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Michaelmas Hearings: Against Knowledge (in the Criminal Law), Findlay Stark (Cambridge) - 25 November 2021

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Amongst its programme of activities, KCrim convenes the Michaelmas Hearings, which bring together some of today's leading criminal law thinkers to discuss current legal issues affecting the United Kingdom, Europe, and the rest of the world. Each year, our speakers are expected to offer up for discussion some real problems in the theory and application of the criminal law, broadly understood.



Knowledge is a well-established fault element in English criminal law. I argue that it should not be employed any longer. In relation to circumstance elements, knowledge is either typically inapposite (particularly in relation to propositions regarding future matters that are contingent on facts that have yet to be resolved), or unnecessarily complex in comparison to stating the actus reus more fully. Knowledge also creates problems when used in relation to consequences (typically as an aspect of intention, in English law) – namely the over-privileging of moral luck (and, concomitantly, the underplaying of culpability), and the narrowing of offences in a way that does not respond to legitimate concerns regarding overcriminalisation. Other fault elements avoid these problems, and they should be utilised in knowledge’s stead.


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25 November 2021

Online event