Crime is one thing in our society that continues to cause trouble and heated discussion. Not only through the act itself and the devastation it can cause but also through the very definition of what a crime is. Why is it that some people would consider playing your music too loud after 11pm a crime, others a nuisance and others not a problem at all? This is a clear example of someone causing a crime but not everyone will see it that way.
What I will be looking at is the two main definitions of crime and proving that neither one is good enough to give a definitive answer on what crime is. Taking that one step further I will prove that crime can never be defined successfully and explain why.
The first definition of crime I will be looking at is the legal standpoint of crime and if crime can be stated quite simply as an act that breaks the law.
The second definition is the moral view of crime and whether crime is an offence to some deeper moral standing we have rather than listed rules and regulations.
Breaking the law
Law-n. 1 a rule or system of rules recognised by a country or community as governing the actions of its members.
That is the official definition of what a law is by the Oxford English Dictionary. So if I was to go out with a rather large knife and stab the first person I see, then according to the rules our community has set down, I would be committing a crime. Rightly so too. If there was no law to prohibit this then we would soon find people would be living in a state of fear and never leave their houses. But shouldn’t the definition above contain something a little more? Surely a law that is passed would be one that protects the greater good? Like murder for example, the law that states it is illegal to murder someone is there to protect the society we live in and not just the individual. Like the law that says we can drive no faster than 30 mile per hour in a 30 zone is there to protect people from accidents and not just infuriate some drivers.
It is deemed that when we create a law in our society it will serve some purpose at protecting the population at large. Something that our peers deem we need protecting from.
There in lies the first problem with the law as a definition of what a crime is. The law, in England at least is not decided by everyone for the good of our society. It is decided by a handful of people residing in our capital that we have given the power to to make decisions for us. We have been programmed to see this as acceptable and most people see nothing wrong with it. We make our votes, elect our member of parliament and then send them off to run our lives for us.
Yet if I said to you I was going to invite myself into your life, tell you what you can and cant do, tell you what you can and cant eat, tell you what you can and cant say and then tell you that you would have to give up a large amount of your salary for the privilege, you would soon be showing me the door and maybe even the back of your hand (which would be a crime by the way). Does it not seem strange that these people we are entrusting our lives to are people we don’t have the first clue about and most of the time they are people we have never met before. These MP’s are supposed to be the best of us, representing our views in parliament and looking out for our best interests. Well if that is so why can we never pick up a newspaper without finding one of our members of parliament in there usually up to no good? Cash for questions anyone?
This alone though doesn’t tell us why we cant use the law as a definition of crime. Just because it is only a few chosen people that make the law and it is not a democratic decision doesn’t always make it a bad thing. Most people would agree that the majority of laws we have in this country work for us rather than against us. But should any law we have work against us? Why would we have such a law? Again there seems to be a problem.
Reported in a major newspaper, this story told of a female pensioner that had been repeatedly broken into and then received no concrete help from the police. She then took the law into her own hands and placed barbed wire all around her fencing. After several complaints she was told to take it down by the police but refused at which point she was told in no certain terms she would be the one to be prosecuted if she did not remove the wire immediately.
Putting barbed wire on your property to protect it especially after being broken into does not seem like a crime but according to English law it is. And English law has too many ‘strange laws’ in there that calls something a crime when it isn’t. Another example is the man that was prosecuted for dangerous driving while driving down the motorway eating a Kit-Kat. The police said that he wasn’t in full control of his vehicle because he didn’t have two hands on the steering wheel. Does this mean we can never indicate, change gear or blow our noses ever again?
These offences don’t seem to be classed as a crime to most of us but more like reasonable behaviour. Most people believe that when a criminal commits a crime he has forfeited any rights to belong to society and needs to be punished. Yet these criminals have as many rights as the rest of us and are often given lenient sentences because of overcrowding problems in prisons and that’s if they are even given a sentence at all. A criminal not being punished? Now that’s the real crime!