Taking Organizations Seriously: Responsible Agency, Organizations and the Criminal Law

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Quaid, Jennifer
Corporate Criminal Liability , Criminal Law , Organizations , Philosophy of Criminal Law , Collective Responsibility
In the post-Enlightenment period, Anglo-American criminal law has been applied with increased force, and an ever expanding scope, to collective actors like corporations and other organizations. Recent scholarship has focused on developing “truly organizational” bases of liability that break with the conventional approach of imputing individual conduct to an organization and instead analyze culpable conduct and intent in a way that reflects the distinct and independent capacity of organizations to pursue their interests or goals collaboratively. In 2004, Canada enacted amendments inspired by these ideas in the hope they would lead to more effective criminal enforcement against organizations. Twelve years later, however, the promise of Bill C-45 is largely unfulfilled. In this thesis, I explore how much of this failure of law reform to deliver transformational change is attributable to an individualist bias that permeates how we think about what it means to be responsible and how this then shapes the responsibility ascription process. Using an analytical framework that combines criminal law theory with selected aspects of rational-structural theory and organization culture, I suggest that a promising way forward may lie in reframing the essential qualities required to be a subject of the criminal law in a way that captures the unique attributes that make organizations different from individuals. The resulting organizational concept of responsible agency allows for an integration of organizational reality into how we assess organizational culpability while keeping the ambit of criminal liability within the limits of what is practicable and fair. This better aligns with the spirit of Bill C-45: to impose criminal liability in a way that takes organizations – and their crimes – seriously.
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