Defence of a basic voluntary act requirement in criminal law from philosophies of action

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

610 Downloads (Pure)


When looking to identify the basic ingredients of criminal responsibility, reference is standardly made to a voluntary act requirement (VAR). We blame a defendant (D) for what she has done or (perhaps) failed to do where such doing or failing to do is proscribed by law; we do not punish mere thoughts or character. However, despite the continued appeal of the VAR in abstract principle, the precise definitions and restrictions entailed within it are not always clear, and its usefulness in preventing inappropriate criminalisation is openly (and in many cases correctly) challenged. Principally, and crucially, the VAR has received sustained attack in recent years from critics within the philosophies of action, highlighting its descriptive and normative shortcomings. It is contended that such criticism is misplaced. This article provides defence to a stripped-back definition of the VAR, distinguishing the general definition of action in philosophy from the definition of action within the criminal law, and seeking to identify and preserve a doctrinally workable model of the latter.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-470
Number of pages34
JournalNew Criminal Law Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2020


  • Voluntary Act requirement
  • Conduct
  • Agency
  • Automatism


Dive into the research topics of 'Defence of a basic voluntary act requirement in criminal law from philosophies of action'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this