Indirect Crimes

Law and Philosophy 32 (4):485-514 (2013)
Abstract
Both law and morality routinely distinguish between direct wrongs of causing harm oneself and indirect wrongs of contributing to another’s harmful actions. This article asks whether this distinction matters for the purposes of a theory of criminalisation. It argues that, in some respects, the distinction matters less than is often supposed: generally, the potential future actions of others have at least some relevance to what we ought to do. However, it is morally significant that criminal liability for indirect wrongdoing can make our freedom to do valuable things contingent upon others’ failure to comply with their moral obligations. This raises substantial concerns of autonomy and fairness that tell against the creation of some – but by no means all – indirect crimes
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