UCL Faculty of Laws


Seminar: Works in Progress on Criminal Law Theory

22 May 2019, 5:00 pm–7:00 pm


Event Information

Open to



UCL Laws


Gideon Schreier LT
Bentham House
UCL Laws
United Kingdom

Seminar: Works in Progress on Criminal Law Theory

An event organised by the UCL Centre for Criminal Law with

  • Professor Terry Skolnik, Assistant Professor, University of Ottawa
  • Dr Elaine Freer, Robinson College, University of Cambridge
  • Dr Matthew Gibson, Senior Lecturer, Liverpool Law School 
  • Dr Kate Greasly, Hertford College, University of Oxford

Chaired by Dr Mark Dsouza, Lecturer UCL Laws

About the Papers

1. Asymmetric information Problems in the Criminal Law

Professor Terry Skolnik (University of Ottawa)

Commentator: Dr Elaine Freer (Robinson College, University of Cambridge)

Asymmetric information problems are pervasive within the criminal law. Police officers have no idea whether a suspect is armed. But the suspect knows. During plea bargaining, prosecutors are unsure whether the defendant is factually guilty – a fact with which the defendant is best acquainted. Suspects sit through long police interrogations attempting to figure out what detectives really know about the case. Despite the prevalence of these types of problems, scholars have not drawn an overarching connection between asymmetric information, the criminal law, and its administration. 

This article attempts to advance such an account. It argues that legal responses to information imbalances can impact a range of moral values and undermine core criminal law principles. Bridging the gap between legal philosophy and economics, it suggests that we can understand, prevent, and correct some of the worst consequences that stem from information deficits in the criminal law by drawing on traditional insights of asymmetric information theory.  

2. Deceptive Sexual Relations: A Theory of Criminal Liability

Dr Matthew Gibson (Liverpool Law School)

Commentator: Dr Kate Greasley (Oxford)

Many common law jurisdictions criminalise penetrative and non-penetrative deceptive sexual relations. Often, they proscribe that conduct under their core sexual offences, such as rape, sexual or indecent assault etc. This article challenges that practice via two linked processes: criminalisation and fair labelling of crimes, respectively. First, from a sexual ethics perspective, it argues that deceptive sexual relations (with one exception) are less wrongful than the relations proscribed by the core sexual offences and – thereby – less harmful to a victim’s right to sexual autonomy. Secondly, it contends that these findings entail the creation of bespoke sexual offences targeting penetrative and non-penetrative deceptive sexual relations. This would better signal to the criminal law’s audiences the distinct wrongdoing inherent in these relations. Such labelling becomes critical at the point of conviction given its effects on defendants and other parties.

About the Speakers

Proffesor Terry Skolnik is an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Law. He is also an affiliated scholar with NYU's Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ). Prior to joining the Faculty, he was a scholar in residence at NYU's CHRGJ (2016-2018), a law clerk for the Honourable Justice Russell Brown at the Supreme Court of Canada (2015-2016), a lecturer at the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Law (2013-2014), and a police officer with the Montreal Police Service (2012-2013). Professor Skolnik completed the S.J.D. at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Law as a SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier doctoral research fellow and as a FRQSC doctoral research fellow. He is a graduate of the University of Cambridge where he studied as a Commonwealth Trust Scholar (L.L.M., 2013), and the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law (L.L.L., 2012). His primary research interests include criminal law, legal philosophy, constitutional law, criminal evidence and procedure, poverty law, and the intersection between those fields.

Dr Matthew Gibson specialises in criminal law doctrine and theory. Increasingly, his work focusses on the principle of 'fair labelling' - the idea that crimes should be sub-divided and labelled according to types and degrees of wrongdoing. He also researches more general issues of criminalisation, offence definition and offence classification. Separately, he has research interests in crime and religion, notably the extent to which - if at all - religiously motivated conduct can/should be accommodated in criminal law. In the past, he has written about accommodation of religion in civil law.  Matt is a Senior Lecturer in the Law School, having previously taught at the Universities of Durham and Newcastle. He has also been a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Penal Theory and Penal Ethics, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge. He is a graduate of the University of Durham (LLB; LLM), Northumbria University (PgDip - Bar Vocational Course) and the University of Liverpool (PhD). In addition, he is a non-practising barrister, member of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple and Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. 

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