Definition of Crime

Crime can be difficult to define 

Social Defintion:

  • behaviour that offends the social norms of society 
  • if society say an act is a crime, it becomes one 

Legal Defintion:

  • an act that is forbidden and punishable by law
  • crime must have two elements:
    • mens rea (guilty mind)
    • actus reus (guilty act)
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Issues with the Definitions of Crime

Social Definition:

  • Some crimes are univerally disapproved of 
  • However, there are some acts that are considered a crime in one country, but not in another
  • e.g. in Bangladesh, forced marriages exist whereby children must become child brides - in the UK this is wrong 

Legal Definition:

  • there are offences of strict liability that do not require mens rea
  • Just because both elements were present, a defence like self-defence, could mean a person is not found guilty
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Aims of Punishment

  • Reparation: to repay or make up for the wrong done 
  • Protection: to protect/guard the community from further harm
  • Vindication: to show people that they should have respect for the law and highlight the consequences of breaking the law - it shows that the law is right 
  • Justice: to seek fairness 
  • Deterrence: to discourage people from breaking the law
  • Reform: to change the character of the offender for the better
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What Determines Sentencing?

  • seriousness of crime 
  • harm 
  • blame
  • previous convictions
  • personal circumstances 
  • remorse/guilt shown
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Formal Sanctions

Non-Court Sanctions:

  • cautions
  • conditional cautions
  • community resolution/restorative justice
  • penalty notices

Court Sanctions:

  • custodial sentences
  • community sentences 
  • fines 
  • discharge
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Non-Court Sanctions - cautions and conditional cau

  • Cautions:
    • given to anyone over the age of 10 
    • administered by the police for minor crimes 
    • you have to admit to the crime and agree to be cautioned - you will be arrested if you don't
    • can be used as evidence of bad character if you go to court for another crime 
  • Conditional Caution:
    • given by the police 
    • offender must agree to conditions/restrictions
    • can be charged with a crime if you don't stick to the conditions
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Court Sanctions - custodial and community sentence

  • Custodial Sentence:
    • immediately sent to prison - indeterminate sentence or determinate/fixed term sentence
    • indeterminate = no release date, have to spend minimum time in prison (a tarrif) before a release date is considered, the Parole Board will decide if and when you get released
    • sentences are given if the offender is considered a threat to society 
    • fixed term = serve a fixed amount of time, generally released 1/2 through for good behaviour - can go back to prison if you break your conditions 
  • Community Sentences:
    • can be a combination order including unpaid work, curfew and orders such as having drug testing and treament 
    • Combination order = a sentence of the court that combines a probation order and a community service order 
    • Probation = you are serving your sentence but not in prison - you will have regular meetings with probation worker 
    • Curfew = an order specifying a time when certain regulations apply
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Court Santions - fines and discharge

  • Fines:
    • financial penalties - the amount depends on the seriousness of the crime and the financial circumstances of the offender 
  • Discharge:
    • the court will decide that given the character of the offender and the nature of the crime, punishment woukd be appropriate
    • Absolute = no further action is taken - court in itself is a big deterrence 
    • Conditional = the offender is not sentenced for the offence unless another crime is committed
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Types of Deviance

  • Societal = an act which most of society would agree is not classed as normal behaviour e.g. facial tattoos/piercings 
  • Concealed = an act which no one sees, something which a person can keep hidden away e.g. hoarding
  • Situational = an act that is only considered deviant in the culture you are in at the time - may not be considered deviant in another culture
  • Collective = deviance shared by a group of people which does not conform to that which is considered social norm - they will create and follow a set of norms within their own subculture
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Norms, Moral Codes and Values

  • Norms:
    • our behaviour and actions 
    • influenced by society's expectations
    • they keep deviant behaviour in check
    • vary from culture to culture 
  • Moral Codes:
    • morals or good ways of behaving 
    • can stem from religious frameworks or other belief systems 
    • breaking a moral code would be considered serious in society 
  • Values:
    • principles and beliefs about what is most important
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Sanctions Against Deviance


  • frowning upon behaviour 
  • name-calling
  • ignoring or excluding 
  • stereotyping 


  • in school, detentions 
  • formal sanctions (if criminal)
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3 Forms of Rule-Breaking Behaviour

1. admired behaviour = deviant but admirable e.g. the Suffragettes

2. odd behaviour = being different from what is considered the norm e.g. living with many cats

3. bad behaviour = deviant because it's wrong e.g. assulting a pensioner

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Non-Court Sanctions - community resolution and pen

  • Community Resolution:
    • must admit guilt and consent to receive the resolution 
    • aged 10+ 
    • can be used for less serious crimes 
    • enables victims to get closure quicker and allows the offender to receive speedy justice
  • Penalty Notice:
    • for disorder are given for offences like shoplifting or cannabis possession
    • aged 18+ 
    • you will have to sign the PN ticket
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Over-Lap Between Criminal and Deviant Behaviour

some acts are seen as deviant but not criminal e.g. picking your nose or facial tattoos some acts are seen as criminal but not deviant e.g. music piracy or flying a kite in a park some acts are both criminal and deviant e.g. murder or ****

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