Harm and Culpability

By A. P. Simester; A. T. H. Smith | Go to book overview
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11
Dealing with Drug Dealing
Peter Alldridge*Drug dealing is not a matter which has occupied theorists of criminal law very much. Their staple remains issues of responsibility -- intention, recklessness, voluntariness, acts, and omissions -- centred around the small body of crimes -- usually offences against the person -- in the context of which 'general principles' are discussed. The refined consideration of questions of responsibility in those areas provides a marked contrast to the treatment of drug offences.One of the incidents of concentration upon this small group of offences is that the theorist seldom has to consider what exactly is wrong with a given offence. Either that is sufficiently obvious as not to require any explanation (most clearly in the case of all non-consensual offences against the person), or it is regarded as the appropriate study of a different discipline (political philosophy) or there are so many other considerations of a pragmatic nature which militate for or against criminalization that the moral quality of the act becomes a marginal consideration or, perhaps cynically, it is an enquiry best avoided for fear of what might be discovered. Only recently, in consequence, have questions such as 'What exactly is wrong with blackmail or money laundering?'1 seriously been addressed. So long as the purpose of dividing material is solely to cover ground, its ordering is at best a matter of pedagogical convenience and at worst something purely arbitrary. The analyst can, however, be more ambitious. An answer to the question 'What exactly is wrong with the offence in point?' should produce two things:
(i) a basis for an analytical critique of non-coherent rules. It will say to legislators (including judges, if they are legislating), 'If this is the moral objection to this form of conduct, then this is the criminal law norm which follows.' Now of course that will not be determinative of the
____________________
*
Cardiff Law School. I am grateful, for helpful comments, to participants in a seminar at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge in Dec. 1994, to Stewart Field and to Andrew Simester.
1
Regarding blackmail there is now a huge literature, to which ( 1993) 141(5) University of Pennsylvania LR 1565-1975 is central. On money laundering, see B. Fisse and D. Frazer, "Some Antipodean Skepticism about Forfeiture and Confiscation of Proceeds of Crime and Money Laundering Offences" ( 1993) 44 Alabama LR 737, 740-1.

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