The Standard of the Reasonable Person in the Criminal Law

Marcia Baron

in The Structures of the Criminal Law

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199644315
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191732249 | DOI:

Series: Criminalization

The Standard of the Reasonable Person in the Criminal Law

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This chapter attempts to understand the objections to the reasonable person standard in the criminal law, and to sort out the objections that are serious and require much more attention than can be given here. It also draws out assumptions concerning the construct of the reasonable person — assumptions that may underlie some of the disagreements as to the value of this standard. The assumptions are not easy to pinpoint, and a failure to bring them to the surface has been a barrier to fruitful discussion of the pros and cons of the reasonable person standard. One assumption has it that the reasonable person is to be understood abstractly, whereas on the competing view, the reasonable person of the reasonable person standard should be thought of as a particular person (e.g., the man on the Clapham omnibus) with a plethora of ‘default’ characteristics. Objections to the effect that the reasonable person standard ‘normalizes’ (because the reasonable person is thought to be a sort of ‘average’ or ‘ordinary’ person) trade on the view that we are to be picturing a particular sort of person. The chapter aims to be in the service of a larger aim of working out how the construct of the reasonable person should best be understood for the purposes of the criminal law and then considering whether the standard should be retained, an aim towards which this chapter is only a first step.

Keywords: criminal law; reasonable person standard; default characteristics; average person; ordinary person; objections

Chapter.  12203 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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