Appraising Strict Liability
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Andrew Simester (ed.)
OUP Oxford (2005)
Strict liability is a controversial phenomenon in the criminal law because of its potential to convict blameless persons. Offences are said to impose strict liability when, in relation to one or more elements of the actus reus, there is no need for the prosecution to prove a corresponding mens rea or fault element. For example, in the 1986 case of Storkwain, the defendant chemists were convicted of selling controlled medicines without prescription simply upon proof that they had in fact done so. It was irrelevant that they neither knew nor had reason to suspect that the 'prescriptions' they fulfilled were forgeries. Thus strict liability offences have the potential to generate criminal convictions of persons who are morally innocent. Appraising Strict Liability is a collection of original contributions offering the first full-length consideration of the problem of strict liability in the criminal law. The chapters, including European and Anglo-American perspectives, provide a sustained and wide-ranging examination of the fundamental issues. They explore the definition of strict liability; the relationship between strict liability and blame, and its implications for the requirement for culpability in criminal law; the relevance of European and human rights jurisprudence; and the interaction between substantive rules of strict liability and evidential presumptions. The breadth and depth of the contributions combine to present readers with a sophisticated analysis of the place and legitimacy of strict liability in the criminal law.
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