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Chapter 2

SOC 1500 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Assisted Suicide, Actus Reus, Basalt

Course Code
SOC 1500
Andrew Hathaway

of 8
Chapter 2: Reading
The Criminal law and its process:
- Criminal law controls the formal definition and content of crime
- It incorporates historical traditions, moral beliefs, and social values, and is influenced by political
and economic developments and conditions
- Criminal law is a living concept, constantly evolving
- Governs the form and direction of almost all human interaction
- The law defines the behaviours of society labels as criminals
Origins of law:
- Early legal Codes:
o Code of Hammurabi on basalt rock columns
First written criminal code developed in Babylonia about 2000 b.c
o “an eye for an eye” – lex talionis
Punishment based on physical retaliation
o Severity of punishment depended on classe standing
Ex. Assault, slaves would be put to death or freemen might lose a limb
o Babylonian laws were strictly enforced by judges
o Officials were to apprehend criminals; if they failed they had to personally replace the
lost property or if they failed to capture a murderer the officials had to pay a fine to the
deceased relative
o Mosaic Code of the israelites
Foundation of Judeo-Christian Moral teachings and also a basis for our present
day legal system
o Roman law contained in the twelve tables
Believed that an unwritten code gave arbitrary and unlimited power to the
wealthy who served as magistrates
- Early Crime, Punishment , and law:
o Dark ages
Superstition and fear of magic and satanic black arts dominated thinking
o Crime during the early feudal period involved monetary payments as the main
punishments for crimes
o Wergild:
Under medieval law, the money paid by the offender to compensate the victim
and the state for criminal offence
o Guilt was determined by ordeals
Ex: burning hands in boiling water to see whether god will heal the wounds
In some cases guilt could be disputed with the aid of Oath-helpers, who would
support the accused’d innocence
o Until the 18th century the law was controlled by the lords of the great manors, who tried
cases according to local custom and rule
- Origins of common law
o In england, a common law developed that helped standardize law and justice
Became the foundation for Canada’s legal system
o Crime and custom:
Crimes were viewed as personal wrongs, and compensation was paid to the
Even Homicide could be settled by payment (wergild)
o A scale of compensation existed for lesser injuries such as loss of an arm or an eye
o This scale became the precursor of the modern-day criminal fine
- The Norman Conquest:
o Church court handled acts that might be considered sin
o William the conqueror replaced the local tribunals with royal administrators, who dealt
with the most serious breaches of peace
o Stare Decisis (to stand by decided cases):
Meant courts were bound to follow the law established in previously decided
cases (precendent) unless the law was overruled by a higher authority (king or
o Current English system of law came into existence during the reign of henry II
o At first, Jurors were like witnesses; telling the judge what they knew about the case
By 14th century, jurors became the deciders of fact
- Common Law:
o Meant to apply to people without regard to social differences
o Standardized law of the land
o Common law is judge-made law, case law derived from previously decided cases
- Common Law and Statutory Law:
o Common laws Crimes:
Crimes against the person:
First-degree murder:
o Unlawful killing of another human
Voluntary manslaughter:
o Intentional killing committed under extenuating circumstances
o Unlawful touching
o Wrongful taking or carrying away of a personal property
Incomplete offences: (inchoate crimes incomplete crimes)
o Intentional act for the purpose of committing a crime
o Voluntary agreement to commit an act using means forbidden
by law
Crimes against property:
o Breaking and entering a dwelling house with an intent to
commit crime
o Intentional burning of a dwelling house
o Taking and carrying away the personal property with an intent
to keep it
o Statutory law:
Reflect existing social conditions, dealing with issues of morality, such as
gambling, sexual activity, and drug-related offences
- The development of Law in Canada:
o Justice system was strongly influenced by the common law of England
o Military was first to maintain law and order
Classification of Law:
- Three important classifications:
o Crimes and torts
o Indictable and summary offences
o Mala in se and mala prohibitum
- Criminal and Civil Law:
o Civil law includes such areas as property law (Law governing transfer and ownership of
property) and contract law (law of personal agreements)
o Tort law:
Law of personal wrongs and damage
Includes negligence, libel, slander, assault and trespass
Ex. Sueing someone for wrongful damage
o A person can be held both criminally and civilly liable for one action
o Civil law the harm is considered private, and individuals are compensated for harm done
to them by others
o Criminal defendant’s guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Indictable and Summary offences:
o Indictable offence:
Serious offence, such as murder
Have no limitation period on prosecution
Can result in serious penalties if found guilty