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Chapter 1

SOC209H5 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Mens Rea, Nulla Poena Sine Lege, Precedent

Course Code
Philip Goodman

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Chapter 1 – The Foundations of Criminal Justice
THE RULE OF LAW – the requirement that governments, as well as individuals, be subjected
and abide by the law
- A fundamental component of the criminal justice system
- Essentially, no person is above the law – law should be observed and performed equally
- Traced back to the English Magna Carta in 1215
- Principles of the rule of law can be seen in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
the primary law of the land that guarantees fundamental freedoms, legal rights, and
equality rights for all citizens of Canada, including those accused of crimes
- The charter ensures fairness during proceedings
Key Principles of the Rule of Law:
- The government and its officials and agents as well as individuals and private entities are
accountable under the law
- The laws are clear, publicized, stable and just, are applied evenly, and protect
fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property
- The process by which laws are enacted, administered and enforced is accessible, fair and
- Justice is delivered timely by competent, ethical, and independent representatives and
neutrals who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of
communities they serve.
CRIMINAL LAW – the body of law that deals with conduct considered so harmful to society as
a whole that it is prohibited by statue and prosecuted and punished by the government.
- Acts as a mechanism of social control
- Maintains order
- Defines the parameters of acceptable behaviour
- Reduces the risk of personal retaliation (vigilantes, etc.)
- Assists in general and specific deterrence
- Criminalizes behaviour
- Protects group interests
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