Soc209- lecture 1 - jan 2 2012
the constitution of justice - what is crime, justice & criminal justice system.
- What is a crime: - behaviour that breaks the law, something that gets caught.
- there is no crime without a law - crime is defined in a strictly legal terms - no act can be
considered legal without the criminal justice.
Conditions necessary for act to be legal defined as a crime:- the act must be legally
prohibited at the time it is committed.
- the perpetrator must have criminal intent. (mens rea)
- and must have acted voluntarily. (actus rea)
- consists of omission, possession, acts are the things that are criminal - not people.
- necessary element of the crime - have to have a guilty intention, mind.
- refers to the intent of the crime.
3 distinct levels about Mens Rea: intent, knowledge for eg, if you throw something it might
hit them in the head unintentionally, recklessness - reckless behaviour; not being careful for
not understanding that something bad may happen. - not always about purposely causing a
- we look at different laws and procedures, court standards, understanding who a
reasonable person is, also people should be responsible for their actions.
What is Crime?
Narrow legal definition of crime - ignores why are certain things legislated as criminal.
black letter approach - only part of the constitution of the law, - takes criminal process
from the social context. missing the way in how law is applied by the courts and made up
and actively played out within the courts.
- the concept of crime is relative - this is what sociologist look at - crime means different
things to different people- there is no uniform understanding of what crime is. What
constitutes what crime is shifts according to social norms. crime is a result of social
interactions. - part of the negotiated process between courts, police, public, offenders, and
so on. Result of : social interactions, not just within the justice system but also on a
What constitutes a crime is:
1. historically - at any given historical event, different actions were seen as legal or illegal,
mid 19th century abortion was seen as illegal. During ww2, Japanese Canadians or Italian
Canadians was considered justified, today it is not. shifting understanding historically -
over time new laws emerge etc. -hints that crime is a unstable phenomenon. - some
criminologists look at why laws change, why is it changing and how is it changing.
2. socially - law is socially constructive - there is no absolute understanding of what crime
is. Identifying an offender or a crime is a social process. social and economic factors. - we
cant really understand what crime is unless we have a social understanding of broader
social conditions. - law is constructed through social actions* sociologists ask about the
meaning of crime - why are things called crime. for eg, violence is common in hockey - but
not all of it is considered criminal. shifting understanding of what violence is in hockey- to
examine hockey violence.
3. culturally - different cultures have different understanding of what is criminal. In
Canada, we see a lot of difference between the provinces. eg, we have a lot of aboriginal communities, and rights, - coming up with a whole different legal system - legal pluralism -
bunch of different legal systems within a broader legal system. hockey and violence: eg, of
social constructive changes.
4. context specific - murder is illegal, but if you look at specific cases
crime is relative - there is no act that is imperanty criminal. - look at the larger social
implications. - differential enforces of the law - the idea that there is a clear evidence of
racial profiling within Toronto. eg 1/9 aged 20 - 34 is incarcerated in the U