Understanding the ‘Fault’ in Prior-Fault Intoxication: a Pathway to Criminal Law Reform

This project examines the concept of 'fault' and culpability in intoxicated harm-causers
Project status

This project integrates legal and neuroscientific methods to tackle a long-standing, complex problem in legal philosophy and doctrine: defining 'fault' in the criminalisation of intoxicated harm-causers. Where an intoxicated defendant causes harms, current intoxication rules may create liability even where the defendant lacks the foresight/intention required for the crime charged; criminalising accidental and/or mistaken behaviour 'as if' specific foresight was present. This approach has operated in the UK for over a century, and across much of the common law world. However, it is now dangerously out-of-step with the prevailing norms of modern liberal justice systems internationally. To respect defendants' autonomy, we must identify and justify the criminalisation of specified wrongful choices and/or behaviour. There is intuitive logic to the idea that intoxicated defendants should sometimes be criminalised despite a lack of foresight/intention when causing harms, but this intuition requires unpacking to avoid the mislabelling and over-criminalisation evident within current systems.

Principal Investigator: Dr John Child, University of Birmingham

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