Conceptualizing Crime, Criminology & Criminal Justice System


A crime is an act or omission in respect of which punishment may be inflicted on the person responsible for the act or omission.

There are motoring offences ranging from simple parking errors to death by dangerous driving. Offences against the person range from a slap to murder.

Sutherland defines Crime as, “Behaviour in violation of criminal law. No matter how immoral, reprehensible, or indecent an act may be, it is not criminal act unless it is outlawed by the state. The criminal law is a list of specific forms of human conduct that have been outlawed by the political authority, which applies uniformly to all persons living under that authority, and which is enforced by punishment administered by the state.”

Blackstone in his classical work, Commentaries on the Laws of England, attempted to define crime as a public wrong. According to him “crime is an act committed or omitted in violation of a public duty forbidding or commanding it”.


Blackstone identified the demerits of his first definition, so he modified it and said, “A crime is a violation of the public rights and duties due to the whole community”.

Stephen states that “crime is a violation of a right considered in reference to the evil tendency of such violation as regards the community at large.”

Kenny states that “crime consists of those wrongs whose sanction is punitive and is in no way remissible by any private person, but is remissible by the Crown alone, if remissible at all.”

R. C. Nigam states that there are three attributes of crime, and can be explained as:

  • Firstly, it is a harm brought about by some anti-social act of a human being, which the sovereign power desires to prevent;
  • Secondly, the preventive measures taken by the state appear in the form of a threat of sanction or punishment;
  • Thirdly, the legal proceedings, wherein the guilt or otherwise of the accused is determined, are a special kind of proceedings governed by special rules of evidence.

In the recent era, there has been a considerable increase in the crime rate all over the world. Crime statistics globally is having a similar trend. The conceptual analysis of crime is also changing. Today there are e-crimes and the nature of crime is having a great change as well.

Crime v. Sin:

  • Sin is derived from religion but crime is a legal proposition.
  • Sin results in the violation of rules of religion or morality whereas, crime involves breach of law.
  • Sinner is punished by God whereas criminal is punished by the State.
  • No direct harm or injury in sin but crime involves direct injury.
  • Remedy of sin is penance but remedy for crime is either sentence or rehabilitation of offenders.

Criminal Law:

Criminal law is that branch of law, which deals with crimes and their punishments. Crimes form a specific category of wrongful acts.  The state intervenes to punish the wrongdoers who commit wrongful acts of this category. The object of criminal law is the punishment of the offender and the preservation of law and order. Criminal Law in its general connotation means the law relating to crimes and criminals, and this law of crimes has been known to us since ages.


It has always been of immense interest to mankind since then.

But, before divulging into the wings of the criminal justice system and its various other contemporaries, we must be aware of the concept of crime.

Criminal Law proceeds upon the principle that it is morally right to hate the criminals and it conforms and justifies this sentiment by inflicting upon criminals punishment which expresses it.


The main objectives of criminal law are as follows:

  1. Enforcement of criminal law should reflect the society’s disapproval for criminal activities by punishment of offenders.
  2. Deterring criminals from criminal activities and advising citizens not to be a party of crime
  3. Ensuring safety and security of people by maintaining law and order
  4. Helping victims to get adequate compensation from offender wherever possible and ensuring their rehabilitation.
  5. Ensuring that the criminal justice system is accountable to society.

Criminal Justice System:

Criminal Justice System connotes the set of practices and institutions of governments directed towards the administration of social control, deterring and mitigating crime, and punishing those who violate laws with penalties and rehabilitation measures.

The criminal justice system is the set of agencies and processes established by governments to control crime and impose penalties on those who violate laws.


There is no single criminal justice system in the United States but rather many similar, individual systems.

The criminal justice system comprises of the set of agencies and processes established by governments to control crime and impose penalties on violation.

The criminal justice system consists of three main parts namely, the legislature or the law maker; the courts or the adjudicators; and the corrections system involving jails, prisons, probation and parole.


In the criminal justice system, these distinct agencies operate together both under the rule of law and as the principal means of maintaining the rule of law within society.


Criminology is derived from the Latin word ‘crimen’ which means ‘accusation’ and Greek word ‘loyia’ which means ‘logia’.

It etymologically means ‘scientific study of the nature, extent, causes and control of criminal behaviour in both the individual and in society.”

Sutherland defines criminology as “the body of knowledge regarding the delinquency and crime as a social phenomenon. It includes within its scope the process of making laws, breaking laws and of reacting towards the breaking of laws.”

Donald Taft states that “criminology is the scientific analysis of the observation of crime and criminals.”

Criminology is the scientific study of crime including its causes, responses by law enforcement and methods of prevention.


It is a sub group of sociology which is the scientific study of social behaviour. It is a subject which goes beyond simply thinking about a crime.

It may be defined as the theorization of crime, which is not entirely separate from lay discussions.

It is a multi-disciplinary subject and deals with violation of criminal law, its reaction to crime and treatment of the offenders of crime.


The essential postulates of criminology are:

  1. Explaining criminal behaviour
  2. Examining the variations between the rates or types of crime
  3. Examination of the processes by which some type of behaviour attract criminal status
  4. Functioning of all aspects of the criminal justice system

Nature and Scope of Criminology:

Criminology basically seeks to study the phenomenon of criminality in its entirety. The science of criminology is split into two:

  1. Theoretical or Pure Criminology
  2. Applied or Practical Criminology

Theoretical Criminology comprises of:


1. Criminal Anthropology: It seeks to understand the personality of the offenders in physical terms. Lombroso was the first to talk about this and had emphasized that criminals were different physically and possessed inferior physical characters as compared to normal persons.

2. Criminal Sociology: Based on Sutherland’s theory of differential association, it explains criminal behaviour as a process of learning through association with other criminals.

3. Criminal Psychology: It co-relates the criminality to the emotional aspect of human nature.


4. Criminal Psycho-neuro-Pathology: This branch of criminology attributes criminality to functional deviations and mental conflicts in the personality of the offender. Factors like complex, frustration, anxiety, depression leads to crime.

5. Penology: Concerns the various aspects of punishments and penal policies.

Applied Criminology on the contrary includes the study of criminal hygiene and criminal policy which is founded on solid derivative conclusions. Other than these, there is yet another branch of criminology that has gained importance, i.e. criminalistics.


This branch refers to the police techniques of crime investigation and crime detection. It is a very useful material for the study and understanding of criminal justice administration for those officers whose main job is to deal with law and the procedure relating to investigation and prosecution of criminal cases.

Also Read – The Scope of Intention, Preparation, Attempt To Commit A Crime

Dr. Samrat Datta

B.A.LL.B., LL.M. (Criminal Law), Ph. D. (Police Law), Diploma in Cyber Laws & Human Rights

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