The moral justification for the right to make full answer and defence

Denise Meyerson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Why is it unjust to condemn an accused unheard? This article argues that the opportunity to be heard in one's own defence is an intrinsic element of a just trial. Defenders of this view typically argue that respect for dignity, in the Kantian sense of rational agency, is the source of the inherent value of participation. My argument is different. I emphasise the relational and symbolic dimensions of participation. I draw on research in social psychology that shows, first, that people care as much about processes as about outcomes, and secondly, that when they are asked what leads them to view procedures as fair, they emphasise the way in which certain procedures enhance the quality of their interpersonal interactions with group authorities, something that they value for its own sake. It seems that this is because certain kinds of treatment at the hands of authorities, which include the opportunity to be heard, function as a symbolic marker of group status, which in turn supports a sense of self-respect. The article concludes by explaining why it is a requirement of justice that procedural arrangements should be designed to support self-respect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-265
Number of pages29
JournalOxford Journal of Legal Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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