Acting, Trying, and Criminal Liability


in Action and Value in Criminal Law

Published in print December 1993 | ISBN: 9780198258063
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191681783 | DOI:
Acting, Trying, and Criminal Liability

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This chapter discusses the doctrine that all action consists essentially in trying, and the concept of action and its role in the criminal law. It argues that the actions of one who commits an offence, and of one who tries but fails to commit it, are different as actions: we cannot justify the claim that their criminal liability should be the same by arguing that in some strict or proper sense they have each done ‘the same thing’. It does not, of course, follow from this that their criminal liability should not be the same; to show that one (even one central) argument for a certain position is misguided is not yet to show that the position itself is untenable. But the argument does open the way to an alternative view which, taking seriously the idea that we are convicted and punished for our actions, would explain why the difference between an actual and an attempted crime should indeed matter to the criminal law.

Keywords: actions; criminal law; criminal liability; trying; crime

Chapter.  16792 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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