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Title: The justification and limitation of the State's power to incapacitate 'dangerous' offenders
Author: Eaton, Stephanie
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2003
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Following the 1991 Criminal Justice Act a 'dangerous' offender is liable to a longer than normal sentence of imprisonment in order to prevent the commission of future serious violent and sexual crimes. The thesis argues that this new power is similar to, but significantly different from earlier legislative and medical attempts to control dangerous offenders. The new power establishes a system of social defence which proactively punishes offenders and generates a societal reliance on incapacitation through imprisonment. Such a policy arises out of a general failure of belief in modem criminological theories to provide a methodology for reducing all criminality including serious violent and sexual crimes. The liberal state must justify the longer than normal detention of 'dangerous' offenders if it is to use this coercive power in a legitimate way. The thesis argues that the state is limited in its power to punish 'dangerous' offenders for what they might do. The state cannot discriminate against offenders by redistributing benefits which privilege some citizen's liberty over others without putting at risk the state's claim to treat all citizens equally. Neither can the state presume to predict and to judge in advance a rational citizen's future behaviour without seriously violating important moral principles. The situation is different for non-rational 'dangerous' offenders, for whom the use of incapacitation may be permissible, but civil detention must still be imposed in offenders' best interests not in the best interests of others. That the state does violate fundamental liberal principles is made possible by social and cultural changes in which crime avoidance becomes a conscious part of everyday life. A heightened sense of the risk of crime reduces opposition to the incapacitative and disproportionate use of imprisonment and encourages a policy of social defence by governments frustrated at their inability to control crime. Nevertheless, the use of longer than normal imprisonment cannot be justified through the acquiescence of citizens to illiberal governance.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available