Criminal Law between Public and Private Law

Markus D Dubber

in The Boundaries of the Criminal Law

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199600557
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729171 | DOI:

Series: Criminalization

Criminal Law between Public and Private Law

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This chapter examines the distinction between public law and private law, mainly in a historical perspective. It reconstructs the historical development of criminal law as a part of public law, in order to shed light on the public nature of criminal law, as well as to reflect critically on some contemporary efforts to give greater specificity to the idea of crimes as ‘public wrongs’. The chapter accounts for the distinction between crimes and torts by appealing to the idea that the former directly threaten the victim's personhood, while the latter do so only indirectly by diminishing victims' resources for the exercise of their capacity for autonomy. However, punishment also poses a threat to the personhood of those who are subject to it, which is why it should be reserved for the former (more serious) kind of wrongs.

Keywords: crimes; public wrongs; punishment; personhood

Chapter.  11280 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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