Between concepts and context: protection of "personal freedom" : a comparative case study of German and Canadian criminal law


University of British Columbia

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Master of Laws - LLM




Due to its pervasive affinity for conceptual abstractions, German criminal law has been said to suffer from a rationalist hubris that leads to the formulation of artificial rules and lacks respect for the realities of life. The following study will examine this hypothesis with respect to one area of German criminal law that is particularly characterized by an abstract, conceptual way of thinking: the area of what in Germany is called "offences against personal freedom". A case where a store detective suggested to a 16 year old female shoplifter that he would abstain from making a larceny report to the police if she engaged in sexual intercourse with him has caused a lot of debate in German criminal law as to the question of whether the detective infringed the shoplifter's "personal freedom" in a way prohibited by criminal law. This debate will be presented and contrasted with the approach Canadian criminal law would be likely to adopt had the case occurred in Canada. The thesis adopts a comparative, analytical approach that focuses on law reform: • comparative, because the question of whether German criminal law does lack respect for the realities of life will be examined by comparing German legal reasoning with Anglo-Canadian legal reasoning. • analytical, because when exploring what German and Canadian law regarding "offences against personal freedom" is, the focus will be on familiar, formal techniques of legal reasoning, such as those which draw on legislative texts, legislative history, underlying principles, academic commentary, fundamental values in the constitution, and theoretical concerns. • law reform, because the question is explored of whether German criminal law can learn from Canadian criminal law how to be more open to taking varying social locations of people affected by criminal law into account. In particular it is asked whether one can reconcile the traditional German conceptual approach that promises certainty of the law and the Canadian contextual approach that is better able to be attentive to equality as a fundamental right. It will be argued that such a reconciliation of approaches is possible and consists in a method that might be called egalitarian conceptualism. This approach unites the advantages of conceptual, abstract legal reasoning with the advantages of contextual thinking by merging equality as a fundamental concept with the existing conceptual framework of criminal liability. The principle "in dubio pro aequalitate" will be added to the principle "in dubio pro libertate".


Criminal law -- Canada; Criminal law -- Germany; Criminal law -- Philosophy

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