In this unit, we would examine who is an offender. We would identify the profile or attributes of offenders. It will review the categories of offenders as well as the offenders in existence.
At the end of this unit, you should be able to:
- define who is an offender
- identify categories of offences
- examine type of offenders.
5.0 MAIN CONTENT
An offender is regarded as a criminal. Legally, a criminal is defined as any person who has violated the criminal law of the land and has been found guilty by a court of law and punished accordingly. So, a criminal is someone who commits crime. The crime committed may be civil, that is, between the plaintiff and the defendant or between the state and the accused in case of its criminal severity.
Another school of thought, however, argues that any body that violates the criminal law should be deemed a criminal, regardless of whether or not they are apprehended, tried, and punished by a court of law. A good number of these offenders are not reported to the police. Sometime, those that are being reported escape police prosecution or conviction by the law courts on account of corruption on the part of the police and court officials.
Nevertheless, there are some exceptions in the legal definition of a criminal. This is because it is not all persons who violate the criminal law that are found guilty and punished accordingly. For example, the law excuses certain categories of persons from criminal responsibility, such as insane, imbeciles, morons, etc. Similarly, by virtue of the positions certain persons occupy, they have immunity against criminal actions, and in this category are diplomats serving in Foreign Countries, Governors, and
Head of States.
Categories of Offence Offences are classified between:
(i) Mala in se and (ii) Mala prohibita.
(i) The mala in se are offences universally accepted everywhere and every time as an offence. For example, murder, robbery and prostitutions are offences everywhere.
(ii) Mala prohibita are offences that are pronounced illegal because the law of that particular society has declared it so. For example, gambling, abduction and burglary, offences are also classified as
crimes against a property(for example, robbery, burglary, and larceny); offences against persons (for example, murder, rape, assault,) and offences against social disorganisation (for instance, drunkenness, disorderly conduct, petty larceny).
SELF-ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 1
Who is an offender?
3.1.1 The Profile of the Criminals
The first profile of the criminal is what Kork and Mccorkle referred to as “offenders-in-fact”. They are persons who have violated the criminal law by engaging in murder, robbery, arson or car-theft, but eventually escape conviction as a result of the procedural and other legal technicalities of the law courts.
The second profile is called “criminal by adjudication”. They are persons who have been tried and convicted for particular offences by law courts, whether or not the offenders have committed the offences alleged. It makes us to reason, that some people may be convicted in error just as many criminals who supposed to be convicted escape the wrath of the law.
This brings to the fore, the question of equality before the law. The police and the courts do not treat all persons equally. But equality is the very essence of justice. The law ought to be applied equally to all persons without fear or favour, whether a person is rich or poor, ruler or ruled, master or servant. This view therefore holds that the criminal justice system has, more or less, created a “class of criminals” between the poor and the rich in the society; for instance, among the elite criminal who are very powerful and are connected to the ruling class because of their ill- gotten wealth. They act as pressure groups on the ruling class to subvert the rule of law. Their influences express negative impact on the life of the citizens. Others are white- collar criminals – committed by professional people, such as tax-evasion, business fraud; and corporate criminals- crimes committed by board members, chair persons, etc. They are crimes of the rich and powerful.
Another group is the “undetected offender in-fact”. This consists of those criminals that have not been known or detected. They are referred to as criminals at large.
There are other broader ways we use in classifying the profiles of criminals, they include:
- Those who have actually committed crimes and have been convicted and punished. They are called convicted criminals.
- Those who have been convicted and punished for crimes which they did not, infact, commit. They are referred to as innocent criminals. Most inmates in Nigerian prisons belong to this category.
SELF-ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 2
Differentiate between “offenders – in – fact” and “criminals by adjudication”.
From this unit, students of criminology should have known who is an offender or criminal. They should be able to classify criminals into different categories. Students should also be able to discuss the profiles, the attributes and characteristics associated to each of the attributes.
We have been able to discuss the various categories of offences, examined who is the offender, and also identified the profiles and attributes of criminals.
6.0 TUTOR-MARKED ASSIGNMENT
Study the profile of the criminals and examine in your own opinion, the two types of criminals that are more damaging to our society.