The aims and functions of criminal law

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

What are the aims and functions of criminal law? This question has recently been much debated. Unfortunately, however, the debate is difficult to assess, as what it means to call something an aim or function of criminal law remains unclear. This article therefore does two things. First, it examines what these competing claims about criminal law's aims and functions might mean. Most plausibly, it is argued, they refer to one of three sets of things that criminal law does: those that justify its retention or use, that it is aimed at doing, or that explain its existence or persistence. Second, the article examines how convincing these claims are when thus understood. It argues that, in each of the senses identified, criminal law has numerous aims and functions – more than all sides in the debate allow.
Original languageEnglish
JournalModern Law Review
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 29 May 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • criminal law
  • function
  • aim
  • justification
  • functional explanation


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