Letter: Born to be bad?
Tuesday 15 June 1999
The criminal law is based on the idea of individual responsibility. Badness is punishable because it results from a free personal choice. At all costs, the law wanted, historically, to avoid giving a defence to people who said they were impelled to commit crimes by social conditions like poverty. Stealing, it said, even goaded by endemic destitution and starvation, was a personal lapse, not a socially prompted wrong.
Now, though, it is no longer social pressures (such as poverty) which can be used to cast doubt on whether the defendant was exercising a free will, but alleged biological compulsions.
The law now properly recognises how certain conditions such as post-natal depression and pre-menstrual tension can affect some people. What, though, when we can identify those who might have inherited a genetic predisposition to a short temper? Shall we punish people for being what they are by nature?
Dr GARY SLAPPER
The Law programme
The Open University
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
Final Top Gear reviewTV
FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets
Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Should Apple buy Greece?
- 2 Michael Douglas regrets 'embarrassing' Catherine Zeta-Jones with oral sex comments
- 3 Drummer Lee Rigby's family reject 'extremist' groups using Woolwich murder for political gain
- 4 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 5 Fox News anchor asks 'what's to prevent' three people from marrying after same-sex marriage legalised
Lionel Richie at Glastonbury 2015, review: Like the anti-Kanye he delights in audience engagement
Glastonbury 2015: Lionel Richie attracts festival's biggest crowds for Sunday's 'dad slot'
Glastonbury 2015: The best things you missed from Lionel Richie and the Dalai Lama to how beautiful the festival is
Glastonbury 2015: Shocking scenes of rubbish left strewn across campsite as clean-up begins
Glastonbury 2015: The Who take swipe at Kanye West - 'who's the biggest rock star in the world?'
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Austerity is essential if Britain wants to reduce inequality – why can't the left-wingers who march against it realise this?
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Extend Right To Buy to tenants of private landlords, Labour's Jeremy Corbyn says
David Cameron struck double blow in his hopes to win Britain a new EU deal