Murder

This article is written by Bunmi Adaramola, a current LPC MSc student at the University of Law. This article presents a detailed overview of the crime and violence and the nature of the relationship which exists between them. 

Introduction 

Crime and Violence, as asserted by a UN joint report, are development issues which have ‘direct effects on human welfare in the short-run, and long-run effects on economic growth and social development’. Crime, as defined simply by B Felson, is ‘a violation of law, an act of deviance and rule-breaking’. He also defines violence as intentional-harm doing using physical means. From his analysis of both concepts, the article suggests that there is an occasional overlap between crime and violence, as ‘some acts of violence are not criminal or deviant, whilst some crimes do not involve violence’. This point will be unpacked more throughout the course of this article.

1. Violence and Aggression 

Statistics show that violence is among the leading causes of death worldwide, and even more prevalent among people aged between 15-44 years. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines violence as ‘the use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either result in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, mal-development or deprivation’. Clearly, this definition encompasses discussions on the types, nature and complete scope of what violence entails. Firstly, this definition classifies violence into three different categories: (i) self-directed violence (‘threatened…against oneself’), (ii)interpersonal violence (‘threatened…against another person’), which involves family or intimate partner violence, such as domestic abuse and (iii)collective violence (‘threatened…against a group or community’), which involves community violence such as destruction, rape, sexual assault. Secondly, this definition also puts into perspective how crime and violence interplay with each other. In dissecting this definition, it is worth putting at the back of the mind, the elements needed to constitute a crime. This definition addresses the mens rea aspect of the commission of a crime, that is the intention, where it describes violence as an act which ‘threatens’. The threat of committing violence itself may play an important role in forming the mens rea as it can be found in crimes such as assault. Similarly, the actus reus element of crime is satisfied by the definition, where it outlines the commission of violence as ‘the use of physical force or power…against’. Essentially, it can be argued from this analysis, that there is a serious and clear relationship between crime and violence, which is derived from the definition of violence provided by the WHO.

It is also important to appreciate the fact that violence can be invisible as much as it can be visible, and this invisibility of violence is equally as important as all other types. The invisible types are usually masked and less obvious when addressed from the surface, as they are ‘out of sight in homes, workplaces and even in the medical and social institutions.’ In such cases, the victims are either too young, weak or even ill to consider protecting themselves and are ‘forced by social conventions and pressures to keep silent about their experiences’. Furthermore, the nature of both visible and invisible violence may also range from physical, sexual, psychological or neglectful violence. 

2. Crime, Violence& Violent Crimes

As stated previously, an overlap exists between crime and violence, which manifests itself in the concept of ‘violent crimes’. In understanding the scope of violent crimes, it is worth understanding the classification of crimes as a whole. In assessing the crime, it is important to ask whether harm was intended and is relevant to the motivation of the crime. Where harm is not intended, then the crime is a negligent and victimless one. In a case such as this, there is no overlap between violence and crime as there is no use of force, or threat to cause harm. At the other end of the spectrum, if harm was intended, it is worth asking whether the harm is an incidental consequence or is deliberately sought by the perpetrator. This essentially asks whether the perpetrator is indifferent to the harm caused. If the perpetrator is indifferent to whether the victim suffers or not, then in such case, there may be a clear overlap between violence and crime as such crimes are primarily predatory crimes, which may involve impulsiveness or thrill-seeking motivations for the harm done. In the case where the harm is valued and the harm is an incidental consequence of the crime, whether it is a violent crime will depend on the motivation and intention of the perpetrator in the commission of the crime. For instance, first-time offenders may engage in such crimes but may not be directly or intentionally engaged in aggression or violence, but the violence will only be as a result of negligence or recklessness in the commission of the crime. Felson further asserts that the major causes of violent crimes are ‘low self-control, thrill-seeking, as some people will only commit deviant acts that do not involve harm-doing’. 

Overall, it is clear that in some cases, there is a distinct overlap in the relationship between crime and violence, whilst in orders, it would be difficult to prove, depending on the nature of the crime, such as in theft, fraud or drug use.  

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