Criminalising Carelessness? – Comparative and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Criminal Liability for Inadvertent Negligence

Criminalising Carelessness? – Com­par­a­tive and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Criminal Liability for Inadvertent Negli­gence

Workshop • August 29–31, 2024 • Freiburg/Germany

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law

Can we punish people for crimes they didn’t even know they committed? Ultimately, the answer to this question lies at the core of criminal liability for inadvertent negligence. But legal systems respond very differently. Although most civil law jurisdictions seem to have no problem with criminal liability for inadvertent negligence, its criminalisation is con­tro­ver­sial in common law jurisdictions. And even though most Anglo-American criminal law theorists firmly hold onto the principle of actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea, criminal liability for negligence, and even strict liability, is becoming inexorably widespread in statutory law. Surprisingly, despite the subject having been long discussed in Anglo-American and German criminal law scholarship, there has been scant exchange between them, and the two legal systems have benefited too little from each other’s insights.
From 29–31 August 2024, we would like to address this issue and the different perspectives on criminal liability for inadvertent negligence in a workshop organized by the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law, Freiburg. Cutting through the fields of philosophy, psychology, and criminal law theory, the workshop will address the theoretical, doctrinal, and practical issues of inadvertent negligence. A special emphasis will be placed on the ques­tion of what we are accusing the offender of: What is criminally wrong about being careless, and is this criminal charge tenable from a legal and even from a philosophical and psychological point of view? By bringing together scholars from different civil and common law jurisdictions, the workshop will provide a platform for a lively international and interdis­ci­pli­nary debate on these questions and seeks to provide new answers to an old problem.


– provisional program –

Wednesday, 28 August 2024  
– Arrival –


Thursday, 29 August 2024  
09:15–10:00 Registration
10:00–10:15 Philipp-Alexander Hirsch (Freiburg)
Welcome and Introduction
10:15–11:15 Gunnar Duttge (Göttingen)
Fundamental Questions on Inadvertent Negligence from the Perspective of
German Criminal Law
11:15–12:15 Mark Dsouza (London)
Chosen Negligence
12:15–13:45 – lunch break –
13:45–14:45 Veronica Rodriguez-Blanco (Surrey)
Settling the Terms for Understanding Negligent actions: Two Models of
14:45–15:45 Boris Burghardt (Marburg)
Inadvertent Negligence and Moral Luck
15:45–16:15 – coffee break –
16:15–17:45 Manuel Cordes  (Freiburg)
The Semantics of Avoidability

Alexander Greenberg (Southampton)
Could Have Known Better
18:30 – dinner (speakers only) –


Friday, 30 August 2024  
09:30–11:00 Jan Rummel (Heidelberg)
Remembering Intentions: A Special Cognitive Challenge

Johannes Stefan Weigel (Göttingen & Freiburg)
The (Un)Avoidability of Negligence
11:00–11:30 – coffee break –
11:30–12:30 Heidi Hurd (Illinois) & Michael Moore (Illinois)
The Non-Punishability of Negligence
12:30–14:00 – lunch –
14:00–15:00 Jan C. Schuhr (Heidelberg)
Two Models of Carelessness: Extraordinary Imputation vs. Breach of Duty
15:00–16:00 Findlay Stark (Cambridge)
Constrained Negligence
16:00–16:30 – coffee break –
16:30–17:30 Svenja Schwartz (Freiburg)
Unconscious Negligence from the Perspective of Functionalism
18:00 – dinner (speakers only) –


Saturday, 31 August 2024  
09:30–10:30 Malcolm Thorburn (Toronto)
Against the Criminalization of Inadvertent Negligence – a State-Centric Account
10:30–11:00 – coffee break –
11:00–12:00 Morten Boe (Freiburg)
Criminal Negligence and the Constitution – A Canadian-German Perspective
12:00–13:00 Georgia Stefanopoulu (Hannover & Leipzig)
Should We be Less Careless with Carelessness?
13:00 Closing Remarks
13:15 – restaurant (speakers only) –


Sunday, 1 September 2024  
– Departure –

Venue and Accommodation


The Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law (MPI-CSL) is located in Freiburg in the suburb of “Wiehre” and can be reached from the main train station/city center by tram line 2 (stop “Holbeinstraße”), by taxi as well as on foot (around 20 minutes). The workshop will take place in an annex building of the MPI at Fürstenbergstraße 19. It is a new building with barrier-free access.

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law
Günterstalstraße 73
79100 Freiburg

Directions can be found on Google Maps.

We have reserved a contingent of rooms at the Premier Inn Freiburg City Süd for all interested attendees of the workshop. If you would like to book a room, please contact the hotel by July 6, 2024 and mention the booking code "Criminalising Carelessness". Additionally, there are numerous accommodation options available in Freiburg. For more information, please refer to the local tourist information pages.

About us


The workshop is organized by Dr. Dr. Philipp-Alexander Hirsch and Johannes Stefan Weigel.

Johannes Stefan Weigel is a PhD student at the Chair of Prof. Dr. Uwe Murmann at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen and a member of the Independent Research Group “Criminal Law Theory”. His dissertation deals with the topic of Criminalization of Inadvertent Negligence which inspired this workshop.

Philipp-Alexander Hirsch is Leader of the Independent Research Group “Criminal Law Theory” at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law in Freiburg. His research focuses on criminal law and criminal procedure, legal philosophy and legal theory, and the history and philosophy of criminal law in the Age of Enlightenment.

The Max Planck Research Group “Criminal Law Theory” focuses on the analysis of substantive criminal law and criminal procedure and the doctrine in these areas; the analysis centers on the underlying normative structures and principles in order to assess their coherence, justifiability, and persuasiveness. The aim is to draw on the fruits of this analysis to engage in normative theory-building that proposes solutions to problems in criminal law that go beyond interpreting the positive law.



Anyone who is interested is welcome to attend the workshop. We especially encourage students and early-career researchers to register for the workshop. Attendance is free of charge. However, the number of participants is limited. To register, please fill out the following registration form. The deadline for registration is August 9, 2024.

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