Differences Between Criminal Law And Criminology: Basically, the similarity between criminal law and criminology is that both are concerned with the prevention, commission and punishment of crimes in the society. Criminal law is the area of law that deals with crime and punishment. This relates to a specific statute, ordinance, regulation or other source of law that deems an action to be a crime.
Criminology is the academic and practical field that studies crime, criminals and their behaviour. The field of criminology systematically studies criminal behaviour in the society. It is a social science and therefore employs the scientific method in its purpose.
Criminology acknowledges crime as a social phenomenon and a catastrophe. It does not in any way justify the commission of crimes but rather tends to employ systematic pattern to discover the root causes; the reasons for the commission of crime, and then proffer futuristic and long lasting solutions.
Criminal law and criminology are two intertwining concepts and areas, although their basis and purposes differ. Criminology is however, all encompassing to criminal law. Its relevance springs from the law making processes, the actual breaking of the law, and the aftermath of law breaking.
While criminology is the study of criminal behaviour, criminal law is the application of the legal statute.
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Differences between criminal law and criminology
1. Under criminal law, the mental element (that is, the intent of an accused person to commit a crime) is relevant but motives are generally not relevant. What this means is that criminal law does not concern itself with the reasons, incentives or emotion that induced an accused person into committing an alleged offence.
This is seen for instance, in section 24 of the Nigerian Criminal Code Act, 1990, where it is clearly provided that the motive by which a person is induced to do an act or omit to do an act which constitutes an offence is immaterial unless otherwise is expressly provided. On the side of criminology, the motive by which a person commits an offence is very much relevant. Criminology specifically studies reasons why people commit crime.
2. Both criminal law and criminology are interested in the prevention of crimes, however, the manner through which both fields pursue this goal differ materially and objectively. Criminal law seeks to prevent crime only at the point of its commission, or after an overt act has been manifested by the offender in furtherance of the commission of a crime.
Also when the criminal justice system punishes offenders, it presupposes that the punishment serves as a deterrent factor to both the offender and the rest of the society, thereby contributing to the prevention of crime. On the side of criminology, the manner through which it prevents the commission of crime differs.
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Criminology, rather than preventing a predetermined crime or suing the deterrence technique, studies the root causes of crimes. One of the theories of criminology proposes that in fact, it is the society that prepares the commission of crime while the offenders then merely execute it. This theory shows the extent at which the field of criminology seeks to discover the root cause of crimes. And upon discovering the root causes, it is the first valid step to the prevention of crime.
Therefore, criminology operates more forward in time. It seeks the prevention of crimes even before its commission is predetermined, whereas criminal law seeks the prevention of crime at the point of its commission or after it has been committed. The provision of statutes under criminal law which prescribes punishment for offences ordinarily ought to serves as a deterrent measure to the commission of crimes, but in the actual sense of criminology, the society provides valid incentives, reasons or motives for crime commission which outweighs the supposed deterrence mechanism.
3. The knowledge of criminology is vital in criminal law. It is the study of criminology that actually relates to investigation of crimes or anticipatory crimes. With the knowledge and practice of criminology, the criminal law is effectively enforced. Criminology therefore operates wider in scope. Its application is relevant in all aspects of criminal law.
On the other hand, criminal law operates narrower is scope. Criminal law encompasses the legal and procedural processes relating to the imposition, enforcement and trial of criminal cases in court. It is more of substantive in nature, whereas criminology is philosophical and scientific.
4. The field and practice of criminology do not exist or operate in isolation. It is basically dependent on fields like; psychology, sociology, philosophy, criminal law, health studies, statistics, economics, history, anthropology, etc. on the other hand, criminal law is a field of independent existence.
Inasmuch as criminology contributes to the effective enforcement of criminal law, criminal law can still stand and operate on its own. Already, the field has procedural provisions made for the purposes of enforcing the substantive criminal law provisions.
5. Criminology id s behavioural course of study. It studies the behavioural patterns of the society at large, and then behaviours of the offenders and how the society affects them. on the other hand, criminal law does not study behavioural pattern; it merely studies the rules that label certain behaviours as criminal.
It is interested in proscription of acts as offences, prescription of punishment against the offenders, and prescription of procedure for the enforcement of criminal justice.
6. It is the field of criminology that advocates for decriminalization. A theory of criminology posits that some crimes are overcriminalized. Overcriminalization is the excessive proscription of acts as criminals. Decriminalization suggests the change of a proscribed act so that it does not qualify as a crime again.
Criminology further advocate for rehabilitation of offenders as opposed to punishing them. on the side of criminal law, it is silent on the issue of decriminalization. Criminal law surely concerns itself with enforcement of the criminal law provisions the way they are. Criminal law punishes offenders rather than rehabilitate them.
7. Criminal law works on predefined rules that determine criminal behaviour, whereas criminology looks beyond the predefined rules; it looks at the processes that makes the law and the society to label a person and proscribed behaviours as criminal.
8. Criminal law directly studies enacted rules and legislation as it relates to the society, whereas criminology being a social science, directly studies the society and the person as they relates to the enacted rules and legislation. Criminology studies more than just the statutes; it studies in extension how the statute affects the society. Put in another way; criminal law is all about how the law can be used to fairly administer justice in respect if a proscribed criminal behaviour.
It is concerned with the kind of responses that are appropriate for different types of crime and criminals. It is also concerned with the requirement of evidence for conviction in criminal trials, and whether there are factors that could mitigate the punishment of a convict, or even exonerate him from criminal liability.
Criminology on the other hand is the study of crime, who commits the crime, why they commit the crime, and what can be done for its further prevention and punishment.
Criminal law and criminology cannot be completely severed. Both play complementary role unto each other. The primary distinction is that while one relates to the enforcement of established statutes, the other is a systematic study of the society in relation to the relevant statutes in general.
Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka, ACMC, is a lawyer and a certified mediator/conciliator in Nigeria. He is also a developer with knowledge in various programming languages. Samuel is determined to leverage his skills in technology, SEO, and legal practice to revolutionize the legal profession worldwide by creating web and mobile applications that simplify legal research. Sam is also passionate about educating and providing valuable information to people.