Towards a Morally Contextualised Understanding of Respect for Persons in the Criminal Law – Louise Kennefick

This event is part of the Crime, Justice and Society seminar series which are co-hosted by the Criminal Law and Criminology subject areas of Edinburgh Law School and are open to all. 


Dr Louise Kennefick’s research aims to shed light on how our current criminal law structures, which are intended and assumed to communicate respect for the subject, are based on a moral philosophical concept deriving from the Enlightenment, with a focus on respect as a means of agency recognition and rational choice. It highlights the contingent nature of respect, and the fact that the present reading of the concept not only falls short of its own moral philosophical ideal, but is inherently problematic in terms of the practical consequences for the person before the law. Louise discusses how the backend of the criminal justice system is tasked with attempting to rebuild respect in the relationship between the offender and community, and argues for a change in how our present structures of guilt and responsibility attribution are constructed in order to accommodate a fuller notion of respect at an earlier point in the criminal justice journey. The overall aim of the research, then, is to reposition the concept of respect so that it is more fully acknowledged in terms of its significance as a symbolic placeholder, a mode of moral communication, an experience of community morals, and a basic human emotion.