Law - Ethics - Neuroscience - Technology

Contact Dr Allan McCay at:

Legal and Ethical Issues Relating to Emerging Technologies, Neuroethics, Neurolaw, Criminal Responsibility, Behavioural Genetics and Crime, Sentencing, Philosophy of Punishment, Free Will, Neurotechnology, Artificial Intelligence and the Law, Behavioural Legal Ethics

I teach at the University of Sydney Foundation Program and the University of Sydney Law School (lecturing again in Criminal Law in Semester 2, 2019). I am a member of the Management Committee of the Julius Stone Institute of Jurisprudence at the University of Sydney, a member of the Sydney Institute of Criminology, and an Affiliate Member of the Centre for Agency, Values, and Ethics, at Macquarie University.

In addition to the law schools of the University of Sydney (Foundations of Law, Criminal Law) and the University of New South Wales (Academic Writing for Postgraduate Legal Research), I have also taught at the Business School at the University of Sydney (Commercial Transactions, Corporations Law, Stock Market and Derivatives Law). I have a special skill in working with international students, having been trained in teaching English as a foreign language.

In total I have 21 years teaching experience including pre-undergraduate, undergraduate, postgraduate course work, PhD supervision, and training in a professional context.


I have presented my work at events for the general public, the technology sector, legal practitioners in private practice, executive government, and the judiciary through the National Judicial College of Australia. I regularly present at academic events.


After graduating from Aberdeen and Edinburgh universities, I trained and qualified as a solicitor in Scotland with the commercial law firm, Tods Murray WS, but a part of my traineeship was spent with a Belgian law firm, and I was awarded the Robert Schuman Scholarship to complete a further part of my training at the European Parliament in Luxembourg, where I undertook research into the regulation of media.

I later practised in Hong Kong with the global law firm, Baker McKenzie, where I was an Associate in the commercial litigation department. I worked primarily, but not exclusively, on a very large and long-running professional negligence matter that arose in connection with a major corporate collapse (conduct related to the collapse also lead to various prosecutions in the criminal courts). Whilst working on this case in the run up to trial I managed a team of trainee lawyers and paralegals. I also dealt with smaller matters in the areas of insolvency, debt recovery, employment, and food licensing.

I have appeared in courts in both Scotland and Hong Kong, and after leaving Hong Kong I was admitted to practice in the Australian jurisdictions New South Wales and Tasmania.


I completed my PhD at the University of Sydney in 2013, and my thesis considered the ethical and legal merits of behavioural genetics based pleas in mitigation in sentencing. I am interested in free will, philosophy of punishment, neuroethics, and the law’s response to neuroscience, neurotechnology and artificial intelligence. I am also interested in behavioural legal ethics.

My research at Macquarie University involved working on Australian Neurolaw Database (see below for link). In this research role I was involved in the decisions about the general aims and development strategy for the online resource.

I have been a visiting researcher at the philosophy departments of the University of California, Riverside, the University of Stirling, and also the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Oxford University.

Academic writing

I have published on behavioural genetics and sentencing in The Indigenous Law Bulletin, on behavioural genetics and the criminal law more generally in Current Issues in Criminal Justice, on free will in an edited collection entitled Free Will in Criminal Law and Procedure and on sociolegal history again in the journal Current Issues in Criminal Justice. Here is one of my papers on neuroscience and the criminal law in The International Journal of Law and Psychiatry and another in Neuroethics.

My book Free Will and the Law: New Perspectives (with Michael Sevel) is published by Routledge, and contains chapters from leading philosophers of free will and law. A link to a draft of the introduction can be found here and my chapter, which advances a theory of mitigation can be found here. Here is a link to a related interview with me, and here are some comments on the book from the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia.

I am working on a book entitled Behavioural Genetics, Moral Agency and Retributive Sentencing: The Case for Mitigation (also to be published by Routledge) and am also co-editing a book entitled Neurointerventions and the Law: Regulating Human Mental Capacity which is to be published by Oxford University Press (April 2020). A version of my own paper Neurobionic Revenge Porn and the Criminal Law: Brain-computer Interfaces and Intimate Image Abuse can be found here.

The Journal of Evolution and Technology has published a paper I wrote on artificial intelligence and the future of work.The paper is entitled The Value of Consciousness and Free Will in a Technological Dystopia. I am currently developing the ideas from this paper in the specific context of the future of legal work.

Popular writing (non-fiction)

I have written for the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age on the topics of behavioural genetics and sentencing, and neuroscience and the law. I have also written about the free will problem in the context of criminal law for the Huffington Post. For The Conversation, I have written on neuroscience and punishment , and artificial intelligence in the context of the future of work. My work has been republished in media sources such as The Independent (UK) and the Statesman (India).


I have discussed my research on the radio shows the Philosopher’s Zone (ABC Radio National, Free will and the courts and more recently Brain-computer interfaces and the future of criminal law), The Wire, (Race-based discounts in Australia's justice system?), The Weekly (2SER), and Day Shift (ABC Central Coast).

Media discussion of my research/ media interviews

The Australian ran a story on my work on behavioural genetics and sentencing (subscriber-only- Push for Courts to Heed Genetic Disposition to Crime 1 Aug 2013) and I have been interviewed for the Sydney Morning Herald about neurolaw. A feature article entitled Blame it on the Brain, appears in the Law Society Journal (May 2016) and contains comments from an interview with me. My book Free will and the law: New perspectives is discussed in the October 2019 issue of the same journal.

Study of media, and artwork

I have a Postgraduate Diploma in Media and Communications from the University of Technology Sydney in which I focussed on multimedia and the internet. In this Diploma I also studied electronic music. I co-created an artwork for this exhibition at the Law School of the Australian National University. Here is an artwork created by the artist Rory for a presentation that I gave on behavioural genetics and sentencing.

I wrote a short piece of science fiction that is connected with the free will problem. It is called Our Debt to Vulcan and published in the journal Philament here.


In relation to free will, some of my work engages with the late David Hodgson's views, and a collection of his papers can be found here.

This set of podcasts has some interesting analysis of algorithmic decision-making and other issues relating to technology.

The Australian Neurolaw Database can be found here. Neuroethics and the Law is a useful blog for those with a more general interest in neurolaw. I was a co-organiser of the 2018 conference Neuroscience and Society: Ethics, Law and Technology and am again a member of the organising committee for the 2019 event Neurofutures: Neuroscience and Responsibility.

Twitter: DrAllanMcCay

Linkedin: Allan McCay