Extending the Harm Principle: ‘Remote’ Harms and Fair Imputation

Andrew von Hirsch

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

Extending the Harm Principle: ‘Remote’ Harms and Fair Imputation

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Formerly, proposals to extend the reach of the criminal law often were rationalised on paternalistic grounds, or on grounds of the conduct's supposed ‘sinfulness’. Such efforts could be challenged by appealing to the harm principle — that is, the requirement that the conduct involved be harmful to others. What limitations of principle should there be upon the invocation of more ‘remote’ forms of risk, as grounds for criminalisation? This chapter deals with remote harm and fair imputation. It describes a mode of analysis which focuses on the likelihood and magnitude of a remote risk, and on certain countervailing concerns and constraints. This approach has by now become sufficiently established to merit being termed the ‘Standard’ Harms Analysis. The chapter also considers the distinction between criminal prohibitions applicable to the general public and those which deal with more specialised activities. It argues why it is important to develop fair-imputation principles when dealing with remote risks.

Keywords: criminal law; harm principle; fair imputation; remote harm; remote risks; criminalisation; Standard Harms Analysis; criminal prohibitions

Chapter.  8743 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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