Criminal law essay
Extracts from this essay...
BEHAVIOUR Criminal law is essentially concerned with the regulation of behaviour. This may involve prohibitions on some kinds of behaviour such as stealing another person's property or harming them deliberately. Some criminal laws may require a specific action, such as having insurance when driving a car, or complying with regulations. In some instances it is the combination of behaviour with a particular situation that defines a crime such as being drunk in a public place. In others it is the combination of status with behaviour such as the purchase of alcohol by someone under 16 years of age. Illegality covers a multitude of actions, responsibilities, circumstances and statuses and hence the diversity of acts that may be characterised as criminal is considerable.
These rules may change over time, and the number of potentially illegal acts may increase as new areas and types of behaviour are criminalised. There are two sources of law in England and Wales: legislation and law based on decided cases. Legislation consists of Acts of Parliament (statutes) and statutory instruments (often called subordinate legislation). Case law is law that has been built up over the years by decisions of the courts in individual matters: these may include decisions on the meaning of statutes. The law in England and Wales is thus based on the accumulation of previous cases and is described as a common law system. Although many offences are now governed by, or were created by, statute. The general principles of criminal law are still matters of the common law, which also governs some of the most serious crimes, for example murder.
Furthermore, it would be seen as unduly oppressive - as an instrument of social control and political domination. Public tolerance of different activities changes over time and legal categories are subject to change. The law in our society is not based on a fundamentalist or absolutist conception of morality but shifts according to changes in public attitudes. This is reflected in political pressure to change legislation that defines crime. Thus over the last 50 years the way in which the law has dealt with drink driving, homosexuality, prostitution and domestic violence has changed. Changes in the public's tolerance of activities lead to campaigns to criminalise some behaviour and to decriminalise others. For instance, parts of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 aimed to curb the activities of new age travellers and organisers of raves, while lowering from 21 to 18 years the age at which men may lawfully perform homosexual acts in private.
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