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Criminal Law TheoryDoctrines of the General Part$
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Stephen Shute and Andrew Simester

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780199243495

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199243495.001.0001

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Knowledge and Belief in the Criminal Law

Knowledge and Belief in the Criminal Law

(p.171) 8 Knowledge and Belief in the Criminal Law
Criminal Law Theory


Oxford University Press

Two aspects of the definitional general part of the criminal law are the mens rea concepts of knowledge and belief. This chapter discusses knowledge and belief as psychological states. It examines the extent to which the concepts of knowledge and belief are relied upon in the modern criminal law and explores non-legal understandings of the concepts of knowledge and belief. These non-legal understandings are compared with the ways in which judges and draftsmen have used the concepts. It also reflects upon some long-standing legal conundrums, such as the structure and role of the so-called ‘wilful blindness’ doctrine, and the proper relationship between knowledge and belief, on the one hand, and the related concepts of acceptance and suspicion, on the other. The relationship of knowledge and belief to action and consciousness is also discussed.

Keywords:   criminal law, knowledge, belief, general part, psychological states, wilful blindness, acceptance, suspicion, action, consciousness

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