4.1 Modern Definitions of Crime

  • Created by: TessBlyth
  • Created on: 02-06-19 18:09


Up until 1967, homosexuality was illegal in the Uk. In that year, the Sexual Offences Act decriminalised homosexuality for men aged over 21. Some describe the growing liberal attitudes towards sex in the 1960s as a sexual revolution. These new attitudes had an important impact on how laws changed.

In the 21st century, the Criminal Justice Act gave courts the powers to issue more severe sentences for hate crime including homophobic crime. Until then, if a person was attacked for being gay or because the attacker believed he was, it was treated the same as any other crime. This new law meant that such attacks would be classed as a hate crime and treated more seriously by authorities.

1 of 8


In the 1960s, many people from Commonwealth countries (former colonies of the British empire) moved to Britain to work. As Britain became more multicultural, some new laws were needed to ensure that people from different minority groups were treated fairly.

In 1968, the Race Relations Act made it illegal to refuse jobs, housing or public services to anyone on the basis of their race, ethnic background or country of origin. In this case, increasing immigration led to the need for a defenition of a new crime. In 2006, the law was extended to define spreading racial or religious hatred as a crime.

2 of 8


During the 20th century, significant new laws were created to tackle violence and intimidation between people who were or had been in a relationsip. 

In the 19th century, the common view held in society and reflected in the law, was that men were the dominant partners in the relationship. If they were violent towards their partner, that was their personal business and the authorities had no place to interfere.

However, during the 20th century, these attitudes changed. The campaign for women's votes at the beginning of the century, women's contribution to both world wars and 1960s campaigns for equal rights for women, all influenced the views of society. New laws were passed that made violence and abusive behaviour in a relationship a crime.

  • The Domestic Violence Act 1976 - gaves victims the right to ask for an injunction against a violent partner.
  • 1991, law in Britain changed to recognise **** marriage; it became possible to prosecute a husband for ****** his wife.
  • In 2014, a law changed to make controlling coercive behaviour towards a partner a crime. 
3 of 8


Until 1967, terminating a pregnancy was illegal in Britain with very few exceptions for strict medical reasons e.g. if the mother was ensured to die as a result of the pregnancy. If a woman wanted to have an abortion they had to do so by their own means, and resort to a dangerous backstreet abortion carried out by an unprofessional. Some women tried to complete it themselves by using alcohol, wire coat hangers or poisons which were very dangerous. 

Growing liberalisation of attitudes in the 1960s led to protests- these combined with health concerns and worries about the use of illegal abortions led to the 1967 Abortion Act, which legalised abortion if certain conditions were met: the child was going to have serious disabilities, the mother was at risk of serious physical or mentla harm, agreed by two doctors.

In 1968, the legal limit for abortion was 28 weeks, as babies born earlier did not survive outside the womb.However, with medical advancements, the age was lowered over time. Some people still believe that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. 

4 of 8


Driving a horse in a coach while drunks first became illegal in 1872. It became illegal to drive a car while drunk in 1925. In 1967, a new law set a maximum limit for the amount of alcohol a person could have in their bloodstream and legally drive. Despite these laws, it was considered normal to drive home after drinking quite large quantities of alcohol, as late as the 1970s. Public attitudes towards this type of behaviour were very lenient. Goverment advertising campaigns since the 1970s have highlighted the risks of drink driving and attitudes have changed considerably as awareness has grown. Today drink-driving is generally condemned by the public.

Attitutdes towards speeding have also changed over time. Again, government advertising campaigns in the late 20th century have highlighted the dangers of speeding which played in a part in making speeding less acceptable by the general public.

5 of 8


Many drugs first became illegal in 1971 when the Misuse of Drugs Act was passed. The legalisation of some classes of drugs is a controversial issue in society. Some people argue that taking drugs should be a personal choice as long as it does not harm others. Others argue that making it illegal is needed to help tackle crimes associated with illegal drug-dealing, including sex trafficking and gang-related violence.

6 of 8


Terrorism is the use of violence, fear and intimidation to publicise a political cause. Terrorists want to recruit those who are sympathetic to their cause and intimidate those who do not share their views. In the 17th century, Guy Fawkes and other Gunpowder plotters challenged the power and authority of the state using violence. A plot to blow up parliament with explosives today would be described as terrorism.

Throughout the 20th century, various terrorist organisation have operated in the UK. In the 1970s and 80s, the most infamous group was the IRA which used violence to campaign for Irish nationalism. In recent years, the prevention of terrorism has been focused on Al-Qaeda an ISIS which have been responsible for acts of terrorism in Europe. Modern-day terrorists use the internet to communicate their messages. 

7 of 8


Any crime that is carried out using the internet and other digital technologies. Many of these crimes were previously carried out using different means. New technologies allow criminals to commit crimes on a much bigger scale, sometimes on a global scale as the internets give them access to people and businesses around the world.

FRAUD - impersonating other people or businesses to make money illegally, for example pretending to be a bank in order to steal someone's bank details and money. This would have been done by approaching an individual and tricking them into revealing their deails in the past. Today, however, it can be done by sending an email to a large number of people and hoping that some will respond.

COPYRIGHT THEFT - copyright is the right of an artist or company to be recognised and paid as the creator of their work. This applies to books, games and music etc. In the past, this would have involved making a photocopy or a cassette video recording without paying the creator. Today, it involves people illegally downloading music, films, games and shows.

EXORTION - making someone pay money by making threats or using blackmail. This may have been done through letters, the telephone or in person . Nowadays, this can be done via the internet on a much wider scale as they can communicate with people worldwide.

8 of 8


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all Crime and punishment through time (OCR History A) resources »