Source: (2004) In, Hendrik Kaptein and Marijke Malsch. Crime, Victims, and Justice. Essays on Principles and Practice. Hampshire, England and Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing. Pp. 141-154.

Martin Wright begins this essay with the broad question of the purpose of the criminal law. He answers this broad question with the proposition that the purpose of the criminal law is to create a just and stable society. The accomplishment of a just and stable society, he further states, would be based as much as possible on consent and as little as possible on coercion. In short, this society aims, as far as possible, to persuade people to act within acceptable boundaries without the use of repression. Moreover, when people act outside of those boundaries, the principles of maximum consent and minimum coercion still apply in society’s dealing with them. In his essay, then, Wright explores this vision through an examination of the following matters: some of the words used in the context of criminal justice (e.g., crime, punishment, deterrent, harm, restorative justice); restorative justice with respect to the conventional criminal justice system; a radical vision of a how a society could respond when one person harms another; the restorative use of criminal law, especially from the victim’s point of view; and ways in which a restorative approach could transform society as a whole.

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