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The function of punishment in criminal justice.

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THE FUNCTION OF PUNISHMENT IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE People everywhere long for security, a world without crime. Crime is a major problem to people and to governments. Gun crime, dangerous driving, burglaries, rape, drug abuse are common place worldwide. In Britain alone, violent crime has increased from 245,100 incidents during January to March this year to 272,900 in the second quarter, according to Home Office figures.1 This includes homicides, conspiracy to murder and serious wounding. This caused Hazel Blears to unveil her fear: "The increase in serious violence is an area of concern and I'm encouraged by more intensive policing and the impact of new measures to tackle gun crime." 2 Speaking in the same line, the Home Secretary Mr. David Blunkett said: "Our aim is to put the sense back into sentencing, to ensure that punishments are appropriate to the crime."3 Mr. Blunkett pinpointed the key element this article is concerned with: punishment. Why punishing? What is the main purpose of sentencing criminal offenders? This article discusses this issue. It will define what crime is, the factual sense of punishment, its forms and its effectiveness in criminal justice. We cannot speak about punishment in criminal justice without defining what justifies it: crime. What is crime? A crime is a legal wrong, a breach of a rule defining a type of conduct or behaviour, meant to protect ...read more.


But is retribution worthwhile? Retribution has been criticized as being irrational and revenge-seeking.6 But to see its effectiveness, we need to look at the history. During the last years of the Conservative Government with Michael Howard as the Home Secretary, retribution in punishment was a high priority. This is obvious in the White Paper of 1990 Crime, Justice and Protecting the Public where a reference was made to sentencing in order to achieve 'just deserts', saying 'punishments should match the harm done and show society's disapproval of that harm.' 7 And the outcome was that retributive measures were harsh. Those whose crimes were deemed to 'fit' a fine were ending up in prison because they were too poor to pay it. Deterrence: is concerned with preventing the commission of future crimes. It is oriented in two directions: to dissuade the offender in question from committing further crime again, this is called specific deterrence and to show other people what is likely to happen to them if they commit crime, which is general deterrence. The effectiveness of deterrence is not true to life, because people are different. What may be discouraging to one person may not be the case to another. In addition, the use of punishment as deterrence depends on the chances of detection: a serious punishment for a particular crime will not deter people from committing that offence if there is very little chance of being caught and prosecuted for it. ...read more.


This undermines the effectiveness of this method. In conclusion, people need to re-adjust their perception about the purpose of punishment. Its primary purpose is not to hurt those that hurt others but to satisfy justice in order to protect society. An orderly society depends upon those convicted of crime facing its consequence. This as well protects the convicted offenders as well. The criminal justice that exists today is not perfect; it cannot satisfy everybody or cover every single aspect according to human needs. But at least, it is a means to an end: it protects and stabilizes the society. The so-called bias in punishment methods may be overcome by combining more than one method. No man is perfect and nor is the legal system. Only God's kingdom will bring a perfect legal system on earth. 1 Skynews Press Release, 16/10/2003 at 18:33., Also recorded in paragraph 7 on http://uk.news.yahoo.com/031016/140/eb9si.html (last visited 03.11.2003) 2 ibid. 3 Home Office Department Report 2003, 'Foreword by the Home Secretary David Blunkett', pdf p 6. paragraph 9. http://www.official-documents.co.uk/document/cm59/5908/5908.pdf (last visited 03.11.2003) 4 Card, R., 2001. Criminal Law. 15th ed. London: Reed Elsevier p 4. 5 Durkheim, E., 1964. The Division of Labour in Society. London. Free Press p 79. 6 Roshier, B., and Teff, H., 1980. Law and Society in England p131. 7 Elliott, C., and Quinn, F., 2002. English Legal System. 4th ed. London: Pearson p303. 8 http://www.rethinking.org.uk/facts/rethink/five.html (last visited on 3.11.2003) 9 ibid. ?? - 3 - ...read more.

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