Making Excuses

G. R. Sullivan

in Harm and Culpability

Published in print August 1996 | ISBN: 9780198260578
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191682124 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Monographs on Criminal Law and Justice

Making Excuses

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This chapter examines the Kingston case, in which the House of Lords had to decide on a general issue of fundamental importance as well as a more technical question on the law of intoxication: whether the absence of blame entailed the absence of mens rea. It is conceded at the outset that even for stigmatic offences it is not possible to exempt all blameless persons while remaining within the doctrinal parameters of the criminal law. How can it be said that a state of involuntary intoxication may give rise to a finding of blamelessness if it does not negate the mental element for the offence nor cause conduct to be compelled? Any argument for exculpation in cases such as Kingston must demonstrate that culpability sufficient for a conviction for a stigmatic offence may yet be lacking notwithstanding the presence of mens rea and the absence of any currently recognised justification or excuse. There are arguably occasions when criminal liability should be precluded by invoking some version of ‘unity of self’ doctrine informed by criteria going beyond mere bodily continuity.

Keywords: House of Lords; involuntary intoxication; excuse; blame; criminal law; criminal liability; mens rea; stigmatic offence; unity of self; exculpation

Chapter.  11294 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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