The law of penology and criminology

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Jescho Publishing House
“If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so as a test of legal validity, any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.” Isaiah 10:1 Recent developments in the law have occurred against a background of mounting public anxiety about violent street crime. Leading politicians have proclaimed crime a priority rivaling even inflation and defense. As the sense of urgency intensifies, the desperate search for answers quickens. Virtually every day, a politician, editorial writer, or criminal justice professional offers a new prescription for ending crime. I believe the discussion currently raging over justice issues can best be understood by focusing upon a central question: Must we compromise the most basic values of our democratic society in our desperation to fight crime? I have elsewhere considered the implications of this question for issues of criminal responsibility and for policy choices in the administration of justice. In this book, I will examine the ways in which different answers to this fundamental question can affect the development of legal doctrine, particularly with respect to the constitutional rights of those accused of crime. Proficiency in law involves a number of different skills and competencies. It requires knowledge of the rules wherein the elements of criminal offences are to be found. It requires knowledge of the rules of evidence and procedure. It requires an ability to identify the rule(s) applicable to a fact situation and to apply them logically and coherently. Attaining these latter competencies is necessary to discharge effectively the day-to-day tasks of a criminal lawyer solicitor, advocate or judge. However, true mastery requires something further. It requires also a critical and evaluative attitude. The law in action is not just a matter of doctrine, it has its purpose that is the delivery of justice and criminal justice which are a contingent outcome in which rule, process and context all play their part. It is not simply a logical description of what happens when rule meets (prohibited) event. Understanding the law requires, therefore, an appreciation of the day-to-day workings and constitution of the criminal justice system. Moreover, it requires an understanding of the resources of the criminal law to produce substantive justice. If the mechanical application of a given rule to a fact situation acquits a dangerous or wicked person, or convicts someone neither dangerous nor blameworthy according to ordinary standards, the law may be considered not only ‘an ass’ but as confounding its own rationale.
Penology, Criminology, Law