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LAWS 2301 (42)
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Department
Law
Course Code
LAWS 2301
Professor
Ronald Saunders

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Chapter 1 Criminal Justice and Government Regulations in Perspective Crime and the Criminal Law SystemDefining Crime The Legal DefinitionCrime can be defined from at least three perspectives the legal ethical and contractualA crime is any act prohibited or punishable by law or any form of human behaviour designated by law makers as criminal and subject to penal to penal sanctionsThe most precise and least ambiguous definition of crime is that which defines it as behaviour which is prohibited by the criminal codethe criminal law is the formal cause of crimeCrime a legal category that is assigned to conduct by authorized agents of politically organized societyThe legal definition of crime is broad and narrowIt is broad because it means that any form of behaviour can be designated a crimeBehaviour now regarded criminal was at other times widely acceptedThe list of activities that can be designated criminal is endlessTraditionally many occupations religions and ideologies have been designated as crimesThere are behaviours or statuses that are criminalized in one jurisdiction while being ignored accepted or rated as no more than mild vices in anotherThe narrowness of the legal definition of crime stems from the requirement that only behaviour designated by law makers as criminal will count as crime No matter how harmful or immoral an activity is it is not a crime unless law makers so designateThe key to the legal definition of crime is the activities of law makersWho are the law makers The legal answer is those persons authorized by law to make or create or designate lawThe most obvious law makers are the municipal provincial and federal legislators who are authorized by constitutional laws and conventions to create laws within their allotted jurisdictionFederal legislators have authority to create criminal laws and many of these are contained in the Criminal CodeAn example is section 163 of the Code631b Everyone commits an offence who makes prints publishes distributes sells or has in his possession for the purpose of publication distribution or circulation a crime comicIt is not clear why Parliament created this crime The section has been rarely enforced and citizens rarely if ever bring complaints regarding this crime to the policeThe behaviour so described is nonetheless a crime and remains a crime until amended or removed by legislative or judicial actionOn the basis on anecdotal horror stories about teenage murders inspired by stacks of crime comics a group of people asserted a direct indisputable link between comics and reallife crime In the Parliamentary debates of 1949 no one demanded actual proof that comics caused harm and the Criminal Code was amended solely on the basis of unsubstantiated unverified and unscientific claimsRoher v The Queen 1953 107 CCC 103 Man CAWithin Canada the authority to define criminal law is closely tied to the power to enforce that definitionThis power consists of both physical and psychological componentsThe physical components include the army police judges public prosecutors prison personnel and government ministriesArmed forces are under direct political control in Canada and are usually assigned the task of dealing with external threatsUnder vaguely defined emergencies Parliament can use the army to put down revolts rebellions insurrections and internal security threatsPolice authority is supported by the court system comprised of bailiffs clerks sheriffs Justice of the Peace lawyers prosecutors and judgesCriminal law matters are overseen by federal agencies such as the departments of Justice National Revenue CitizenshipImmigration and the Solicitor GeneralWardens guards parole officers and forensic psychiatrists are also authorized to exercise coercive state controlPhysical force is not omnipotent and even a modern bureaucratic government constitutes a small eliteBoth within and without the government there is significant scope for resistance and revoltAll governments therefore attempt to bolster their law creating authority by instilling in citizens a tradition of wilful submission to authorityLegitimation is the process whereby government justifies its coercive apparatus by reference to divine right historical inevitability or allegedly democratic choiceLegitimations object is to develop a general sense that political authority is just good and rightEvident propensity of most people to obey authoritative figuresThis uncritical willingness to obey orders can cause greater social damage than the rebellious acts of a small antiestablishment minorityOne of the standard methods of legitimation is propaganda and the political manipulation of names and titlesExamples are Criminal Justice System and Corrections CanadaOther manipulative titles are Peace Officers Your Honour and Your WorshipCalling members of Parliament Honourable does not make them so just as calling a criminal law system a Justice System does not make it just
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