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Harm and Culpability$
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A. P. Simester and A. T. H. Smith

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198260578

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198260578.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 21 October 2021

Making Excuses

Making Excuses

(p.131) 6 Making Excuses
Harm and Culpability

G. R. Sullivan

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the Kingston case, in which the House of Lords had to decide on a general issue of fundamental importance as well as a more technical question on the law of intoxication: whether the absence of blame entailed the absence of mens rea. It is conceded at the outset that even for stigmatic offences it is not possible to exempt all blameless persons while remaining within the doctrinal parameters of the criminal law. How can it be said that a state of involuntary intoxication may give rise to a finding of blamelessness if it does not negate the mental element for the offence nor cause conduct to be compelled? Any argument for exculpation in cases such as Kingston must demonstrate that culpability sufficient for a conviction for a stigmatic offence may yet be lacking notwithstanding the presence of mens rea and the absence of any currently recognised justification or excuse. There are arguably occasions when criminal liability should be precluded by invoking some version of ‘unity of self’ doctrine informed by criteria going beyond mere bodily continuity.

Keywords:   House of Lords, involuntary intoxication, excuse, blame, criminal law, criminal liability, mens rea, stigmatic offence, unity of self, exculpation

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