Crime Research Centre

Conference: Intoxication, Addiction and the Criminal Law

Co-Hosted by the Sussex Crime Research Centre (CRC) and Sussex Addiction Research and Intervention Centre (SARIC).

In January 2018, the Crime Research Centre hosted a major conference: Intoxication, Addiction and the Criminal Law. 

The conference brought together international experts from across law, philosophy and neuroscience to discuss intoxicated and/or addicted offenders. They investigated the impact of intoxication on the brain of a defendant, and how this links with increased criminal behaviour. They analysed the legal response to intoxicated offenders who lack ‘mental fault’ due to their state of intoxication, questioning what the legal response should be. And they explored the complicating factor of addiction, understanding the physical and mental impacts of the disease, and how (if at all) this effects/should effect criminal responsibility.  

See tweets from the conference at #IACLSussex

Session 1: INTOXICATION AND CULPABILITY

Theodora DukaDora Duka, Professor of Experimental Psychology, University of Sussex, UK

ACUTE AND CHRONIC EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL ON COGNITIVE AND EMOTIONAL PROCESSES

People have used alcohol since earliest time to feel happy relaxed or creative. Alcohol induces elation and pleasure but at the same time it impairs memory and dampens our ability to control our behaviour. With its effects on memory alcohol reduces the ability to retrieve material encoded during intoxication thus leading to forgetting all unpleasant consequences of intoxication during periods of abstinence. During intoxication, on the other hand, alcohol impairs the ability to plan, to make efficient decisions, and to inhibit inappropriate responses, all functions contributing to the unpleasant consequences of intoxication. Data on the acute effects of alcohol on memory and cognitive control as well as on mood and sensitivity to reward will be presented. The contribution of these effects to risky and aggressive behaviours following alcohol binges will be discussed.


Val CurranValerie Curran, Professor of Psychopharmacology, University College London, UK

NEUROBIOLOGICAL AND COGNITIVE CONSEQUENCES OF ACUTE AND CHRONIC DRUGS: A FOCUS ON CANNABINOIDS

In this talk we will consider the increasingly blurred divide between illicit drugs and potential medicines. I will briefly describe the current uses of ketamine and its acute and chronic cognitive effects. The focus will then switch to cannabis. Cognitive effects – acute, chronic and residual – will be summarised before introducing the issue of individual differences and question why some are more vulnerable or resilient to the harms of cannabis.  Two particular areas of our recent research will be highlighted: acute effects of cannabis in adolescents as compared with adults; effects of varying types of cannabis on the brain and cognition.


Douglas HusakDouglas Husak, Professor of Philosophy, Rutgers University, US

INTOXICATION AND CULPABILITY

I tackle the difficult problem of specifying how voluntary intoxication affects criminal culpability generally and recklessness in particular. I contend that the problem need not be conceptualized as an instance of actio libera in causa, namely the situation in which persons do something at t1 to culpably create the conditions of their own defense at t2. Instead, I argue that we need only consider intoxicated defendants at t2 in order to justify their punishment. In the course of defending my view, I challenge conventional wisdom about both the nature of recklessness and the effects of intoxicants. I conclude by discussing a possible ground on which involuntary intoxication might be treated differently.

Session 2: INTOXICATION AND ADDICTION

Aldo BadianiAldo Badiani, Professor of Psychology and Addiction Medicine, University of Sussex, UK

DRUG ADDICTION IS A BRAIN DISEASE BUT NOT A DRUG INDUCED BRAIN DISEASE

Repeated use of addictive drugs can produce neuroplastic changes in the cortical areas that exert inhibitory control over the reward circuits of the brain. Thus, many experts think that loss of control over drug use, hence drug addiction, is the result of drug-induced damage of the cortex. Furthermore, these drug-induced changes are thought to persist into prolonged abstinence explaining the chronic relapsing nature of drug addiction. In my presentation I will argue that, despite its popularity, the notion of addiction as a drug-induced disorder of the cortex (which is often presented as a fact rather than a hypothesis) is not supported by available evidence.


Jeff DalleyJeff Dalley, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Cambridge, UK

INNATE VULNERABILITY MECHANISMS IN STIMULANT ADDICTION

Addiction is a non-random brain disorder that afflicts a relatively small but stable proportion of individuals across the life span. Although we broadly understand how drugs abused by humans reinforce behaviour and alter subjective mood states there is no clear consensus on how extended drug use narrows or channels behaviour in addiction, especially in individuals who must surely be aware of the personal and wider harms of their behaviour. This talk addresses what is presently known about individual vulnerability to addiction, drawing on evidence from humans addicted to drugs as well as translational imaging and genetic approaches that reveal novel mechanisms and strategies to promote abstinence. Emphasis will be placed on behavioural traits (e.g. anxiety, impulsivity, sensation-/novelty-seeking) and underlying brain disorders that collectively accelerate the development of addiction.

Session 3: INTOXICATED OFFENDING

Paul H RobinsonPaul H. Robinson, Colin S. Diver Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School, US

WHAT EFFECT SHOULD INTOXICATION HAVE ON CRIMINAL LIABILITY?

Professor Robinson will provide an overview of the legal issues relating to intoxication: the effect of voluntary intoxication in imputing to an offender a required offense culpable state of mind that he may not actually have had at the time of the offense; the effect of involuntary intoxication in providing a defense by negating a required offense culpability element or by satisfying the conditions of a general excuse; the legal distinction between voluntary and involuntary intoxication; the legal effect of alcoholism or addiction in rendering intoxication involuntary; and the limitation on using alcoholism or addiction in this way if the offender can be judged as reasonably responsible for creating his own addiction. Robinson will note some of the differences between the US and UK approaches on these issues.


Susan DimockSusan Dimock, Professor of Philosophy, York University, CA

NO PENAL PRINCIPLE IS SACRED: IMPACTS OF A FAILED APPROACH TO INTOXICATED OFFENDERS

Canada follows the (dubious) precedent laid down in DPP v Beard (1920), thereby separating crimes into specific intent or general intent offences. That an offender was intoxicated at the time of their crime is said to be potentially relevant to specific intent crimes and so its impact on an accused’s state of mind at that time can be considered in establishing the mental elements necessary for conviction. An offender’s intoxication is considered irrelevant in the case of general intent crimes, by contrast, and so cannot be considered. I continue my assault on this unacceptable legal practice, showing that it leads to the violation of virtually every principle of penal justice: from fundamental principles of statutory interpretation to the presumption of innocence.


Kim VanoorsouwKim van Oorsouw, Assistant Professor and Legal Psychology Track Coordinator, Maastricht University, NL

THE EFFECT OF ALCOHOL AND DRUGS ON MEMORY FOR CRIMINAL OFFENCES

About 25-45% of offenders claim (partial) amnesia for their crime due to intoxication. Sometimes full-blown amnesia is reported after large amounts of alcohol were consumed. What do we know about the effect of alcohol and drugs on memory? Is it possible to forget a highly emotional event while intoxicated? When assets are at stake, claims of amnesia might be feigned. This presentation will give an overview of what we know about memory for events that took place while intoxicated. Recent research findings will be presented. In addition, a case will in which an offender claims complete memory loss for murder will be discussed. It will show how legal psychologists deal with claims of amnesia to determine whether the blackout is genuine or feigned.

Session 4: BEYOND INTOXICATION

Ronnie MackayRonnie Mackay, Professor of Criminal Policy and Mental Health, De Montfort University, UK

THE FAULT FACTOR IN AUTOMATISM AND INSANITY

Should the criminal law have a broader notion of fault liability rendering a defendant liable to conviction for a criminal offence which extends beyond that of self-induced intoxication? In this connection the law surrounding automatism has been slow to develop, perhaps betraying some confusion and even reluctance to accept such a notion.
In addition, the defence of insanity, which encompasses insane automatism, has always been viewed as being outside the doctrine of prior fault. But is this approach still tenable?
This paper will assess whether the current status of the “fault factor” in both automatism and insanity needs to be re-evaluated.


John ChildHans CrombagRudi Fortson QCSussex Prior Fault Project Team: John ChildHans CrombagRudi Fortson QC

A NEW PRIOR FAULT OFFENCE: THE CHALLENGE AHEAD

The concept of prior-fault allows for the usual offence-event focus of criminal liability (t2) to be expanded in certain cases to take account of a defendant’s (D’s) previous conduct (t1). For example, D becomes voluntarily intoxicated at a public house, falls over and causes damage to a table. When charged with criminal damage, D may plausibly deny the mental element of the offence on the basis that she was ‘too drunk to understand the risks’ of her conduct when falling at t2, but prior-fault intoxication rules will apply to find liability, reconstructing her missing mental element based on her prior-fault in getting voluntarily intoxicated at t1.

Such rules, often (though incorrectly) discussed as criminal defences, can arise in the context of prior-fault intoxication, prior-fault automatism, prior-fault insanity, as well as in the application of defences properly so called (eg, where D acts in self-defence based on an intoxicated mistake). Crucially, the legal rules applicable in each area have developed haphazardly, inconsistently, and lacking in basic theoretical coherence, with each subject to recent attention and critique from the Law Commission.

We explore options for reform, and in particular the option most commonly highlighted in the literature, the potential for replacing the current matrix of rules with a new prior-fault offence. Although mooted in the context of prior-fault intoxication for over forty years, only a handful of proposals have ever been fully defined and presented, and each one has been rejected as unworkable: unworkable because of theoretical incoherence, problems in practical application (particularly courtroom procedures), and/or complex interlocking issues of addiction and mental illness. Rather than ignoring or side-lining such complex problems, the purpose of our project is to explore each in detail, looking for solutions and ways forward.

Conference Organisers:

John Child, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Sussex

Hans Crombag, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, University of Sussex

Stavros Demetriou, Lecturer in Law, University of Sussex

 

Intoxication, Addiction and the Criminal Law