ways to answer them, that motivated Audun to apply for the PhD grant.

As social scientists, we seek answers to questions that concern our societies. For what other reason do we do this, than to learn, teach, inform, with the ultimate end of having some kind of impact?

Although Audun just recently started at the project, his ambitions as a researcher are clear.

I hope to provide insight that may lead to new and better ways of organizing the disciplining and sanctioning of whatever is the contemporary definition of risk-behaviour. Especially concerning the intersection of child protection and parents’ rights.

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