Jurisprudence Talk - Duncan Pritchard on Legal Risk and the Arithmetic of Criminal Justice

Department: Philosophy

Date and Time: February 15, 2018 | 5:00 PM-6:30 PM

Event Location: Law 3500

Event Details


Please join us Thursday, February 15th, at 5pm for the next meeting of Law, Reason and Value, the new colloquium on jurisprudence co-sponsored by the School of Law and the School of Humanities.  

Our speaker will be Duncan Pritchard, UC Chancellor’s Professor of Philosophy, who will discuss his paper “Legal Risk, Legal Evidence and the Arithmetic of Criminal Justice.” Please see it attached here, with abstract below.

The talk will run 5-6: 30 pm in Law 3500. There will also be a faculty dinner following the discussion; if interested please email jhelmrei@uci.edu. Thank you!


By Duncan Pritchard

It is argued that the standard way that the criminal justice debate regarding the permissible extent of wrongful convictions is cast is fundamentally flawed. In particular, it is claimed that there is an inherent danger in focussing our attention in this debate on different ways of measuring the probabilistic likelihood of wrongful conviction and then evaluating whether these probabilities are unacceptably high. This is because such probabilistic measures are clumsy ways of capturing the level of risk involved, to the extent that a defendant can be subject to an unacceptably high level of legal risk in this regard even where the relevant probabilities are very low. An alternative conception of legal risk⎯one that is primarily cast along modal rather than probabilistic lines⎯is set out which offers a much better way of framing the debate regarding what would be an acceptable level of wrongful conviction. It is further argued that with this modal conception of legal risk in play we can capture an important necessary condition that should be imposed on legal evidence, one that has application beyond the context of the criminal trial.

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