Review: ‘Justice Through Apologies’ by Nick Smith

jtaCambridge University Press

1st May 2014


Nick Smith, author of ‘I Was Wrong’ (2008), makes an elegant argument for the use of apologies in criminal and civil cases, and expands on his previous work. He first recaps his earlier work for new readers and then goes on to apply his theory of categorical apologies to the practice of law. The authors makes three core arguments:

  1. Court ordered apologies add very little of value to proceedings
  2. In principle sentences should be reduced for offenders who make categorical apologies
  3. Understanding the complex dynamics of apologies in civil cases will allow a better understanding on the part of legal agents of the meaning of apologies given by offenders and enable them to insist on the meanings they want.

Nick Smith uses examples from real cases to illustrate his arguments. He also delves in to the philosophical underpinnings of the modern penal system in the US, adding a depth of theory to a work that also provides practical steps to evaluating apologies.


I found the book heavy going, and some of the arguments repetitive, but the author makes a good argument for his thesis.




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