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Posthumous ‘punishment’: what may be done about criminal wrongs after the wrongdoer’s death?

Melissaris, Emmanuel (2015) Posthumous ‘punishment’: what may be done about criminal wrongs after the wrongdoer’s death? Criminal Law and Philosophy, online. pp. 1-17. ISSN 1871-9791

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s11572-015-9373-2


The commission of criminal wrongs is occasionally revealed after the (suspected) wrongdoer’s death. In such cases, there seems to be a widely-shared intuition, which also frequently motivates many people’s actions, that the dead should still be blamed and that some response, not only stemming from civil society but also the state, to the criminal wrong is necessary. This article explores the possibility of posthumous blame and punishment by the state. After highlighting the deficiencies of the pure versions of retributivism and general deterrence theory, but also the potential in the latter, it argues for a political theory of the criminal law (mainly from a normative perspective, although the modest claim is made in passing that current institutional arrangements are best understood in this light), which views institutions of punishment as the business not only of defendants and victims but also the political community as a whole. Within this normative scheme posthumous responses to wrongs are possible and in some cases necessary for the maintenance of the stability of the political community. Accountability-holding processes may also be possible and necessary for the protection of the reputation of the deceased suspected wrongdoer.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2015 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht
Divisions: Law
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
K Law > K Law (General)
Sets: Departments > Law
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2015 10:40
Last Modified: 20 Mar 2019 02:41

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