Law and Philosophy

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 225–254 | Cite as

Innocence Lost: A Problem for Punishment as Duty

  • Patrick TomlinEmail author
Open Access


Constrained instrumentalist theories of punishment – those that seek to justify punishment by its good effects, but limit its scope – are an attractive alternative to pure retributivism or utilitarianism. One way in which we may be able to limit the scope of instrumental punishment is by justifying punishment through the concept of duty. This strategy is most clearly pursued in Victor Tadros’ influential ‘Duty View’ of punishment. In this paper, I show that the Duty View as it stands cannot find any moral distinction between the permissible punishment of the guilty and the permissible punishment of the innocent in extreme circumstances, therefore undermining one the key pillars of its intuitive appeal. I canvass several ways to respond to this problem, arguing that a rights (or claims) forfeiture theory which employs the distinction between rights forfeiture and rights infringement (or claims forfeiture and infringement) is the best solution.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Politics and International RelationsUniversity of ReadingReadingUK

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