Rationality and the Rule of Law in Offences Against the Person
This chapter uses some alleged weaknesses in the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 to explore some of the axes along which the definitions of criminal offences may defensibly vary. It argues that we can defend variations not only on the axis of harms done (death, serious injury, etc.) and on the axis of mental states of the offender (intention, recklessness etc.), but also on a causal axis, i.e., between various ways of contributing to the harm that is done. The chapter also uses the alleged weaknesses of the same Act to challenge the assumption that the ideal of the rule of law is always better-served by ‘textual clarity’, i.e., by clear formulations of legal rules. It is suggested that we should sometimes favour a competing ‘moral clarity’ that makes the law accessible to and usable by people who have no familiarity with its official formulation.
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