Legal Studies Crime Notes

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Crime and the Law Notes
Syllabus Themes:

* The role of discretion in the criminal justice system
* Issues of compliance and non compliance in regard to criminal law * The extent to which the law reflects moral and ethical standards * The role of law reform in the criminal justice system

* The extent to which the law balances the rights of victims, offenders and society * The effectiveness of legal and non-legal measures in achieving justice

Chapter 1: The Nature of Crime

Role of Criminal Law:

To protect society from those whose behaviour society has deemed to be unacceptable.

What is a crime:

A crime is an act or omission committed against the community at large that is punishable by the law.

Types of crimes:
* Indictable Offences - An indictable offence is one that society considers to be very serious, such as murder or sexual assault. As the charge is more serious, there are more steps in the legal process, including a committal hearing to ensure that there is enough evidence to warrant a trial. If there is sufficient evidence then a trial with a judge and jury will occur. Usually heard in the district court and higher. * Summary Offences - A summary offence is a less serious charge, such as shop stealing or drink driving. These cases are heard by a magistrate in a local court, without a jury. Summary offences are brought on a charge called a ‘summons’ and carry penalties of no greater than two years in prison. All society is the victim:

The criminal act is seen as an attack upon the standards that society generally upholds and so it is the responsibility of society as a whole to punish the accused.

Sources of Criminal Law:

The Federal Government legislates for some criminal offences such as tax evasion and the importation of illegal drugs, although most criminal law is state law. This is found in both common law (judge made law) and statute law (parliament made law).

Mens Rea:

Before a person is convicted of a crime, the prosecution will need to prove that the accused person intended, or knowingly risked the consequences of there conduct. The mental element can take a number of forms including:

* Intention - intend the purpose of the action.
* Recklessness - person knowing a substantial risk exists or will exist if action is undertaken yet still continues. * Negligence - person acts to cause the death of another (or fails to act to prevent a death). Manslaughter conviction. * Strict Liability - Mens Rea does not have to be proved in statutory offences only actus reus.This includes speeding fines where the simple fact they broke the law is enough to convict.

Actus Reus:

The physical act, or omission in some cases, that constitutes a crime.

* Physical Act - accused must be shown to have committed the act. * An Ommission - burden on one to commit an act, and a failure to do that act will be the conduct necessary for conviction. E.g. paying tax. * Causation - in some crimes, such as murder and manslaughter, the court will take a very strict view in determining that the conduct of the accused caused death of the victim.

Crimes Against Persons:

* Homicide – committed when a person has been unlawfully killed. This allows for certain exemptions, such as a soldier killing an enemy in war. The death must be directly related to the actions of the accused. Four situations classified as homicide: * Murder: to prove successful at least one of the following must be proved: a) An act took place with a deliberate intention to kill. b) There was a deliberate act designed to cause serious harm, during which the death occurred. c) There was a reckless indifference to human life, resulting in death. * Manslaughter: an unlawful killing, but the accused is not charged with murder, as there is a defence for the actions involved in the killing. There are three types of manslaughter: a) Involuntary manslaughter, when the...
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