Factors leading to crime
-By Shreya Verma
Crime as defined by Blackstone is “an act committed or omitted, in violation of public law either forbidding or commanding it.”
This definition was however later modified by Stephen as, “a crime is a violation of a right, considered in reference to the evil tendency of such violation as regards the community at large.”
And as defined by Halsbury, “Crime is an unlawful act which is an offence against the public and the perpetrator of that act is liable to legal punishment.”
Crime is thus an act or omission which is deviant from what society perceives as ethically, logically and legally justified. It is a wrong against the society by a person amongst that society, that it shakes the societal conscience to an extent that it becomes necessary to punish the wrongdoer.
So, what is it that makes a person to do such an act which is not acceptable by others? What drives a person to behave in such a manner which is perceived by the society as offensive? Before we discuss that we have to understand that what are the kinds of crime:
Predatory Crime are those whereby somebody perpetrates a crime or violence or assault against somebody else for a specific purpose and intent. In these crimes entire benefit is enjoyed by perpetrator without any kind of apparent or actual service to victim e.g., theft, dacoity, extortion etc.
Personal crimes are most commonly generalized as a violent crime that causes physical, emotional, or psychological harm to the victim. Homicide, false imprisonment, assault, rape and kidnapping could be some of the popular examples of personal crimes.
Property crimes are the crimes that involve interference with another person’s right to use or enjoy their own property. They do not necessarily involve the harm of another person. Criminal trespass, arson, theft or even white-collar crimes are some of the property crimes. There is a whole chapter i.e., Chapter 17 in The Indian Penal Code, 1860 that deals with offences against property.
Hate crime as defined by Hudson David L. means hate violence committed because of victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, disability, sexual orientation or origin, making racial or religious minorities or other vulnerable classes of people as the most probable victims. The key factor in hate crime is emphasis on group and not individual identity of the victim. Religious crimes or rioting are some of the common examples.
While these were the crimes which requires mens rea and actus reus, there are others which are punishable per se, i.e., without involvement of any of the four steps of crime, viz., Intend, preparation, attempt and accomplishment:
Strict liability offences are punishable without involvement of mental element, or mens rea as we may call it. They are so grave in nature that if left unpunished it would leave a graver impact on society. Kidnapping is such an offence which requires no mens rea and mere removal of child from lawful guardianship is sufficient, as was held in R. vs. Prince (1875).
Inchoate crimes are those which are punishable even if they have not actually been performed. They are basically incomplete crimes which involves the tendency to commit, or to indirectly participate in a criminal offense. Attempt, Abetment and Criminal Conspiracy are inchoate offences and they are punishable even before the actual offence for which the conspiracy was made or person was abetted were actually done. These are made punishable to prevent the further commission of crime and also to set an example to the society.
Crime without a victim or victimless crimes are those which though punishable under law do not have any direct harm on others. Example drunkenness, and related offences, sale and use of prohibited substances, vagrancy, begging etc.
Now we have come to know that an act or an omission may be termed as a crime even without the necessity that the wrongdoer actually believes himself to be indulging in a wrongful act. And sometimes even necessity of mental element is not required. Following are some of the factors which are responsible for causation of crime, or the factors that approaches to crime:
Societal Factors: As has been rightly mentioned by Havelock Ellis, “Every society has the criminals that it deserves.” Societal factors such as inequality, inequal distribution of power, lack of support to families and neighbourhoods, real or perceived inaccessibility to services, lack of leadership in communities leads to lower self-esteem and other family factors such as upbringing, low value placed on children and individual well-being, the overexposure to television as a means of recreation, or even peer pressure are some of the societal factors which leads to formation of criminal minds.
Nelson Mandela, the President of South Africa and the father of anti- apartheid revolution in the continent had once commented that, “When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”
Heredity and crime: Crime and heredity were first correlated by the criminologist Lombroso, who asserted that there are certain criminals who imbibe criminality by birth. He called them atavists and held that such criminals were incorrigible.
Though, the earlier jurists and criminologists considered heredity to be the major factor responsible for crime, modern jurists believe it has little to do with criminality. Moreover, on the basis of a study that was conducted on identical twins brought up in different atmospheres, it was concluded that it is upbringing and not the genes that are actually responsible for criminal behaviour. Also, on the basis of a study carried on by Goring, Healy, Scheldon and Glueck it was found that it was difficult to establish a co-relation between heredity and crime because it is practically impossible to isolate heredity from other environmental factors.
Economic Factors: Poverty manifests itself in a lack of educational opportunities, lack of financial resources, lack of meaningful employment options, poor housing, lack of hope and the prejudice against persons living in poverty. This motivates a person to adopt short-cuts, which actually are crimes, to break this economic barrier i.e., depriving them of resources which others have. The great Greek philosopher Aristotle has aptly pointed out, “Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.”
Bio-Physical factors: Biological differences in human personality also account for criminality in human beings. The genetic and biological theory of crime causation presupposes that criminality is inherited and criminals differ from non-criminals in their physio-biological built. Glandular misfunctioning, racial heritage, moral insensitivity etc. contribute to crime causation. Also, Bio-chemical researches have shown that hormonal imbalances do have an adverse effect on criminality.
Mental disorder and criminality: When a person is suffering from some disease or a state of confusion to an extent that he is not in a position to determine what he is doing is actually a crime then he is said to be induced by a mental disorder. There are provisions in laws for protection of persons who are driven to commit offence due to some mental ailment. English Mental Deficiency Act, 1913 has classified mentally depraved criminals in 4 categories:
Feeble minded criminals; and
Morally insane criminals
Even Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides for General defence to person who by the reason of tender age, mental disorder or involuntary intoxication has committed an offence.
M’ Naghten’s Rule of Criminal responsibility based on 1843 English case also recognises defence of insanity, which laid foundation of Sec. 84 of IPC.
There are such other psychological crimes such as a kleptomaniac who though not in need has a strong urge to steal as V.E. Schwab, in the first part of its fantasy novel shades of magic trilogy quoted, “Some people steal to stay alive, and some steal to feel alive. Simple as that.”
Thus, these are some of the factors that may be responsible for criminal behaviour of a person.