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Conflicts as Property

Christie, Nils
June 4, 2015

Source: (1998) Ch. 7.1. In Andrew von Hirsch and Andrew Ashworth, eds., Principled Sentencing. Readings on Theory and Policy. Oxford: Hart Publishing. 312-316. Excerpted and reprinted from Nils Christie (1977), “Conflicts as Property”, British Journal of Criminology, 17: 1-15.

Nils Christie begins with the observation that a person’s full participation in his or her own conflict presupposes elements of civil law. In contrast, in criminal proceedings the conflict is transformed from a matter between the specific parties at odds to a conflict between one of the parties and the state. Thus the victim loses both to the offender and to the state. After a brief discussion of why this occurs, Christie explains that the notion of ‘conflicts as property’ does not refer to material compensation; it refers rather to ownership of the conflict itself. Christie then identifies the effects of the victim’s losing this ‘property’ in the course of criminal proceedings, and he proposes a remedy for this loss in a new court model for dealing with conflicts. This court model is victim-centered and lay-oriented.


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