Faculty Author Type

Current Faculty [James Stewart]

Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Complicity; aiding and abetting; accessorial liability; criminal theory; international criminal law; responsibility


Complicity is responsibility for helping. This essay provides a comparative overview of the criminal law and theory pertaining to complicity. Instead of taking a strong prescriptive position on the best way to construct accomplice liability, it charts a series of recurrent normative problems in this area and points to various solutions these problems have generated in practice. The essay begins by considering structural questions that inform the shape accomplice liability is given in different criminal systems, then discusses the conduct required to establish accomplice liability, before plotting the various static and dynamic mental elements that are frequently allocated to the concept. Overall, the essay suggests that a comparative approach is very helpful in shedding light on blind spots in various schools of thought about complicity, including whether it deserves an autonomous existence separate from perpetration. I conclude that the subject deserves our ongoing intellectual engagement, since it goes to the heart of our attempts to live decently, in this our very imperfect world.

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