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Law in Context

Abstract from Volume 34 No 2 (2016) Contemporary Issues in Criminal Law

Emergency Situations and the Defence of Necessity

Jeremy Finn is a Professor of Law at the University of Canterbury where he teaches criminal law and criminal justice. His research interests also include law and disasters, contract law and legal history. 

This article explores the extent to which the criminal law defence of necessity in both its excusatory and justificatory forms can apply appropriately in situations of emergency or natural disaster. Some particular problems are examined, including the possible limitation of the defence to responses to threats to life rather than threats to property and arguments that the defence only applies to persons to whom a defendant owed some duty of protection. The article draws on research into disaster response and recovery to suggest that several formulations of the defence are not well-suited to protect disaster responders, particularly spontaneous volunteer responders, and calls for reform to reconcile more effectively the competing interests and policy imperatives arising in disaster situations.

(2016) 34(2) Law in Context p100

   
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