Criminal law

Criminal law is a large body of common law, with its role being to deal with crime and the legal punishments for criminal offences. The introduction of criminal law was to ensure that sanctions were imposed when a crime was committed, leading to a just, peaceful and protected society.

Criminal law declares which acts are crimes, and the suitable punishment required for anyone who has committed one (or more) of those crimes. Punishments can differ however, depending on jurisdiction. Criminal law is different to civil law because it focuses on implementing punishments, rather than resolving disputes and awarding compensation. The state decides on punishments, not the victim.

Everything is covered by criminal law, from small transgressions to major crimes, such as murder, rape and robbery. International relations can also be involved, for certain issues such as extradition and money-laundering.

The purpose of criminal law is to discourage antisocial behaviour, which could undermine the government’s authority or lead to society suffering damage. By having such a deterrent, people should therefore be less likely to commit a criminal offence, and anyone who commits a crime should hopefully learn from their punishment.

Certain crimes are illegal almost everywhere, such as murder, whilst others depend on the attitudes of the society. Incarceration (imprisonment) is a common form of punishment, and some places still impose capital punishment for the most serious crimes.