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Generalizations in the Law

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Fact-finding and generalisations

How are generalisations used in legal fact-finding? To find out, a study explored different types of generalisations from sample supreme court scenarios to find out.

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When it comes to legal fact-finding, generalisations are often used either as forms of evidence or as support for inferences. These generalisations can be confusing and/or raise strong objections. GENERALIZATIONS (Generalizations in the law) is an EU-funded project that designed a way to help distinguish between acceptable and objectionable generalisations. The account is grounded on the view that a generalisation is objectionable when a legal fact-finder is necessary to presuppose that an individual's behaviour was determined by a certain causal factor which renders her behaviour unfree. For example, using the high rate of crimes involving illegal firearms in a certain neighbourhood to support the conviction of an individual resident in a crime involving an illegal firearm seems highly objectionable. A bottom-up approach was followed, whereby specific issues were researched to determine facts about a specific individual. Causation and consent were the focus. A paper has been published on a case study of using quantitative generalisations to prove material fact of causation in court. The research was extended to include racial profiling and the difference between coercion and deception in sexual relations. New contacts have been created with European and Israeli scholars and institutes.


Generalisation, legal fact-finding, evidence, moral autonomy, causation

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