Nils Christie, Conflict as Property - a Brief Examination Through the Example of Domestic Violence Laws

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Fall Commentary Assignment-LAWS 1000BProfessor: Stephen Tasson – TA: Noel Gondek Due Date: October 26, 2012 | Nils Christie, Conflict as Property - A Brief Examination Through The Example of Domestic Violence Laws | |

Sabrina Bellefeuille, Carleton University (student number: 100911284)|

Nils Christie educates society on the concept of viewing conflicts as property and the ways in which this has impacted individuals and the legal system. It is the position of this essay that one can agree with Christie in the perception that conflicts can be viewed as property. Christie’s view as necessary or essential is debatable and will be further explored throughout the essay. Through the example of laws pertaining to domestic violence, within the city of Ottawa, in Canada, this essay will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of Christie’s view, as well as demonstrate it. The ways in which professionals in the area of law can be perceived as “professional thieves” will also be discussed to further validate the concept of conflict as property. In order to examine the argument and perspective of Nils Christie, one must understand what he is implying. In summary; his viewpoint is that conflict is detrimental to the growth of a society and even more so, that individuals have lost their rights to participate in their own resolutions. He believes that conflicts are hidden, stolen, and the important values of them are overlooked. He highly believes that individuals own their conflicts such as one would own property. Christie explains that these properties are stolen by law; therefore individuals no longer own them. He validates this point through explaining that often a conflict is transformed into being an offence against a state rather than against an individual. Christie views the judiciary system and professionals in law as “professional thieves” (Christie, Conflicts as Property, pg. 10). He believes that law depersonalizes resolutions and distances individuals from their conflicts, as well as from procedures within the legal system. The laws pertaining to domestic violence in Ottawa and how they have transformed are an example that demonstrates many angles of Christies view. The examples validate that conflicts can be viewed as property, that these properties can be stolen, and that there are consequences to the individuals involved as well as society. Through these examples we can discuss the positive and negative aspects of viewing conflicts as property, and explore the necessity of this view. Prior to the 1980’s in Canada one could press charges against their abusive spouse and then retract their statement; thus choosing not to proceed with pursuing legal action. It was the personal option of the people involved in the domestic dispute. Various women rights and violence awareness groups as well as police organizations identified a flaw in this system. Often the cycle of abuse would for a variety of reasons, influence the victim to choose not to take legal action in domestic disputes that lead to violence. The position of the law in the past was that this was a private family conflict. Currently our laws implement a different position. Charges are mandatory for an officer to issue in the case of a domestic violence. The victim does not have a decision to make as the law states that the officer is obligated to arrest the abuser. Also in effect, is that once an individual reports a domestic violence the case is carried out in a court of law, despite any decision the victim later decides. This essentially is a conflict belonging to the married couple until a body of law is involved any way. The example of law pertaining to domestic violence that has just been explained demonstrates Christie’s view as valid. The conflict pertaining to the couple is essentially stolen in a variety of ways. First the conflict belongs to the married couple. When the abuser is charged with committing a criminal act the...