Legal and Moral Responsibility

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Abstract

The paper begins with the plausible view that criminal responsibility should track moral responsibility, and explains its plausibility. A necessary distinction is then drawn between liability and answerability as two dimensions of responsibility, and is shown to underpin the distinction in criminal law between offences and defences. This enables us to distinguish strict liability from strict answerability, and to see that whilst strict criminal liability seems inconsistent with the principle that criminal responsibility should track moral responsibility, strict criminal answerability is not. We must ask, therefore, whether, when and why strict criminal responsibility is unacceptable.

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