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Chapter 6 - Psychopathy in the Criminal Law

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 August 2021

Jim Baxter
Affiliation:
University of Leeds
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Summary

In the final chapter, I turn to the question of how psychopaths should be treated in the criminal law. I begin by sketching the distinctive problem that psychopathy presents for the criminal law, and some broad observations on how it is dealt with currently. I engage first with an argument by Paul Litton which states that the criminal law is an expression of democratic norms, and therefore that any attempt to excuse psychopaths based on their psychopathy should be rejected because it would not command the respect of the public. I then turn to the question of whether psychopaths deserve punishment. I review the various ways in which judgments of criminal responsibility are instantiated in legal tests, and the conditions of responsibility that are implicit in these. Ultimately, I conclude that psychopaths lack capacities which ought to be considered a condition of criminal responsibility, essentially the ability to respond to moral reasons, and not just the ability to know that their actions are legally proscribed.

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Moral Responsibility and the Psychopath
The Value of Others
, pp. 163 - 186
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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