Legal risk, legal evidence, and the arithmetic of criminal justice

Duncan Pritchard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

It is argued that the standard way that the criminal justice debate regarding the permissible extent of wrongful convictions is cast is fundamentally flawed. In particular, it is claimed that there is an inherent danger in focussing our attention in this debate on different ways of measuring the probabilistic likelihood of wrongful conviction and then evaluating whether these probabilities are unacceptably high. This is because such probabilistic measures are clumsy ways of capturing the level of risk involved, to the extent that a defendant can be subject to an unacceptably high level of legal risk in this regard even where the relevant probabilities are very low. An alternative conception of legal risk⎯one that is primarily cast along modal rather than probabilistic lines⎯is set out which offers a much better way of framing the debate regarding what would be an acceptable level of wrongful conviction. It is further argued that with this modal conception of legal risk in play we can capture an important necessary condition that should be imposed on legal evidence, one that has application beyond the context of the criminal trial.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-119
Issue number1
Early online date25 Sept 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Sept 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • luck
  • legal epistemology
  • legal risk
  • evidence
  • wrongful conviction
  • civil liability


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