Issues In Criminal Justice
One of the main problems faced when studying Criminal Law is getting an actual definition of crime. Crime is a common occurrence in today fs society, people and organizations rely on it as a means of survival. Many attempts have been made to define ecrime f but there isn ft a single definition that can be used. Paul Tappan, a criminologist has attempted to define crime as follows, hCrime is an intentional act or omission in violation of the criminal law c. committed without defence or justification and sanctioned by the state as a felony or misdemeanor. h In the following analysis of crime, it will be discussed mainly on Tappan fs definition focusing on the limitations of this statement.
Whenever a criminologist gives their opinion on what a crime is, it raises more questions and complicates the issue even further. In the present, all the opinions of many criminologists and judicial members reflect on a special statement made by Lord Atkin.
A similar yet more understanding to modern times view is the opinion of Glanville Williams. Williams expressed that a ecrime is a legal wrong that can be followed by legal proceedings which may result in punishment. f This definition is very similar to Tappan fs theory. The only difference being that in Tappan fs theory it limits itself to one point of view, but on the other hand William fs states that a crime is a legal wrong, but this legal wrong isn ft always an offence punishable by law. For example, people break the law everyday, but don ft get caught and don ft get punished for it. People may commit these crimes in such things as road rules or in taxes but they go unnoticed or unseen. Therefore they have committed this crime but because it is unseen, he/she is not sanctioned or punished. Therefore in saying this, the crime is committed by no punishment is a result. Tappan fs theory limits itself, when he stated, g ca crime will be sanctioned by the state as a felony or misdemeanor.
A similar meaning of crime is the one given by the Concise Oxford English Dictionary which gives this definition gcrime: act (usually grave offence) punishable by law; evil act; cshameful act. h Both these definitions are both saying the same thing as Tappan fs theory of what a crime is, yet is not a very useful definition because it limits itself and isn ft broad enough.
As time went on, Edwin Suttherland suggested, gThe two abstract criteria generally reguarded by legal scholars as necessary elements in a definition of crime are legal descriptions of an act as socially harmful and legal provision for the act. h This criminal law definition was accepted amongst many criminologists in this era. Similarly to Tappan fs definition, there were still many problems faced, because the definition was still far too narrow. This definition dives straight into the criminal side of crime, but doesn ft take into account any social or moral issues that affect the behaviour of people in today fs era.
Tappan fs definition of crime avoids another area that is very important. This is judging whether the crime is of serious criminal nature or if the crime is a minor offence. This is done by which criminal law is administered. This is done by the police, the courts and the agencies of punishment, which help to offer the distinction between a serious crime, a minor crime and a civil wrong. Knowing this is very important and Tappan doesn ft take this into account in his theory, because without it the proper penalty for the offence wouldn ft be given. Consideration of the crime must be taken into account when selecting an appropriate punishment. In Tappan fs theory e csanctioned by the state as a felony or misdemeanor, f it could mean that all crimes will receive the same punishment. Therefore this ground isn ft established.
Criminal Law has a primary function, which is the prevention of certain kinds of behaviour which society regards to be harmful or potentially harmful. This is why criminal law has been set in place in society, as a defence against the harms, which potentially injure a proper functioning society. These areas don ft only cover the integrity of people, but include security of property, protection of the environment and moral views to name a few. Andrew Ashworth offers the following starting point:
gThe chief concern of the criminal law is seriously antisocial behaviour. But the notion that the criminal law is only concerned with serious antisocial acts must be abandoned, however, as one considers the broad canvas of criminal liability. There are many offences for which any elements of stigma is diluted almost to vanishing point, as with the speeding on roads, illegal parking, riding a bicycle without lights, or dropping litter. h
In saying this Andrew Ashworth dives into the fact that all crimes should be treated differently, and punished for what they are. This is something that Tappan fs theory doesn ft really go into and is forgotten.
A thing that a lot of people that don ft know much about criminal law would say is that any crime committed deserves a punishment. And if they were asked to support it, they could probably use Tappan fs theory, but in saying this, his theory goes against the process of criminalisation and punishment. This type of approach would mean that there would be no need for the exercise of police power and judicial discretion every time a crime is committed. Instead of going through this process, it would be instead
Crime sanction penalty. As it was stated previously in the essay, this is not the case with criminal law. Tappan fs definition once again makes a serious crime equal to a minor offence. It doesn ft analyse the situation, but instead automatically imposes a sanction because a crime is committed as stated by Tappan g cand sanctioned by the state as a felony or misdemeanor. h
There fs also a different type of crime that could be classed as a victimless crime because it doesn ft directly affect the community, yet affecting the individuals themselves. These types of crimes are usually drug users, etc. Even though it is illegal to buy or take any form of illicit drug, users if caught by the law are usually sent to reform programs and counseling to combat their problem. This contradicts what Tappan has stated once again, because he states that the user should be punished, not helped.
Finally, when defining a crime certain issues should definitely be looked at. These are: What behaviour should be considered criminal? Should criminal law be concerned with the harm of moral standards? Or is there another purpose that criminal law should serve?
Therefore, in summing up this essay, when trying to define crime it is nearly impossible. There isn ft one single definition, making it a very difficult term to define. A definition would have to come from the opinions of many criminologists that put together a thesis on what crime actually is. Crime isn ft only covered by law because the influence beliefs, culture, tradition and religion have on it. In saying this, I do not agree with Tappan fs very narrow definition of crime due to the fact that it is actually a lot more complicated.