Criminal Law and Philosophy

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 537–560 | Cite as

Criminalizing Dangerousness: How to Preventively Detain Dangerous Offenders

  • Susan DimockEmail author
Original Paper


I defend a form of preventive detention through the creation of an offence of ‘being a persistent violent dangerous offender’ (PVDO). This differs from alternative proposals and actual habitual offender laws that impose extra periods of incarceration on offenders after they have completed the sentence for their most recent crime(s) or as a result of a certain number of prior convictions (as in three strikes laws). I, instead, would make ‘being a persistent violent dangerous offender’ an offence itself. Persons to be preventively detained (imprisoned) would be tried and convicted of this offence (on the usual standards of proof and after a criminal trial in which they enjoyed all the normal protections of due process and just criminal procedure). My approach would then have one significant advantage: provided the elements of being a PVDO could be rendered sufficiently determinate, punishing persons under such an offence would comport with central rule of law values, most importantly legality and fair notice, as well as principles of proportionality in sentencing.


Preventive detention Dangerousness Crime prevention Rule of law Responsibility Fair notice Recidivism 



Thanks to Antony Duff, Andrew Ashworth and Lucia Zedner for inviting me to participate in that thought-provoking event, to the many participants from whose insights I learned so much, and special thanks to my official commentator—Patrick Tomlin—whose comments forced me to rethink a number of fundamental issues in the paper and whose generosity has made the paper better than it would otherwise have been. Thanks are also due to participants of the CS-IVR meeting, June 1, 2013, especially Marc Ramsay.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.York UniversityTorontoCanada

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