Crime and Making Moral Decisions
- A crime is when the law is broken.
- Breaking rules or doing some ‘bad’ things may not be illegal (against the law). For example, breaking school uniform rules is not a crime.
- The Bible says ‘obey the authorities’.
- People may use their conscience to decide right from wrong. Some say our conscience is using our knowledge of right or wrong to make decisions. It could be due to nurture or psychological. Others say it may be God telling us what we should do.
- Our conscience might conflict with the Bible or the law. If we need to steal to feed a starving family or the law was racist, we may decide to break the law or religious rules.
- However, our conscience might be influenced by friends and loyalties. It might make mistakes.
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Types of Crime
- Crime against the person: this is where you hurt someone. Examples include violence (assault), murder or even slander (hurting someone because you gossip about them).
- Crime against property: this is where you steal someone’s private property (i.e. burglaries) or destroy someone’s property (i.e. vandalism).
- Crime against the state: this is where you hurt the government (state). This could be selling government secrets to another government, terrorism or even not paying your taxes in full.
- Religious offence: this is where you break religious rules. An example would be breaking the Ten Commandments. For example, ‘taking the Lord’s name in vain’, which is blasphemy. Someone might say ‘Oh my God’ without really talking about God. Some religious offenses are against the law, such as ‘Thou shall not murder’, but some are not, such as ‘thou shall not commit adultery’.
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Aims of Punishment
- Protection: where the punishment protects us from the criminal. Prison is an example of this.
- Retribution: where the punishment allows the victims to ‘get their own back’. An example is the death penalty – this could be seen as ‘an eye for an eye’.
- Deterrence: where the punishment puts others off committing the crime. In some Islamic countries, shari’ah law is followed strictly. A thief may have his (or her) hand cut off. This is done in public so everyone can see!
- Reparation: where the punishment gets the criminal to fix or pay back what they have done. Community service for vandalism is an example.
- Reformation: where the punishment reforms the criminal. It should make them into a better person.
- Vindication: where the punishment fits the crime and people feel they have justice. For example, you would give a tough sentence to a violent criminal, but not for a speeding ticket. The law needs to be respected and must be fair!
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- Some people think prisons are a good idea. Criminals should be locked up to keep us safe.
- Some people think prisons should be harsh places where you suffer the consequences of your actions (i.e. your ‘karma’ in Buddhism).
- Other people think prisons should not be too harsh. The Bible teaches people to ‘’love your neighbour’ and forgive. Similarly, Buddhists believe in metta – loving kindness.
- Elizabeth Fry was a Christian who wanted to reform prisons and make them better places. Places where offenders could reform.
- Some people say they are ‘schools of crime’ and make people worse.
- Some prisoners get parole; early release for good behaviour.
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- The UK has one of the highest youth offending rates in Europe.
- The age of criminal responsibility is 10 years old. This is when you can be tried in court as a criminal. Some believe it should be higher as you are not fully developed, others believe it should be lower as you know right from wrong.
- In Judaism the age of responsibility is 13 for a man and 12 for a girl.
- In the UK young offenders (under 15) can go to a secure training facility and those between 15 and 21 can go to a Young Offenders Institution. These are places of education and rehabilitation. Religious people like them as they can be seen as loving or creating good karma.
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Other Forms of Punishments
- ASBOs: Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (stops people going into areas and causing problems).
- Electronic tagging: a tag on your ankle; this informs police if you are not home on time etc.
- Fines: charges for breaking some laws.
- Probation: when you get a ‘suspended prison sentence’ and do not go to prison, but see a probation officer and stay out of trouble. A second chance. If you mess up, you go straight to jail!
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Capital Punishment (Death Sentence)
- Capital punishment is where a criminal is killed by the authorities (government/state) for their crime.
- The UK has abolished (no longer uses) the death penalty.
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Arguments for Capital Punishment
- It protects us as the criminal is no longer alive and cannot hurt us.
- It is deterrence and puts criminals off crime.
- It allows retribution – victims’ families can get their own back.
- Some Christians agree with it as the Bible says ‘an eye for an eye’, which suggests you can take a life for a life.
- Islam (shari’ah law) allows the death penalty for murder (and, in some countries, converting to other religions and even homosexuality). The Qur’an also uses the phrase ‘an eye for an eye’.
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Arguments against Capital Punishment
- The person might be found to be innocent later on.
- Two wrongs do not make a right.
- In the USA capital punishment does not reduce crime.
- It is inhumane. No form of capital punishment can be 100% painless.
- Some Christians say that the Ten Commandments say you cannot kill – “Thou shall not kill”.
- Christians believe you should “love your neighbour”.
- Islam allows the murder victims family to ask for ‘blood money’ instead of killing the criminal.
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- This is Islamic law. For Muslims, it is Allah’s (God’s) law.
- Some punishments include chopping off hands for theft.
- Flogging for adultery
- Flogging for gambling
- The death penalty for murder
- The Qur’an says “an eye for an eye” like the Bible.
- A murder victim’s family can ask for blood money.
- Not all Muslims like strict shari’ah law.
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Where an offender seeks forgiveness and makes up for their wrongs/sins.
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