Introduction to Crime

For the new Unit on Criminal Law, you need to start to read the following:

1. Chapter 9- The Nature of Crime. (textbook). Quiz will follow.

2. Read and use the following two websites:

a) Get an overview of the criminal court system

b) Read the rules of the courtroom:

c) Start to familiarize yourself with specific crimes including the different types of murder, assault, theft, sexual assault, See the Canadian Criminal Code

What are the factors for people to commit crimes?

Important points:

-no one factor can explain why some people commit crimes, especially violent ones; they work together between nature and nurture (scientific or biological/genetic reasons and environmental/sociological influences; some of the factors include:

Natural and Biological  factors

-genetic factors from parents who have anger issues, get upset easily, feel anxious in different situations that might cause one to commit some crimes

-brain research has been done on violent criminals which has concluded that many violent offenders have a low arousal and/or a low heartbeat rate so they

-age- 15-18 years old with raging hormones can sometimes cause a youth to get more upset easier without worrying about the consequences

-gender- males are much more likely to offend than females due to the increased amount of testosterone but in today’s society there have been more and more women also becoming violent and committing crimes

-emotional/psychological/mental predisposition- if one’s existing mental capacity does not allow a person to understand right from wrong this may cause one to commit certain crimes; there are those who have a genetic and biological condition which causes a person to take actions

Environmental/Societal factors

-it needs to be understood that none of these factors means that most persons from these situations will become criminals but they add to the stress of an individual combined with other factors that may lead one to commit crimes of passion (violence) or the act of stealing or public disorder

-the following factors may be combined with each other as a possible cause, some may be disputed but most of these statistically have a role to play in more crimes than those with an opposite situation:

-these factors include:

-economic status: being born into poverty means one has to put up with more stress over a long period of time and some do not respond to these frustrations in a positive way, while others do; the stress makes a person to feel more anxious and look for different ways to solve financial issues (again it is a low number of people in this situation who would turn to crime but if one adds up many of the violent crimes it is more often one who comes from a poorer background)

-parental upbringing-a) i f parents do not give their children a set of rules and teach them the difference between right and wrong or do not play a significant part in their children’s lives, it can also happen that the child grows up believing they can do anything they want and get away with it- this can be one of the factors for bullying to occur which is a precursor to having more violent tendencies;

b) without a proper positive role model to follow a child may learn other ways of acting opposite of society’s moral expectations.

c) In addition, if parents are criminals themselves they are providing for their children a negative role model and the children will pick up on this- it is also due to an unstable childhood if their own parents are in trouble with the law and various experiences with law enforcement agencies are negative so the child grows up feeling police and the legal system are negative and distrust them

d) parents may use violence and abuse their children leading them to believe that violence is the natural or only way to solve issues; the ongoing violence against them teaches a person to be violent, to feel aggression and take it out on other people in a variety of situations

-peer pressure: the willingness to follow in the footsteps of friends or a group of similar age who you want to impress and mimic in actions. This is more likely to occur during adolescence with the greater need to become accepted as teenagers within a group. If one group then happens to be breaking the law and an individual wants to join that group they will be expected to do the same including from running away to theft, using drugs and including more violent crimes (being initiated into a gang may include either beating up someone or killing them). Gangs are a group of people who work together to break the law by helping each other and reinforce each other’s actions

-lack of education: poor performance in school may lead some to become frustrated, have less opportunities and less social acceptance so some act out in society with anger or a lack of care toward the laws. With less education it often can mean that a person may not have as much earning power so they

- alcoholism-alcohol can cause people to act more violently toward others even if one has rarely had alcohol or if one is alcoholic, the repetitive effect of it on a person’s way of thinking and sense of right or wrong can trigger violent reactions to others or to lose the ability to judge what is right or wrong

-drug use- this is similar to alcohol in terms of how it may cause a person to lose their judgement of what is right or wrong in the pursuit of needing hard drugs; obtaining illegal hard drugs (cocaine, crack, heroin) for one’s addiction causes many to disregard laws by breaking into pharmacies or people’s homes to steal property and get enough money to support their drug habit. It can not be fully concluded that having some of these drugs is directly a cause of one to become violent but this is one possible result of one who needs drugs and will do anything they have to get them.

-TV violence- this is a societal problem whereby more individuals are exposed from an early age to violent shows and either emulate those on tv who can fight their way out of a situation or subconsciously begin to believe that violence is a method of solving issues. Eventually children who have been exposed to tv violence want to copy what happened or feel that violence is the way to solve issues in real life.

Purposes of Criminal Law

What are the reasons we need to have criminal laws? Ie. Laws that are not simply a moral code but ones set with punishments

The reasons for the laws and to punish include:

-to prevent injury to others

-to prevent damage to and impairment of public institutions

-to prevent offence to others

-to prevent harm to oneself

-to prevent and punish sin or to enforce morality

The big question is: should some laws be in place if they only affect the individual such as wearing a motorcycle helmet or using marijuana or being allowed to commit suicide with assistance? Why does criminal law have to affect some individual decisions if it doesn’t appear to hurt anyone except the person involved? What are some situations or laws that you feel should not be up to the legal system to punish a person if they are not hurting someonelse?

Types of Crime (pp. 254-265)

-there are 11 classifications of laws found in the criminal code: see the chart on p. 254. Study these classifications with an example for each. Make sure to know the following concepts in addition;

a) indictable offences-serious crimes which are crimes against a person’s body such as arson, drug smuggling, sexual assault, assault, murder and attempted murder. Also known as felonies

b) summary conviction offences-crimes against one’s property or against society such as robbery, theft, fraud (if under $5000), fighting, disorderly conduct; also known as misdemeanors; they use  a simple way to be tried and sentenced  eg. The drug user who defrauded the credit card companies and used them at hotels ie. Our mock trial

c) dual procedure-offences that may be both or either indictable or summary conviction depending on the decision of the Crown Attorney; also known as hybrid offences

What makes a crime? Crime is a federal jurisdiction made by our federal Parliament including the definitions of crimes and their punishments. There are a number of statutes such as: Criminal Code, Youth Justice Criminal Act, Narcotic Control Act, Food and Drugs Act, Income Tax Act

Provincial offences are not crimes but less serious actions with less penalties. Each province has its own set of laws such as those under the Highway Traffic Act or the Liquor License Act. The penalties usually include fines or imprisonment for less than 2 years in minimum security.

d) actus reus-this is the action of a crime, “the guilty act”, it shows there is a physical action

f) omission-this is a crime when you fail to take any action which may bring harm to someone such as helping them when they have been obviously hurt or a hit and run

g) voluntary acts-these are the acts we do of our own action and we have a choice of whether to do them or not; in the rare case of automatism, one could get away with murder as in the case of the man from Pickering. If one has a medical condition which causes them to take an action they may not be found guilty

h) mens rea- “the guilty mind”; the reasoning behind a crime; having the intention to commit a crime by planning it out or in the least knowing fairly easily that by taking a certain action may cause harm to someone or to one’s property                                                       

i) subjective intent-a part of mens rea- what was going on in a person’s mind at the time of the crime, is one intending to commit a crime

j) recklessness-an action of committing a crime that although one may not have fully meant to bring harm to another person but they should have known that it would by reasoning

k) objective intent-it involves what a reasonable person should know about an action; failure to appreciate a situation; some crimes must show that the person wilfully tried to do it                                         

See the criminal equation on the bottom of p. 262 and read the page above it.

Actus reus plus mens rea= crime

Guilty act plus intent, knowing, wilful, reckless, careless

Read pp. 263-265- strict and absolute liability

Mens rea offences- the Crown must prove there was an intent for a prosecution to take place

Strict liability offences-the Crown does not have to prove mens rea took place though the accused can try to prove that they tried to make sure the action would not occur

Absolute liability- there is no chance for the accused to try and disprove their intent- the action shows directly that you intended to follow through on that action

Read pp. 271-275 with emphasis on the following words:

Incomplete crimes         

criminal attempts-you are still in trouble if you attempted to commit a crime but the punishment will be less severe than if you actually carried out the act                      

conspiracy-the agreement between 2 or more people to commit an act of crime

counselling, aiding and abetting-trying to help or encourage another to commit a crime                  

accessory after the fact-helping one to escape after they committed a crime or to hide the evidence such as a body or hiding the one who committed the act

Chapter 10 The Criminal Process

How are laws upheld through the court system? What makes up the Canadian court system? Why and how is the Canadian justice system deemed to be fair?

Procedural Justice and Principles of Justice

pp. 281-283   What are the main parts that are needed for our system to be considered fair and just? Expand on each with a brief explanation. Know at least 3 of these:








What is the adversarial system? It is the system we mostly have in place today whereby to prove that a person committed a crime, an accused has a legal representative (defence lawyer) who knows the laws very well and will argue the points of the crime against the court or government appointed legal representative (the Crown Attorney); the government or court has to prove with evidence and have no reasonable doubt that the criminal did commit the act and should be punished with a judge watching over the  

pp. 287 (adversarial system)- 289 (adversarial and inquisitorial system). Be able to know the difference by definition and which one is better and whether the adversarial is good at all. Why or why not?

The Canadian Criminal Process

-understand the fact that our laws are known and enforced by the descriptions of crimes in the Criminal Code of Canada as well as the Canada Evidence Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (pp.290-291)

-read pp. 292-

-be able to identify a few of the main duties of a police officer (293)- preserve the peace, assist victims of crime, lay charges, complete training, catch criminals etc.

-two types of a warrant (293)- 1. arrest warrant- upon suspicion of a crime having taken place or about to take place, the police may apply for an arrest from a justice of the peace (a type of judge) by getting a warrant so they can go and arrest them and 2. Bench warrant- a judge orders a person to be arrested because they didn’t show up in court

When can a police officer arrest someone? (294) Give three examples of this.

Key terms:

  1. Reasonable and probable grounds- these are the reasons that a police officer will arrest a person because it is a good chance that a crime has or may be committed by someone within reason (not just because they happen to look suspicious but because they were seen to have something to help prove that they might commit a crime)
  2. writ of habeas corpus-a statement on  a paper saying that an accused must be brought to the court to prove that they have committed a crime and on it it will tell you for what crime they have been charged
  3. Two rights of arrested persons (296)-1. to be able to have a legal representative (a lawyer) without any delay and 2. To be told that right                      
  4. search warrant(301)-this is the paper which gives the police permission to search a place such as a house or car because the police applied for it and believe there to be evidence that a crime was committed

Pre Trial Procedures

Read the following pages and topic areas:

p. 305  Bringing an Accused to the court, Method of Trial (309), The Crown’s duty to disclose its case (310), Pre trial hearings, Constitutional rights of an accused (311

Key terms:

Appearance notice-this is a legal document to tell an accused that he or she must come to the police station, the crime they are accused of and the date and the date to attend court

Summons-this is the same idea as the appearance notice which tells the accused to appear in court or at the police station

promise to appear: this is the document signed by the accused that they promise to show up in court at a stated time and place

Bail hearing-a type of court where  a judge will decide on whether or not the accused can go free until their trial based on putting up some money or something that can be taken away if they don’t go to court; this is for serious crimes

unreasonable delay- if the justice system does not put the accused on trial within a reasonable time and there is a delay such as 1 year from the time of the crime, the accused may be let go since their rights were not protected; there should be a fairly quick chance for an accused to know if he is guilty or not

Section 11 Charter rights – this is the right of accused persons to not be denied bail (money that has to be given to the court until they appear in court) unless it is quite sure that the accused will repeat their offences or are dangerous

Criminal Trial Process

Role of the judge and jury (314-315), evidence (316), evidence and sexual offences (317-319), confessions (321-323), excluding evidence (323)

Key terms:

Hearsay evidence-p. 316- this is evidence that a person might say during a trial but did not actually see something so this evidence is considered no good  since the person didn’t personally know what happened.                         

voir dire-this is a trial within a trial where the judge will decide if a witness can answer a question before the trial continues since perhaps what the witness might have said is not allowed or shouldn’t be shared

Murder case studies

Major Canadian Murder Cases and Trials Assignment- Due Thursday, December 13

Task: Each pair of students will complete one famous murder case and trial within Canada to write and present to the class for Thursday, December 13 and Friday, December 14. Each student is responsible for two sections provided below in co-ordination with your partner. Each section should be no less than 1 page in length, double spaced, 12 font. Each section is worth 15 marks Application and 10 marks Communication.

  1. What happened? Provide the details of the crime itself. Which crime(s) were committed? What evidence was there that proved the case? How easy was the gathering of evidence and the trial itself? What were the main events?
  2. Who was the accused or guilty person? Discuss their family, economic, criminal and societal background. What were some potential events in their life or factors that lead them to commit these crimes?
  3. Who were the victims? Where did they come from? What was their background, status, situation at the time of the murder? Were they connected to the criminal? How did they spend their last hours? Were their deaths just by chance or were they carefully selected by the killer(s)? Explain.
  4. Societal implications of the case. How was society and the local community affected by these crimes overall? Did we learn anything from the crime to either make a new law or have an effect on policing or mistakes that may have been made? How did the local and/or the national and/or international community react to the crime?



Main subtopics:

Chapter 9: The Nature of Crime:

  1. Causes of Crime  pp. 238-242
  2. Purposes of Criminal Law  pp. 245-247, 250
  3. Types of Crime pp.254-255, 256-257, 259-265
  4. Incomplete Crimes  pp. 271-273, 275

Chapter 10: The Criminal Process

  1. Procedural Process  pp.282-284
  2. The Adversarial System  pp. 287-289
  3. The Canadian Criminal Process pp.290-298, 300-302, 305-319, 321-323

Chapter 11: Defences

  1. Automatism  pp. 332, 335-340, 342-343, 345-348, 351
  2. Self Defence  pp. 352-353, 356-357, 360-364

Chapter 12: Sentencing

  1. Purpose of Sentencing  pp. 368-375, 379-381, 383-387, 391-397