University of Surrey

Test tubes in the lab Research in the ATI Dance Research

The Problem of Over-Inclusive Offenses: A Closer Look at Duff on Legal Moralism and Mala Prohibita

Bero, Stephen and Sarch, Alexander (2020) The Problem of Over-Inclusive Offenses: A Closer Look at Duff on Legal Moralism and Mala Prohibita Criminal Law and Philosophy.

Bero-Sarch2020_Article_TheProblemOfOver-InclusiveOffe.pdf - Version of Record
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (801kB) | Preview


There are sometimes good reasons to define a criminal offense in a way that is over-inclusive, in the sense that the definition will encompass conduct that is not otherwise wrongful. But are these reasons ever sufficient? When, if ever, can such laws justifiably be made and enforced? When, if ever, can they permissibly be violated? In The Realm of Criminal Law, Antony Duff tackles this challenge head on. We find Duff’s strategy promising in many ways as an effort to reconcile over-inclusive offenses with the wrongness constraint on criminalization. Nonetheless, we aim to move the discussion forward by raising questions about Duff’s solution and highlighting some limitations and costs. We begin in Part 2 by sketching the contours of Duff’s position; then in Part 3 we propose one refinement and offer two practical observations; and finally, in Part 4 we raise broader concerns. In particular, we question whether the problem of over-inclusive offenses is one that can or ought to be solved, or whether it is better conceived as a difficulty to be managed and mitigated. Of course, we should avoid undue harshness in the law where we can, and Duff’s approach is guided by this worthy ambition. But there may also be a limit to this. To the extent that the harshness cannot be avoided, perhaps this should be acknowledged and faced up to, rather than obscured or finessed.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Law
Authors :
Date : 7 May 2020
DOI : 10.1007/s11572-020-09538-5
Copyright Disclaimer : © The Author(s) 2020. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Additional Information : Embargo OK Metadata OK No Further Action
Depositing User : James Marshall
Date Deposited : 28 Jul 2020 14:59
Last Modified : 28 Jul 2020 14:59

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

Information about this web site

© The University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, United Kingdom.
+44 (0)1483 300800