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Revisiting the Outcome Materiality Principle in Criminal Sentencing

Joel Wei En Tan

(2023) 35 SAcLJ 338

In recent years, the Singapore courts have increasingly justified that the outcome of an offender’s criminal act must be taken into account in determining the appropriate severity of punishment to be imposed on an offender because “the outcome materiality principle trumps the control principle”. As explained in this article, the outcome materiality principle is predicated on the existence of resultant moral luck – viz, the extent of an offender’s blameworthiness is affected by the outcome of his or her criminal act. However, there are two major difficulties with the courts’ endorsement of resultant moral luck: (a) the courts have not offered any compelling reasons in favour of resultant moral luck; and (b) the courts have misapprehended the true nature of the outcome materiality principle, as well as the moral intuition that it articulates. Given these difficulties, it is respectfully contended that the courts should steer clear from the justificatory explanation that the outcome materiality principle trumps the control principle.