Document Type

Book Chapter


We live in anxious times. Consciousness of risk to our personal safety from a variety of sources, human and natural, permeates the media and public debates. Climate change and terrorism compete for media attention. What is to be done? Politicians and policy-makers look frequently to the law to provide reassurance in the face of public anxieties. The criminal law, however, has mainly focused on past wrongdoings - punishing offenders for what they have already done. Jihadist terrorism, in which the terrorists are prepared to die for their cause, seems unlikely to be deterred by the prospect of criminal punishment. Prevention, not punishment, is more likely to be reassuring for a concerned public. In the popular 2002 film, Minority Report, the audience witnesses events within a Department of Pre-Crime, a law enforcement unit dedicated to anticipating and pre-empting cases of imminent murder. The film's theme captures the idea that with respect to crime and terrorism, as well as matters such as public health, there is a clear policy preference for 'prevention' over 'cure'.