Beyond fair labelling: Offence differentiation in criminal law

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Abstract

How should criminal conduct be divided among different offences? To date, this question has received only one serious answer: the fair labelling principle, which states that distinctions among offences should reflect distinctions in the nature and seriousness of the wrongdoing that they criminalise. This article argues that the fair labelling principle should not be the sole or main principle governing offence differentiation decisions. Its argument consists in three main claims. First, the only plausible foundation for the principle is a duty to ensure that the blame expressed through criminal conviction is allocated justly. Second, this duty cannot be absolute: if it were, the result would be an absurdly highly differentiated criminal law. Third, several other factors are relevant to how we should differentiate offences, and these will often count against the demands of just blaming. A complete normative account of offence differentiation must thus extend beyond fair labelling – or indeed, any single principle.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOxford Journal of Legal Studies
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 9 Mar 2022

Keywords

  • fair labelling
  • offence differentiation
  • blame
  • blameworthiness

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