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Crime, you have broken the law of the land or written criminal law. The laws are decided by parliament in the United Kingdom, in breaking these laws, members of society would be dealt with in many forms, resulting in a caution, a conviction and depending on the severity of the crime, a prison sentence. Some crimes are unenforced for example speeding; police usually do not prosecute if you are less than five miles an hour over the speed limit. Each society defines their own law, within this law they decide what is and is not crime. All crime is deviant.
Deviance is a behaviour that does not conform to societal norms. Howard Becker (1963) said, "Deviance is not a quality of what people do [the act]. Rather, it is a quality of how people react to what you do". Again as in crime, each society decides what is deviant and not. Although most deviant behaviour is not criminal, there are some exceptions to this rule e.g. theft.
There are many forms of deviant behaviour. Societal deviance, this is where most of society would agree that a type of behaviour is not the norm, for example armed robbery. Situational deviance is where deviant behaviour is in a certain social situation; this could be swearing at your tutor or using a mobile phone in the classroom. Serial killers do not want to be caught, so they keep their deviant behaviour out of public view, this is classed as concealed deviance. New age travellers, do not conform to outsider group norms this is public or collective deviance.
The Wolfenden Report (1957) recommended decriminalising certain homosexual offences. In 1965 MP Leo Abse and Lord Arran, made proposals to change the way criminal law treated homosexual men. On the 28th July 1967, the Queen gave Royal Assent and the bill became the Sexual Offences Act 1967. This decriminalised homosexuality if you were over the age of 21, and this only applied to England and Wales. The age of consent again was debated in the House of Commons in 1979, but failed. Scotland decriminalised homosexuality in 1980 and Northern Ireland in 1982. In 1994 with help from MP Edwina Curry, the age of consent changed to 18, and in January 2001 lowered to 16, this was to bring it in line with age of heterosexual consent. (Legislation 2012). Although homosexuality has been legal in the United Kingdom for decades, there are still be people in the U.K that will class this type of behaviour as deviant. Unfortunately homosexuality is still illegal in over 70 countries around the world, and in certain countries like Egypt, it is punishable by death.
Also in Egypt, 91% of women have female genital cutting (FGC). Female genital cutting is where the external genitals are removed, partially or fully. There is no set age for this procedure, from as early as 9 days old to late teenagers. Although there are no health benefits to this procedure, it still happens daily. Most are lucky and have the procedure done by a professional. For those that do not it is a brutal procedure, done with blunt knifes and pieces of glass, then stitched with string or thorns. (Orchid Project 2012). In Egypt, this is perfectly normal and legal. There are agencies including UNICEF trying to stop this. If this procedure happened in the United Kingdom, it would be a criminal act and deviant.
This proves crime and deviance as a social construct varies between time and space, for example; between societies or within a single society, they also vary, since most societies possess subcultures with their own norms and values.
If something is not socially constructed, it is biologically constructed. Biologically constructed would mean that we are all born knowing right from wrong, or 'good' from 'evil'. If this was true, why are there so many disagreements? Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909). Cesare was the first to study criminology; he believed that criminals had characterology, a relation between mental and physical characteristics. Cesare related certain physical characteristics, such as head size, to criminal psychopathology. This has now been discredited. (Cerebromente 2012).
There is some concrete evidence for the biological argument, Brain and hormonal differences of psychopaths, and that that female crime is exacerbated by PMT! However, sociologists generally dispute or ignore the argument.
The social construction argument states crime is relative and subjective, society develop their own norms and values and this is where our own ideas about right and wrong develop. Deviant behaviour can be made worse by the way that we react, especially in other people, for example the media and police.
This proves that crime and deviance is relevant to time and place. What has been considered a crime or deviant behaviour in the past is now legal, this has changed through the generations, and I am sure that in the generations to come their perception of things that are legal now will change and become illegal.
Recording crimes, covering varied offences, which allows them to measure trends.
An important indication of the forces workload, and to analyse local crime-patterns.
Not all crimes are reported, some minor crimes are not logged by the police.
Are useful in helping official crime statistics.
They can estimate crimes that have not been reported to the police.
Some people do not like to admit or know they have been a victim of crime.
Admitting to crimes, you have done.
Police can resolve open cases, where there were previously no leads.
Criminals may admit to more crimes than they have done. Police may add additional cases to make their statistics look better.
Newburn, T. (2007) Criminology. Oxfordshire: Willan.
Moore, S. Aiken, D. Chapman, S. (2006). Sociology A2 for OCR. 2nd ed. London: Collins. P20-85.
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