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Critical Criminology Companion Theory

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Discuss about the Critical Criminology Companion Theory.



A crime is an act that violates law or legal ethics. Criminology deals with the study of crime. There are various theories on criminology that have developed over past 250 years while some of them have become irrelevant[1]. The concept of criminology began in the 18th century when classical school of criminology was invented by an Italian scholar Cesare Beccaria and then in the 19th century the positivists’ approach of criminology was defined by Cesare Lombroso. In the 20th century, two more criminology theories were invented and these were social structural criminology and social process criminology. There are several factors which is the reason of criminal offences. The factors can be psychological, social, geographical, political and economical. The scientific study about criminals and crime is known as criminology. The rate of crime has increased over the years. It has negative effect on the person who is the victim of crime and on the locality which is affected with crime[2].

The classical versus positivists schools of thought

During the mid-18th century an intensifying debate started among the scholars regarding a more rational way to criminal punishment in order to abolish the cruel and harsh public executions which were used to make the people scared and be obedient.

The concept of Utilitarianism was invented by an Italian scholar Cesare Beccaria and he said that the behaviour of a people is highly motivated with the avoidance of pain and pursuit of pleasure. In case of Classical School of Criminology formulating decisions are described with deterring crime[3]. It is believed by classical school that human commit the act which is the criminal act but they have their freedom to choose right or wrong which cannot be prohibited. According to him, crimes only results when rewards and pleasures on attempting a crime will be greater than that of punishment as in this case the person who is attempting the crime becomes so engrossed with the thought of that reward, the pain of punishment gets faded away from his mind[4]. Different elements of classical theory are-

  • People have that willing capacity to choose their own preferences as lawful solutions to settle their crimes and problems.
  • Crime becomes really appealing hen it gives great benefits just with a little effort.
  • It is possible to control crime with the fear of punishment.
  • Punishments which are perceived to be obvious, swift and severe will depress criminal behaviour.
  • Certain and severe behaviour is noticed in the punishment given for the crime.

In the 19th century, a new concept was discovered by Cesare Lombroso, known as the father of the criminology. This concept is called positivist theory and the views of this concept created a questionable existence of the classical theory[5]. Positivist School of Criminology believes in rational independence where criminal behaviour is presumed and qualified measurement is done on the number of crime[6].

Lombroso mentioned in his book of The Criminal Man that those who are criminals they are born with some physical traits which differ from the normal persons for instances, the criminals are born with physical features like high cheekbones, flattened noses, hard eyes, baldness, scanty beards, fleshy lips and have no sensitivity to pain[7]. These physical characteristics are also possible if a person inherits the nature of criminology from his or her parents or ancestors. Lombroso modified his positivist theory and thus other two types of theories were identified and these are the criminal old and the insane criminal. He further concluded that criminality tends to attempt less serious crimes and the insane criminal are not inborn criminals and they are turned criminal later due to alteration of their brain which automatically depresses their morals, ethics and virtues.

Changes in understanding victimisation over time

Victimisation refers to the state of being victimised. In the 18th century Cesare Beccaria said that the punishment has to be really severe so that the criminals don’t even think of attempting a crime and this will also make them realise that the pain of punishment will outweigh the reward from the crime. Then in the 19th century, this theory was argued and the positivists told that the punishment must fit the criminal and not the crime and Cesare Lombroso told that criminals are born with some physical traits which make them appear different from those who are normal people. Again in the 20th century, social structural criminology was discovered which described that society is an organism and treated crime as a state of social pathology.

Apart from the above theories, there are four theories of victimisation and these are described below-

The victim precipitation theory- This theory states that those who have been victims of crime can get indulge either actively or passively in criminal offences that can lead them to injury or even death. The passive precipitation means when the victim unconsciously expresses behaviours that instigate a sense of attack. For example- the minority groups and the sexual oriented people often faces violence due to their nature of threatening people holding a special position[8]. Active precipitation on the other hand means that victimisation occurs due to provocative nature of the victim himself or herself such as a woman who gets raped active contribute to be victimised due to her provoking dress, relationship or being too intimated to a stranger. Precipitation theory is based on the structure which is based on the structure of oriented nature of crime.  

The lifestyle theory- This theory states that individuals are victimised due to their own lifestyle choices which invites a criminal offence to take place with the persons who have made such lifestyle choices like going alone at night, dwelling in bad areas of town or making friendship with bad companies. This theory also states that victimisation is not a random process but the choice of a lifestyle can put a person in danger of getting victimised. The lifestyle behaviours of the persons are the contributing reasons of victimisation since those individuals put themselves in the elevated risk of such danger[9]. With the help of several premises lifestyle theory is constructed. Criminal victimization is followed by uneven time and space.

Deviant place theory-this theory states that more an individual will be exposing to dangerous places, the more higher will be his chance to fall victim of a crime. Deviant place theory is also known as Victim precipitation theory which suggests innate ideas about confrontation with the criminal when crime is performed by anyone.  For example, if a person in a nutshell is facing a neighbourhood which is deviant, then its only way to escape from being victimise is to leave that place.


Official versus unofficial data

In order to facilitate democratic accountability, it is important to get the statistics of crime so that the police of the country can be informed and this will allow the public to detect the risk of crime in their locality. As per the recent statistics, an approximately 6.2 million crimes were reported in England and Wales from the Crime Survey for England and Wales. The survey further reported that 2.0 million cybercrime and 3.6 million frauds took place in the in the full year of 2016. This survey had covered more than 11.8 million incidents of crime. The trend of crime in the UK has risen to 3% as per the cases of frauds had been submitted to the police[10]. Furthermore, bulk of financial fraud has been unreported to the police and a study shows that this fraud cases on the UK issued-cards has attained an increase of 39% than the previous year. Officially 35% of crime is reported every year. Officially there is 40% of crime.

Although most of the fundamental criminal issues get reported with official crime statistics till the 19th century and it also included the dark figures of crime also but in the mid 20th century, apart from this official data, unofficial crime statistics were initiated to explore and investigate the dark figures of crime. Dark figures of crime are the violence that doesn’t get reported via official data to the police but these are reported in unofficial crime statistics so that preventive measures are generated and crimes can be controlled[11]. This unofficial data source is categorised into two sections and these are social-science and private-agency records and both of these are done by surveys. The social science sources include self-reports of criminal involvement and surveys of victimisation. The self-report was used initially to ventilate the offences of hidden crime in the 1940s and it is still used today in the UK. Surveys of victimisation is the most recent and probably the most influential and evident forecasts of hidden crimes. The survey of victimisation aims to illuminate the dark figures of crime from the perspective of the victim rather than to only exposing the crime.

As per a recent statistics, an estimated 6.9 million criminal offence against households were reported, sexual offences in the UK have also sparked up to 32%. The result of these surveys helped the UK police to have an idea of the dark figures of unrecorded crime[12]. Both the police statistics and the crime surveys provide flawless information but the main difference is that the crime surveys cannot count crimes without individual victims whereas police statistics count crimes on the basis of the memory of its respondents and representatives of the sample[13].

The three R’s in criminology are rehabilitation, re-entry and recidivism. Recidivism is referred as a tendency to evolve a previous mode of action or behaviour, specifically it means relapse into a criminal behaviour. Rehabilitation means teaching a criminal to live a productive and normal life. Re-entry refers to the process of teaching criminals to live a free life i.e. transition to free living is induced in them and it includes the time when they were in prison, the process of their release and the way they are supervised after imprisonment.


Different definitions of crime

In criminology, the definitions of crime are dependent on the approach of how a crime has been attempted. For examples-

Homicide refers to the killing of a person by another. Homicides are of two types: Criminal homicides and State-sanctioned homicide[14]. When sanction of punishment in the state is conducted by someone, then they are non criminal homicide. The criminal prosecution gives capital punishment, death punishment based on major parameter of the crime. Purposeful murder, accidental death is criminal homicide. In case of certain category manslaughter is also the cause of crime which is homicidal case.

Murder refers to the intentional killing of a human being. Murder is also a crime which is the reason of personal jealously, revenge or self protection.

First degree murder is referred to the intentional killing while second degree murder refers to the unintentional killing[15].

Felony murder refers to the death that occurs during serious felony like kidnapping or robbery.

Manslaughter means that due to reckless conduct of the killer, a person gets killed unintentionally.

Negligent homicide means killing someone due to negligence.

Battery means making offensive act of physical contact with someone.

Vehicular assault means reckless driving that causes injury to the others. Vehicular assault may be accidental or sometime intentional. In case of this type of assault several accidents can occur.

Spousal assault means violence between domestic partners[16]. Spousal assault is performed in the case of domestic abuse or harm. It is forcefully done by the spouse.

Rape is the act of forcibly compelled sexual intercourse with an adult who is below 18 or above 18 or with someone which as per law is considered as incapable of consent like in case of disabled women.

Sodomy is the act of forced oral sex or consensual participation of same acts between a juvenile and an adult.



This assignment comprises a brief idea of criminology. It has discussed the concept of criminology both from the perspective of the classical schools of though and positivist idea. It has also explained how the concept of criminology and victimisation has changed over time with various theories of victimisation and criminology[17]. It has explained the importance of official and unofficial data in recording criminal offences and has also mentioned their basic difference. Lastly it has also mentioned various definitions of crimes in various contexts followed.



Anthony, Thalia, The Critical Criminology Companion (Hawkins Press, 1st ed, 2008)

Bernard, T.J., (2013). Vold's theoretical criminology (p. 179189). New York: Oxford University Press.

Burke, Roger Hopkins, An Introduction To Criminological Theory (Willan, 1st ed, 2014)

Conklin, John Evan, Criminology (Pearson, 1st ed, 2013)

Criminological Theory Essentials + The Concise Dictionary Of Crime And Justice, 2Nd Ed (Sage Pubns, 1st ed, 2015)

Ellis, Lee, Richard D Hartley and Anthony Walsh, Research Methods In Criminal Justice And Criminology (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1st ed, 2010)

Geo?rgulas, Stratos, The Politics Of Criminology (Lit, 1st ed, 2012)

Heidt, J. and Wheeldon, J.P., (2015). Introducing criminological thinking: Maps, theories, and understanding. Sage Publications.

Herrmann, Christopher R, Risky Business (1st ed, 2012)

Lutgens, Frederick K, Deviant Behavior + Mysearchlab (Prentice Hall, 1st ed, 2008)

Morgan, Rodney, Robert Reiner and Mike Maguire, The Oxford Handbook Of Criminology (Oxford University Press, 1st ed, 2012)

Rekers, George Alan, The Journal Of Human Sexuality (Stanley and Lewis, 2nd ed, 2005)

Tierney, John, Criminology (Taylor and Francis, 1st ed, 2013)

Wegener, Hermann, Friedrich Lo?sel and Jochen Haisch, Criminal Behavior And The Justice System (Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2nd ed, 2003)

Wilkins, Leslie T, Social Deviance (Routledge, 1st ed, 2014)

Williams, Franklin P and Marilyn D McShane, Criminological Theory (Pearson/Prentice Hall, 1st ed, 2010)

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