Subjectivism and Objectivism in the Criminal Law: an examination of the limits of recklessness and negligence

  • Catherine Crosby

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis is a critical examination of the boundaries of recklessness and negligence in English and Welsh criminal law and of the extent to which these mentes reae terms reflect the leading theories of culpability. The general principle requiring mens rea to be established before criminal liability is justified stems from the maxim ‘actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea’, and the historical foundations of this concept will be analysed to assess whether there can be criminal liability for inadvertent conduct whilst still upholding this tenet. The interpretation of recklessness and negligence has proven to be problematic as both have included inadvertent actions and subjective and objective labels have been employed inconsistently, exacerbating an already difficult situation. What becomes clear is that the recent judicial pronouncements that have given rise this state of affairs is the result of a desire for flexibility so that justice can be done in a particular case, but this has culminated in a lack of transparency and some confusion.The aim of this work is to determine appropriate limits for criminal recklessness and negligence with regard to serious offences. Over the last century recklessness has had three main interpretations, none of which are satisfactory as will be demonstrated. This is partly because they cannot be adequately underpinned by the theories of choice and character, the leading theories of culpability. Further, the objective/subjective labels attached to the three interpretations are inaccurate and misleading, with the potential for injustice. Accordingly, other culpability theories are scrutinised and a new interpretation of recklessness is advocated in an attempt to provide a more consistent philosophical and practical approach to determining criminal recklessness and negligence.
Date of Award22 Sept 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Teesside University
SupervisorMark Simpson (Supervisor)

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