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Artist's Impression of Lady Justice, Old Bailey

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The Criminal Justice Theory Blog is the initiative of Dr Liat Levanon (Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College, London) and Dr Mark Dsouza (Faculty of Laws, University College London). It aims to make freely available short but carefully constructed arguments about interesting issues in the theory and philosophy of criminal justice, broadly conceived.

Each post on this blog is reviewed by the editors to ensure that high quality content is pitched at a level that is accessible to an audience of generalist lawyers, law students, and law-curious folk.

You can comment on each post in the box right at the bottom of the page. Comments are moderated to keep content accessible and friendly.

Latest Posts

Belief and Respect in Legal Trials

by Liat Levanon

In this post I suggest that our obligation to respect other humans is the source of our obligation to use rules of evidence that are capable of eliminating errors when trying to identify truths (in criminal trials, and beyond).

Rationale-based Defences in Criminal Law

Part 3: The threads of reasoning and blame (and what it means for criminal culpability)

by Mark Dsouza

In this post, I distinguish between two ‘threads’ of our reasoning process, viz. norm-reasoning and functional-reasoning, and consider how blaming evaluations relating to these two threads ought to be made. I will argue that the criminal law ought to blame only for poor norm-reasoning as reflected in our choices, and show that this proposition does not unduly narrow the reach of the criminal law.

Safety from False Convictions

by Boaz Sangero

This post suggests ways to reduce the risk of false convictions by implementing an incident-reporting duty and applying insights and experience from other spheres of life, in which accidents are readily discernible. This approach overcomes the obstacle posed by the fact that false convictions are generally indiscernible from appropriate convictions, and also avoids the relatively high costs of learning how to improve the system through the experience of things going wrong.

Fair Labelling and the Temporal Stages of Criminal Law

by Matt Gibson

I argue that fair labelling is important not just when assigning labels to people at the end of a criminal trial, but throughout the process of the criminal trial, right from criminalisation, through investigation, and until conviction. It plays different roles and speaks to different audiences at each stage of the criminal process.

Rationale-based Defences in Criminal Law

Part 2: A matter of perspective (in Conduct Rules)

by Mark Dsouza

In this post, I build on my previous post to argue that imperative, liberty-restricting conduct rules (such as those you might find in offence definitions) should be framed by reference to the objective facts rather than by reference to beliefs about facts. I explain that since the mere circumstance of being in default of a conduct rule need not necessarily lead to a blaming judgement, we need not worry about being blamed for violating guidance that we did not, and could not, know was applicable.

Error-Avoidability and the Resolution of Criminal Conflicts

by Liat Levanon

In this short post I take the first step in demonstrating that error-avoidability (which I have argued is a condition for legal belief) has practical value. I argue that error-avoidability can facilitate an acceptable resolution of a criminal conflict by managing the risk of error.

Public Justifiability and the Puzzle of Mala Prohibita

by Alexander Sarch

Mala prohibita offenses are acts which have been deemed crimes even though they are not morally wrong in themselves. But because a criminal conviction conveys society’s strongest public condemnation, the traditional view is that we cannot properly criminalize a type of conduct unless it is morally wrong. So how do we make sense of mala prohibita offenses? Andrew Simester has recently offered one plausible answer, but I argue here that there’s a gap in Simester’s argument – and then I suggest one how we can close it.

Constitutional Constraints on Criminalization

by Miri Gur-Arye

While traditional limitations on criminalization derived either from Mill’s harm principle, or from the retributive theory of punishment, modern limitations derive from political theories of the criminal law. However, this modern move has not led to a thorough discussion of constitutional control over criminalization. Here, I explain why this is, suggest a theoretical basis for subjecting criminalization to constitutional control, and outline the implications of doing so.

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