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Action and Value in Criminal Law$
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Stephen Shute, John Gardner, and Jeremy Horder

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780198258063

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198258063.001.0001

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Diminished Capacity

Diminished Capacity

Chapter:
(p.238) (p.239) Diminished Capacity
Source:
Action and Value in Criminal Law
Author(s):

STEPHEN J. MORSE

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198258063.003.0011

Stress, intense emotion, mental disorder and defect, intoxication, trauma, and other causes of abnormal mental states can impair rationality and self-control, abilities which are thought crucial to ascriptions of moral responsibility. In addition to insanity, diminished capacity in its many incarnations is the major legal doctrine that responds to mental abnormality. After first briefly outlining preliminary assumptions about responsibility and criminal justice, this chapter defines diminished capacity's two variants: the mens rea and partial-responsibility variants. It then addresses in depth the justifications and implementation problems for each variant, with special attention to partial responsibility and the problematic issue of ‘internal coercion’ or ‘compulsion’. It concludes with a discussion of difficult special issues.

Keywords:   moral responsibility, insanity, means rea, partial-responsibility, internal coercion, compulsion, criminal law

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