WHAT IS A CRIME?
‘crime’ is derived from the Latin word ‘crimen’ which means accusation. A crime consists of a
conducted that is prohibited by law that and is subject to penal sanction (such as imprisonment or a
fine). These conducted are clearly defined as crimes n the “criminal law” or the “criminal code” ( in
Canada which law is crime is a long legislative process). Some crime is universal ( cannot murder)
while also there is huge variation in what is considered a crime in many countries (The example of
EUTHANASIA or killing by doctor) Legislators come up with law and police enforce these.
What is criminal Law?
Acts known, as crimes are clearly defined in the “criminal law”. It also involves the specification of
various penalties a set of general principal concerning the responsibility and series of defense to a
The source of criminal law:
In Canada the primary source of criminal of law is legislation and the judicial decision that either
interpret such legislation or state the common law.
Other sources of laws include Common law/Case law, Constitution/Constitutional law,
Statutes/Statutory law, Administrative law/rules by govt. agencies with criminal penalties, and
International law (the international court)
Federal legislation and the criminal law:
Even though Canada is a federal state and legislation might be enacted both by the parliament of
Canada and by the legislature of the various provinces, HOWEVER under the constitution act 1867
the federal parliament has the exclusive jurisdiction to enact criminal law and the procedure relation
to criminal matters.
Note, in addition to prohibition and penalty that defines crime, a third variable that is “public evil” or
some behavior that is having an injurious effect on the Canadian public is also required to be met to
be defining a crime. If any of these three are missing, then the legislation concerned may mot be
considered to fall within the legitimate scope of the federal criminal law power. It be may considered
invalid in that it might be considered to intrude on the legislative authority that is allocated toward
the provinces etc. for example the Canadian environmental protection act was considered to
constitute criminal law because environment pollution was considered evil/danger to the public
health. Other cases involves where the federal government used its criminal law power that grants
the Parliament of Canada the authority to legislate on things ( such as the narcotic acts to band
What is the most important legislation has the Canadian parliament enacted in the field of criminal
law. Is it both the substantive criminal law and the procedural law. The substantive criminal law
defines the nature of various criminal offences and specifies the various legal elements that must be
present before a conviction can be entered against an accused peon. It also refers to the legislation
that defines the nature and scope of such defines as provocation, duress and self-defense
The criminal law procedure refers to the body of legislation that specifies the procedure to be
followed in the prosecution of the criminal case and defines the nature and scope of the power of the
criminal justice official ( like the police and the judges). For example, its helps to define offenses into
three categories that include the indictable, summary conviction that are punishable and the mixed or
the hybrid. Based on these provision then it is decide how the case should be tried like a jury be here,
in front of judge, alone etc. it also defines the type and the scope of power the judge and the police
have interims of catching and sentencing the convicted offenders. In addition to the criminal code, number of other federal statues creates the criminal law. These include, controlled drugs and
substance act an the youth criminal justice act.
Federal and provincial or territorial regulatory legislation: quasi-criminal levy
The provincial bodies are given some authority on regulatory offences. They are the ones the arise
under either federal, provincial or territorial body that regulates inherently the legitimate actives
connected with trade and commerce and the industry or with everyday living like driving fishing.
These offences are not considered to be serious in nature and carry only a relative minor penalty upon
conviction. Thus they are also known as quasi criminal laws (means not real). Overall, they do not
involve public evil part of the definition. It deals with things that are usually legal. They usually arise
in the criminal code or the controlled drugs act. Some are ok but other can give you life in prison
though 9fish, food and drugs, drugs and substance control acts tobacco acts,
True crimes: on the others can be only enacted the parliament of the Canada using its criminal law
power under the constitution act and arise under the criminal code. This occurs when an individual
engages in conduct that is not only prohibited but also constitutes a serious breach of community
values as such it is is considered wrong and deserving of punishment.
Judge made criminal law:
Judicial section that either interpret or or expound on the criminal common law. These refers to body
of judge made law that evolved in area that were not covered by the legislation because parliament
cannot define every single word in the legislation, the judge can interpret the working in his own way
( this is how historically it was done now they can’t create new laws though but can create common
law defenses such as necessity so they still can make some criminal laws.
Impact of the Canada charter of rights and freedoms on criminal law.
Canadian Charter of right and freedom: it empowers judges to enact any part of legislation to be
invalid based on the fact that it infringes upon the basic human right such as life, liberty and security
of the person. ( for example, the abortion laws were considered unjustified as the judge argued that it
infringes upon the women’s right to security( not, judges are to impose some limits on the charter of
rights as much as it is justified in society, like child porno case. It infringes upon the basic right to
thoughts and beliefs BUT it constituted a reasonable limitation so the law still justified)
Elements of a crime: “Actus reus” and “mens rea”
For a person to be find guilty two things must be met:
1) That the particular event was caused the accused ( actus reus) that must be proven by the crown
and it must be proven to be voluntary for actus reus to exist (anything else that is not mental)
2) Conduct was simultaneously accompanied by a certain state of mind ( mens rea)
ACTUS REUS element of a crime:
This can be divided into three parts (i.e. if assault occurred)
Conduct – voluntary act done and is central feature of crime ( like accused applied
force to the victim)
Circumstances or the surrounding (like force was applied without the consent of the
Consequences :of the voluntary act (the force caused bodily harm)
There is some significant exception. For example, perjury, which is the knowingly making false
statement to present to the court, he or she will still be charged even though there are no one that
believes him and thus no consequences. It not to say that consequences are not important, they are still important. Consequences determine the severity of punishment (i.e. motor accident and causes
death=1014 year vs accidents that cause no death=5 years only).
Second, you do not need to have conducted the crime , even if you are found in particular state or
condition, that is sufficient like possession of housebreaking instrument without excuse=crime. The
rationale for this is preventing it before it happen (having terrorist material=bad=jail even though
nothing is done yet)
Other situation, failure to act=crime (i.e. not providing child of yours with necessity of life. It is a
crime if there was a preexisting duty to act. On the other hand, if they person is NOT in relation to
you (thus you have NOT DUTY TOWARDS HIM), then Canada has no ‘good Samaritan’ laws.
Quebec is an exception (anytime you have a duty towards someone, and you don’t fulfill that=crime)
Voluntary requirement, if not then automatism is established in that assault constituted an involuntary
action ( stone example who killed him wife after inflicted psychological blow due to her word. Still
got punished as jury thought he was the caused of this blow. Also he recognized that it was insult to
him and thus he was not plunged into a state of impaired consciousness)
MENS REA – THE MENTAL ELEMENT
Mens rea refers to the mental elements (other than voluntariness) contained in the definition of a
criminal offence. Term normally refers to intent or the “guilty mind”. There are different state of
mind for different offense. Its main function is to prevent the only the morally blameworthy are
convicted.There are two types of mens rea requirements: objective & subjective mens rea
Subjection Mens rea:
Based on the notion that the accused should not be convicted unless person deliberately
choose to do something wrong. Have three things to look at.
They deliberately intended the consequences (intention and knowledge. Some time other
mental element might be looked at as well. E.g. a guy kills someone after being drunk. He
will be charged with 2 degree since he was not thinking ahead of what he was doing)
They subjectively realized these consequences might occur but ignore them (reckless).
You throw a cigarette, even though you know it could cause fire. It causes a huge fire. He
is guilty because his recklessness constitutes one form of men rea that is necessary for
They were willfully blind to the consequences (i.e. you have every reason to make an
inquiry like you buy someone thing cheap and you think it might be stolen. But you
deliberately shut your eyes to to the obvious because you wish to avoid being convicted of
offence. You can just say I didn’t know.
Objective Mens Rea:
Persons should be convicted if a reasonable person would have appreciated the risk involved and
avoided the act. But who is to decide who is a reasonable person.
The judge or jury decides whether or not the accused acted reasonably.
Not used for serious crimes such as murder that require proof of subjective mens rea (i.e.
show deliberate intention to kill, or knowing the consequences of his/her actions. But it could
also involve objective in addition to subjective. (i.e. a guy dies after been injected with