I first met Roberto Bergalli during the mid1980s when I was engaged in the process of integrating the Middlexex University Masters Programme in Criminology into the European Common Study Programme on Critical Criminology and Criminal Justice (the ‘Common Study Programme’) which had been established some years previously by Roberto Bergalli, Sandro Baratta, Massimo Pavarini, Louk Hulsman and others. These were interesting and also difficult times.
In those days the idea was very ambitious; to work out a common syllabus including literature which all the participators would adhere to. This meant of course great battles as we fought line by line through the wording of long documents. The task of trying to get agreement between British Left Realists and Dutch Abolitionists about the content and orientation of teaching was of course almost impossible! Added to that the fact that continental European academics were all well read in Anglo-Saxon debates in criminology and law and knew what was happening in each other’s countries, while we British had only a minimal familiarity with continental literature and debates and for us the United States was more familiar that the geographically proximate continental Europe.
Maybe this was a receipe for disaster but it is to the credit of individuals like Roberto Bergalli who, together with his colleague Sandro Baratta, acted as a facilitator and a compromiser. He saw this clash of intellectual ideologies as a thoroughly progressive learning experience for students from all the participating countries in the common session. This view was of course absolutely right.
Roberto’s sense of balance and proportion which I admired so much during that period was, I like to think, due to his political experiences far away from Europe in the troubled history of his native Argentina. This gave him a sense of proportion. By comparison with fascist torturers and military dictators, left realists and abolitionists were very much on the same side and were but two of many varieties of the defenders of democratic legality and due process. People such as Roberto are very modest about their own history and achievements and the turmoils they have endured. His earlier career as lawyer and Judge in Argentina during the 1960s is still a period in his life I know very little about.
And of course we all benefited on an international level from his other academic activities. Quite apart from his position in the University of...