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Criminals in Uniform

32 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2012  

John Gardner

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law

Date Written: June 11, 2012


In this paper I speak up in defence of an aspect of the ideal of the rule of law that is associated with A.V. Dicey and with the common law tradition, which I call the 'citizens in uniform' doctrine. According to this doctrine public officials, such as police officers, cannot hide behind their official roles in the face of the law. They answer to the ordinary courts for ordinary crimes and torts like the rest of us, and always in their capacities as themselves. Responding to some objections to this doctrine lately expressed by Malcolm Thorburn, I argue that the doctrine is consistent with (and in some respects consonant with) a recognition of the special moral position of the police and similar officials. I devote some energies to explaining aspects of that special moral position in the context of a wider outlook that I end up calling 'the unity of morality'.

Keywords: Rule of law, policing, criminal law, morality of killing, justifications, excuses, morality

Suggested Citation

Gardner, John, Criminals in Uniform (June 11, 2012). Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 27/2012. Available at SSRN: or

John Gardner (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

St. Cross Building
St. Cross Road
Oxford, OX1 3UJ
United Kingdom

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