Criminal Behaviour Case Study

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The assumption that understanding criminal behaviour is the most important tool we have to combat the incidence of crime has prompted many philosophers, jurists, psychologists, psychiatrists, socialists and others to seek a plausible explanation for the commission of crimes. Their methods are diverse, some employing scientific means and others using empirical evidence to explore why people engage in “deviant” activity. The most convincing of these theories are those which explain criminal behaviour by reference to the individual, such as the classical theory, which views criminal behaviour as being the free and rational choice of the individual. The theory then offers proportionate punishment as a means to discourage people from reoffending or to deter others from acting criminally. Whilst the theory is not without it flaws, it is difficult to disprove such a theory in the absence of establishing the offender was not capable of rational thought at the time of committing the offence. On the other hand, social theories of crime provide clarity for social factors which may drive the commission of the offence but fail to offer the root cause for criminal behaviour because of the inherent breadth and generality of these theories. For example the strain theory, explains criminal behaviour by reference to external factors outside the individual’s control causing strain which leads to the commission of the offence. The theory does not adequately address the issue of why those undergoing the same stress do not turn to crime and so is not a true explanation of criminal behaviour – there must be more to it. Instead of viewing these theories as contradictory, preferring the one and ignoring the other, it is contended that Gabriel Tarde’s (Wil...

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...ponse to their situation to support their view.
There is a valid place for social theories such as the strain theory because, through understanding social factors which may put people at risk of committing crimes, actions directed towards alleviating the strain will result in prevention of crimes by removing some reasons the offender may have to commit the crime. The classical view of criminal behaviour which states criminal behaviour is a rational decision made by the criminal is, provided that the offender is capable of rational thought, indisputable and is the most convincing explanation of criminal behaviour. As a society then, we need to work towards making crime a more unattractive option. Relieving the strain is one way. Punishment is another. Punishment however is of dubious value if criminals believe the chances of being caught and or punished are minimal.
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