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Institute of Criminology



Leo Zaibert joined the Institute in 2022. He holds a law degree from Universidad Santa María, in Caracas, Venezuela (where he briefly practiced law, after having clerked in several criminal law courts as a student), and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the State University of New York in Buffalo. So, as a lawyer, his formal training was in the “civil law” legal tradition, whereas as a philosopher, his formal training was in the Anglo-American “analytical” tradition. He is thus conversant with the broad canon of Western penal theory, and is particularly interested in comparative approaches to this and other matters.

While he has wide-ranging interests, he specializes in penal theory and ethics. In particular, he tries to bring penal theory into closer contact not only with ethics as such, but with relatively neglected currents within ethics. He has argued that progress in penal theory involves engaging with the morality of punishment in general, and not only with that of state punishment. He has suggested seeing punishment as a moral dilemma, and as the sort of dilemma that often leaves important remainders, even after the dilemma gets “resolved”, even after punishment is “justified”. And he has suggested that the notion of “justification” typically at play in penal theory is much more complex than customarily assumed.

He sees penal theory as importantly enriched if we relate it to the specialized (and recent) literatures on the problem of dirty hands, moral luck, and value pluralism, and to other areas of moral psychology and moral phenomenology. Thus, he pays attention to famous authors that tend to be overlooked by penal theorists: from Aristotle, Seneca, and Anselm, to Isaiah Berlin, P. F. Strawson and Bernard Williams (and including many in between, such as Leibniz, Brentano, Weber, and Moore). His approach to penal theory leads him to probe the connections between punishment and other responses to wrongdoing, above all forgiveness.


Please see his personal website:


Key publications: 

Please see his personal website:

Teaching and Supervisions


Prof Zaibert teaches in the areas described above. He welcomes proposals from Ph.D. students interested in those areas, or in related topics in jurisprudence, or in topics that that may otherwise concern foundational aspects of criminal justice.

Andreas von Hirsch Professor of Penal Theory and Ethics
Director of the Centre for Penal Theory and Ethics

Contact Details

Room 2.7
01223 335368