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A Critical Reading of R.A Duff, 'Answering for Crime'

33 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2011 Last revised: 31 Aug 2012

Ian D. Leader-Elliott

University of Adelaide; University of South Australia

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Date Written: September 7, 2009


Answering for Crime is an essay in rational reconstruction of the substantive criminal law. It takes the presumption of innocence as the central guiding principle for the reconstructive project. The proposed reconstruction is based on principles drawn from the law of offences against the person, in particular, rape and murder. Professor Duff opposes tendencies to unprincipled legislative pragmatism with a normative theory that would require each criminal offence to proscribe an identifiable public wrong, before a citizen could be required to answer to a court for the offence. The normative theory turns on the distinction between the citizens' obligation to a court, when the prosecution must make out its case for conviction by establishing the commission of a public wrong, and the citizens' obligation to answer for an offence, by way of justification or excuse, once the public wrong has been been established. Exceptions would be possible, but they would be infrequent and they would require justification consistant with the normative theory. This review questions the normative significance of the divide between offence and defence, and questions as well the adequacy of the foundations for the reconstruction. The criminal law is more varied and various in its sources, structure and principles of development than Answering for Crime allows.

Keywords: R.A. Duff, A Critical Review, Answering for Crime, Offence and Defence, Normative theory, Criminal Law

Suggested Citation

Leader-Elliott, Ian D., A Critical Reading of R.A Duff, 'Answering for Crime' (September 7, 2009). U. of Adelaide Law Research Paper No. 2009-05. Available at SSRN:

Ian D. Leader-Elliott (Contact Author)

University of Adelaide ( email )

233 North Terrace
Adelaide, South Australia

University of South Australia ( email )

37-44 North Terrace, City West Campus
Adelaide, South Australia 5001

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