Crime Victims and the Right to Punishment

Project: Research

Research areas and keywords

UKÄ subject classification

  • Philosophy

Layman's description

The aim of the project is to answer the following question: have crime victims a right to punish those who offended against them, or at least that society does so? I will critically investigate two theories that attempt to justify punishment as a right of crime victims: (a) the right to punishment is derived from the right to self-defense; (b) the right to punishment is a right to vindication.

The aim of the project is to answer the following question: have crime victims a right to punish those who offended against them, or at least that society does so?

I distinguish between two rights of crime victims. (1) A right against all others to punish the offender oneself, delegated to the state. (2) A right against the state that it punish the offender. The former is a right to self-defense converted into a right to punish a wrongdoer after the fact. The latter, however, arises simply because one is a crime victim.

My aim is to assess these two theories. Two questions arise: (a) Does the right the theory advocates exist and how exactly are we then to understand it? (b) If it exists, can it also ground a justification of punishment?

Preliminary results:

Right (1) cannot dispense with the thought that criminals forfeit certain rights, but this fact is not the problem many think it is. It needs supplementation by other considerations in order to justify a system of punishment like ours.

On closer scrutiny, right (2) amounts to the more familiar right against the state to be treated as an equal. The reasons a crime victim has to be unsatisfied with the state's not punishing the offender cannot justify any system of punishment, but serves rather as a condition of adequacy for systems of punishment justified in some other way.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date2011/01/012012/12/31

Participants