Moral Agency: The Necessary Characteristics of the Criminal Actor

K. J. M. Smith

in Lawyers, Legislators and Theorists

Published in print October 1998 | ISBN: 9780198257233
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191681738 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Monographs on Criminal Law and Justice

Moral Agency: The Necessary Characteristics of the Criminal Actor

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Over the course of the nineteenth century practically no judicial analysis was devoted to constructing any general conceptual basis of moral agency. Even in respect of the relatively frequently reviewed defence of insanity, case law reveals little outside persistent judicial concern that the law's power of deterrence should not be eroded by too wide a drawing of an insanity defence. Fundamental structural questions concerning the relationship of defences to mens rea or voluntariness and possible unifying theories of excuse and justification remained quite beyond express judicial interest. But in several respects neither was analysis of such matters greatly advanced by commentators from the state of affairs bequeathed by Blackstone and Bentham. Throughout the century, any resort to the language of justification and excuse was sporadic, frequently inconsistent, and largely undefined.

Keywords: criminal law; moral agency; insanity defence; mens rea; justification

Chapter.  24085 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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