Lecturer in Criminal Law

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LLB (Hons), BCL, PhD
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  • Tel: +44 (0)131 651 4085
  • Email: A.Cornford@ed.ac.uk
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Andrew joined the School as a Lecturer in Criminal Law in 2012. His research interests lie generally within criminal law and legal theory. His work to date has mostly focused on the substantive criminal law, especially questions of criminalisation. His publications include articles on the law of homicide; anti-social behaviour orders; and several articles on inchoate or ‘preventive’ offences. He has also published more theoretical work on justifications for criminalisation, and the proper limits of the criminal law.

More broadly, Andrew is interested in all aspects of criminal law doctrine, and in normative perspectives on issues in this area. Increasingly, he is also interested in criminal justice more generally – in particular, the ethics of punishment and other legal sanctions. He also maintains interests in related topics within legal, moral and political philosophy.

Before moving to Edinburgh, Andrew completed a PhD at the University of Warwick. He also studied at the Universities of Southampton (LLB) and Oxford (BCL).


Dr Andrew Cornford's Homepage at Edinburgh Law School

Courses Taught

Criminal Law (Ordinary) (Ordinary) (Course Organiser)

Criminal Law A: Harm Offence and Criminalisation (Honours)

Criminal Law B: Doctrine and Theory (Honours)

PhD Supervisees

Chrystala Fakonti  'Legalisation of assisted suicide or a deference of mercy killing: the way forward'


Andrew Cornford, 'Rethinking the wrongness constraint on criminalisation ', (2017), Law and Philosophy, Vol 36, pp 615-649
Abstract: Orthodox thought holds that criminalisation should be subject to a wrongness constraint: that is, that conduct may be criminalised only if it is wrongful. This article argues that this principle is false, at least as it is usually understood. On the one hand, the wrongness constraint seems to rest on solid foundations. To criminalise conduct is to facilitate its condemnation and punishment; to coerce citizens against it; and to portray it as wrongful. All of these actions are presumptively impermissible when the conduct that they target is not wrongful. On the other hand, the article argues that the wrongness constraint is nevertheless unsound. Although it is presumptively impermissible to criminalise non-wrongful conduct, this might yet be permissible, given sufficient countervailing reasons. Moreover, there are realistic cases – specifically, some cases of over-inclusive criminalisation – in which such countervailing reasons exist.

Andrew Cornford, 'Narrowing the scope of absurdly broad offences: The case of terrorist possession', (2017), Statute Law Review, Vol 38, pp 286-297
Abstract: Many statutory offences in English criminal law appear absurdly broad in their scope. This article examines the role that narrow construction might play in limiting the scope of such offences. As a case study, the article uses the offence of possessing information of a kind likely to be useful to a terrorist, under section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000; and the House of Lords’ interpretation of this offence in the 2009 case of R v G. It is argued that, within a purposive approach to statutory interpretation, narrow construction can provide a legally permissible means of narrowing the scope of absurd offences. However, this approach requires courts to address difficult moral questions about the convictions and punishments that they are authorising – questions which, ultimately, they may wish to avoid.

Andrew Cornford, 'Mitigating Murder ', (2016), Criminal Law and Philosophy, Vol 10, pp 31-44
Abstract: In Loss of Control and Diminished Responsibility, Alan Reed and Michael Bohlander collect a wide range of essays on the eponymous partial defences to murder. These essays provide detailed analysis of recent English reforms in this area and place these reforms in comparative perspective. This review considers the contribution made by this book to the explanation and evaluation of partial defences. It concentrates in particular on the exculpatory force of loss of control; the distinctness of loss of control from diminished responsibility; and the defences’ unique mitigatory effect.

Ilona Cairns, Liz Campbell, James Chalmers, Sarah Christie, Andrew Cornford, Sharon Cowan, Antony Duff, Peter Duff, Sarah Elliston, Lindsay Farmer, Pamela Ferguson, Chloe Kennedy, Fiona Leverick, Claire McDiarmid, G Maher, Sandra Marshall, Donald Nicolson, Joanne Ramsay, Elizabeth Shaw, Andrew Tickell, Shanti Williamson, 'A Troubling Lack of Clarity in Scots Law Regarding Assisted Suicide ', (2015), Herald (Glasgow)

Andrew Cornford, 'Preventive Criminalization ', (2015), New Criminal Law Review, Vol 18, pp 1-34
Abstract: The criminal laws of many states make increasing use of preventive offenses—offenses that aim to prevent a given type of harm by targeting conduct prior to the causation of that harm. Academic commentators have largely been skeptical about such offenses. Their most potent criticism is that many preventive offenses do not target culpable wrongdoing of a kind that warrants censure and punishment through the criminal law. This article responds to this argument. Its principal contention is that some preventive offenses may be rationalized as targeting regulatory or malum prohibitum wrongs. Even if conduct does not yet cause or risk causing harm, it may warrant penalization as part of a regulatory scheme aimed at preventing that harm. This is shown to have significant implications for the legitimacy of some offenses targeted by the skeptics—in particular, offenses targeting the possession of weapons such as knives or firearms.

Andrew Cornford, 'The Architecture of Homicide ', (2014), Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Vol 34, pp 819-839
Abstract: This review article examines Jeremy Horder’s proposals for reform of the law of homicide in his book Homicide and the Politics of Law Reform. It focuses on Horder’s defence of the Law Commission’s proposals for a three-tier structure of homicide offences, and the ‘moderate constructivist’ theory that he relies upon in mounting this defence. Horder’s theory, it is argued, fails to provide sound normative foundations for his preferred structure. However, a qualified defence is offered of another of Horder’s proposals: to give public opinion research a role in homicide reform. This would help to give substance to the principle of fair labelling in an area of the law where this principle is frequently invoked, but is also uncertain in its implications and force.

Andrew Cornford, 'Indirect Crimes ', (2013), Law and Philosophy, Vol 32, pp 485-514
Abstract: Both law and morality routinely distinguish between direct wrongs of causing harm oneself and indirect wrongs of contributing to another’s harmful actions. This article asks whether this distinction matters for the purposes of a theory of criminalisation. It argues that, in some respects, the distinction matters less than is often supposed: generally, the potential future actions of others have at least some relevance to what we ought to do. However, it is morally significant that criminal liability for indirect wrongdoing can make our freedom to do valuable things contingent upon others’ failure to comply with their moral obligations. This raises substantial concerns of autonomy and fairness that tell against the creation of some – but by no means all – indirect crimes.

Andrew Cornford, 'Criminalising Anti-Social Behaviour ', (2012), Criminal Law and Philosophy, Vol 6, pp 1-19
Abstract: This paper considers the justifiability of criminalising anti-social behaviour through two-step prohibitions such as the Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO). The UK government has recently proposed to abolish and replace the ASBO; however, the proposed new orders would retain many of its most controversial features. The paper begins by criticising the definition of anti-social behaviour employed in both the current legislation and the new proposals. This definition is objectionable because it makes criminalisation contingent upon the irrational judgements of (putative) victims, and its often modest preventive benefits come at a high cost to citizens’ liberty and autonomy. The paper then goes on to propose a new definition of anti-social behaviour that would meet these objections: that is, as a course of conduct that causes others to experience serious and justifiable anxiety about the safety of their local community. Whilst this definition identifies a serious form of wrongdoing, its precise scope is inevitably uncertain. The paper thus concludes that we have good reason to use two-step prohibitions such as the ASBO to regulate such conduct, so as to enable the use of the criminal law against it whilst minimising possible concerns of legality arising from the proposed definition’s uncertain scope.


Andrew Cornford, 'Resultant Luck and Criminal Liability ' in R. A. Duff, Lindsay Farmer, S. E. Marshall, Massimo Renzo, Victor Tadros (ed.) The Structures of the Criminal Law (Oxford University Press 2011) 36-58
Abstract: The problem of resultant moral luck — that is, the problem of whether and to what extent the results of an agent's actions should influence the blame or judgement that is due to her — is a familiar issue within moral philosophy. It also has important implications for the structure and practice of criminal liability: can the state justifiably impose liability on offenders for the harms that they cause, as well as for their actions, despite the fact that they lack full control over the former? This chapter aims to elucidate the philosophical issues underlying this question. It argues that, whilst actors are not independently culpable for the results of their actions, these results are attributable to them. There is thus no inherent objection to the state convicting offenders of causing harms; the material question is instead whether, all things considered, it is justified in doing so. Having argued that such a conclusion is not necessarily intuitive, the chapter goes on to argue that the state has good reason to impose criminal liability for resulting harm. This is because harm is a legitimate object of state communication about criminal actions, due to its importance to offenders, victims and the general public. However, convicting offenders of causing harm also risks exposing them to unjust societal treatment. The chapter thus concludes that, whilst offence definitions and even criminalization decisions should be sensitive to resulting harm, the legitimate extent of the influence of such harm is variable. In particular, it argues that different general considerations will typically apply to offences of attacking and endangering.