Four Distinctions that Glanville Williams Did Not Make: The Practical Benefits of Examining the Interrelation Among Criminal Law Doctrines
THE SANCTITY OF LIFE AND THE CRIMINAL LAW: THE LEGACY OF GLANVILLE WILLIAMS, Dennis Baker ed., Cambridge University Press, 2013
Posted: 19 Jan 2012 Last revised: 25 Mar 2013
Date Written: 2013
While Glanville Williams was a pioneer in his time, he remained quite mainstream when it came to the framework for organizing criminal law doctrines. His books were influential and he could have helped reshaped that framework but was content to leave it as essentially that which evolved at common law, even though many improvements could have be made. For example, he was well aware of the justification-excuse distinction but rejected it as an organizing principle, not because he did not see the distinction as rational, but because he did not see it as having practical value.
This essay attempts to take up Williams' challenge, and to show that there are indeed significant practical benefits that flow from a variety of distinctions, some that Williams knew about and others that he did not. Its general claim is that there can be great practical value in investigating the interrelation among doctrines – both the similarities and the differences among different doctrines. This is not true of all distinctions; some may be of interest only to moral philosophers. But those that do have practical value ought to be incorporated into the framework of criminal law that governs how judges, lawyers, and lawmakers think about that body of law.
Keywords: criminal law, defenses, justification, excuse, nonexculpatory, doctrines of imputation, complicity, voluntary intoxication, ex ante articulation of rules of conduct, principles of ex post adjudication, legality
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