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Book Review

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Addis Ababa University




This slim volume contains the text of two lectures given by Professor Hart at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1964. The first lecture, "Changing Conceptions of Responsibility," expresses concern at the turn in which the "liberal" criminal law reform movement in England has taken in connection with the law of criminal responsibility. Professor Hart takes issue with the stand of a leading reformer, Lady Wootton, who advocates abolition of the mens rea prerequisite to penal liability. In her view, the mental state of a harm-doer is relevant not to determining his penal liability (conviction), but only to the decision of how to treat him. She would, accordingly, abolish the defences of insanity and diminished responsibility. Partially agreeing, Professor Hart, too, would consider questions of mental irresponsibility only at the treatment stage, and would therefore also abolish these preconviction pleas in defence and mititgation. But he is unwilling to sacrifice the mens rea requirement as an element which must be proved would a harm-doer be held liable to compulsory treatment, whether punitive or medical. Professor Hart feels that his "moderate" reform would preserve the mens rea principle from destruction at the hands of "strict liability" reformers.



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