Peter Ramsay, The Insecurity State: Vulnerable Autonomy and the Right to Security in the Criminal Law, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, 259 pp, hb £65.00.

AuthorAndrew Cornford
Publication Date01 May 2014
courts in the final instance. Many remedies may be invoked by contracting
parties themselves, but if a dispute cannot be settled by the parties it is up to the
court in the context of the rules of contract law to decide which remedies can
be enforced. Although a court may take account of the intent of the parties, it
fits with the role of the courts as guardians of the law that they have the final say
in which clauses of the contract can be enforced. In that light, it would go
beyond the present limits of English law to allow agreed remedies clauses to
interfere with the court’s powers, such as its discretion in relation to specific
performance. Of course, judgments like the Court of Appeal’s decision in
Quadrant Visual are largely circumscribed by the case’s own circumstances and
may leave room for a more liberal stance towards party intent. It will be
interesting to see if judges are willing to give greater leeway to the agreement
between the parties with regard to remedies.
Overall, Remedies for Breach of Contract offers a balanced analysis of English
law’s commitment to the performance interest, a useful comparison with the
approach taken in French law, and many points that merit further discussion.
The book should appeal to anyone with an interest in English contract law,
whether from a practical or a scholarly perspective, and deserves to be read
widely. If you want to read up on contract law, add it to your essential reading
Vanessa Mak*
Peter Ramsay,The Insecurity State: Vulnerable Autonomy and the Right to
Security in the Criminal Law, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, 259 pp,
hb £65.00.
Over the past twenty years or so, an obsession with security has changed the face
of UK criminal justice. This much is, by this point, axiomatic amongst legal
scholars. But precisely how is this change to be characterised and explained? In
The Insecurity State, Peter Ramsay answers this question by providing what he
calls a ‘political sociology of the substantive criminal law’ (15). His principal
thesis is that the law now protects a fundamental right to security – understood
here in a ‘subjective’ sense as freedom from fear of crime. The normative
foundation of this right, Ramsay argues, is an idea that he calls ‘vulnerable
autonomy’: security in the subjective sense is seen as a precondition of both
individual autonomy and civic life. Ramsay argues that this idea has achieved
foundational status in UK politics, and explains the legitimacy that security-based
measures enjoy in a way that competing theories cannot.
The book begins with an analysis of the flagship legal measure of the
New Labour government’s security agenda: the Anti-Social Behaviour Order
(ASBO). It examines, in Chapter 1, the conditions under which an ASBO
*Tilburg University.
© 2014 The Authors. The Modern Law Review © 2014 The Modern Law Review Limited.
516 (2014) 77(3) MLR 513–531

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