Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Important Classifications of Criminals

Ancient Classification
According to the old classification of crimes, there are only two types:
(1) Felonies
(2) Misdemeanours
In this classification only two divisions of crimes are recognized. One is the serious and gave crimes and the other is minor or light crimes. In ancient days the quantum of punishment was taken to be the criterion of crime; and on the basis, those crimes which carried the punishment of death and life-sentence were called felonies and all the rest were treated as misdemeanours. According to Sutherland, “The more serious (crimes) are called felonies and are usually punishable by death or by confinement in a state prison; the less serious are called misdemeanours and are usually punishable by confinement in a local prison or by fines”. The classification of Sutherland has been subjected to attack from many points of view. The chief criticisms of this classification are the following:
(1) Unclear: This classification is vague and nuclear; it not possible to distinguish always very precisely between serious and non serious crimes. Sir James Stephens has given few concrete instances to prove the inadequacy of this classification. Granted the murder is a grave crime, then how would we evaluate the action of a man who spreads pollution which leads to the outbreak of an epidemic resulting in the death of many persons. Ordinarily, it will be treated as a misdemeanour being only a violation of certain municipal rules for many more murders than a single act of killing. Again, take the case of drug adulterators. Usually adulteration is treated as a light offence but as a matter of fact it is far worse than murder. Again rape is a felony; but maltreatment of wife by husband is a misdemeanour, whereas, as a matter of fact rape is only physical violation of temporary nature, it is a social sigma which is the reason that the victim feels shattered; but there may be series of rapes in marriage coupled with psychological abuse. But maltreatment of wife is considered an offence of minor nature though it has all the elements of rape plus more. Therefore, the classification of crimes into felonies and misdemeanours is unscientific, imprecise and nuclear.
(2) Lack of Universality: What is a felony in x-land may be only a misdemeanour or even no offence in y-land. That is to say that the distinction between felony and misdemeanour is not absolute. For example, bigamy is a serious crime in Christian countries but is no offence in Muslim Countries. Homosexuality is felony in India but no offence in UK. Keeping a brothel is unlawful in India but lawful in Pakistan. Therefore the criterion of punishment lacks universal applicability.
(3) Classification of Criminals Impossible: It is not possible to make a rational classification of criminals upon the above basis. According to the above criterion, a person committing felony is a more serious criminal but this may not be so.
Hayes classification: Hayes recognizes three chief categories of crime, these are:
(1) Crimes concerning Property: Theft or misappropriation by any means of goods belonging to other persons and on which the person committing theft has no right or claim is a crime against property. The thefts of these types include stealing, dacoity, robbery, defalcation, pick-pocketing and misuse of public funds. All these crimes are termed by Mr. Hayes as property crimes; they are condemned by both the law passed by the government and the moral law.
(2) Crimes against the person: Those crimes which involve physical hurt or bodily pain by any means are crime against the person. These crimes include assault, murder, rape etc.
(3) Crimes against Social Order: The acts which result in social upheaval or disorder or undermine the established laws and values of a society are crimes against social order. These include violation of traffic laws, non-payment of governmental dues, public nuisance, malicious propaganda, unlawful agitation and communal riots etc.
Bonger’s Classification
The classification of Bonger takes motive as the criterion of classification of crimes:
(1) Political Crimes-The seeking of power is a legitimate aim of any political group in a democratic set up; but there are limits on the means which may be adopted for this purpose. Sedition, incitement to violence, alliance with an alien power, organization of violence etc, are means not admissible is any far as these are violative of the law. Any person or group taking recourse of these indulges in political crimes.
(2) Economic Crimes-To hurt the economic and financial interests of others either by theft or by financial malpractices is an economic crime. Sometimes, certain groups seduce the labour of an industrial house or eliminate from competition the rival business group. This type of activity is included in economic crimes.
(3) Sexual Offences-The offences included in this category pertain to sex. Included in this category are crimes like rape, prostitution, homosexuality, adultery etc. The sex acts which are recognized as cognizable offences by law constitute sexual offences. From this it will be clear that it is quite possible that the same act may constitute sex offence in one country but not in other. For example, in ancient Egypt, even incest was considered normal. Today sex exhibitionism in cinema and theatre is considered normal in West but in India it constitutes a sex offence.
(4) Miscellaneous Crimes-The crimes which are covered by any of the above three categories are relegated by Mr. Bonger to the category of extra or miscellaneous crimes. Criticising Bonger’s conception of crime and the classification of crimes, Sutherland says that “The classification is clearly inadequate”. It is not based on any scientific principle.
Lemert’s Classification
Lemert has divided crimes into three categories. These are:
(1) Situational or circumstantial crimes-In this category are included crimes in which outward situation or circumstances are primarily responsible for the production of crime. There are situations under which man is forced into criminally he is unwilling. For example, in a procession of striking even though teachers, there may be sudden provocation from police as a result of which some of them, though essentially of peaceable nature, indulge in brick-bating or some other violent act. As a matter of fact, from moral point of view these should not be considered crime but these are crime according to law. Lemert has himself explained the essential nature of these crimes. According to him, “External stresses and strains temporarily disrupt a person’s equilibrium and induce tensions which are expressed in criminal behaviour”. Usually, due to extreme poverty man is lead to commit many a crime.
(2) Planned or Deliberate crimes-These are the crimes which are committed by the person voluntarily and after careful deliberation. The white collar crimes are as a rule planned and deliberate. Such persons have no moral compunction about what they are doing; they tend to regard it as an inevitable part of their existence all enterprises, their argument runs, are more or less risky and the greater the gain the greater the risk. Therefore they regard punishment, if convicted, as a risk which is part of the game. There are professional crime syndicates who always keep an army of hired men to serve jail sentences. Even some prostitutes accept their work as a profession suited to their talents. Their prostitution is therefore deliberate.
(3) Crimes involving confidence-There are certain crimes which may be regarded primarily as crimes of deception and crimes of confidence. A treasurer in bank, a government employee, a minister or a businessman all are expected to follow a code of conduct and be true to their oaths of allegiance. An army general who colludes with enemy forces and leads to downfall of his own country is a treacherous man; a big business executive who recruits a pretty girl not for her intellectual talents but for her willingness to offer her bodily talents against service is also guilty of the crime of confidence.

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