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Criminology (7th edn)

Stephen Jones
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date: 04 October 2023

p. 121. Crime: definitions and conflicting imageslocked

p. 121. Crime: definitions and conflicting imageslocked

  • Stephen JonesStephen JonesHonorary Senior Lecturer, School of Law, University of Bristol


This chapter describes the subject matter of criminology as self-evident. Both etymologically and in the largely unquestioning view of early positivists, criminology concerns the content and application of the criminal law of whatever society is under consideration. Such a definition has the advantage of precision: criminologists do not have to worry about the scope of their subject, as the legislature and, in some countries, the judiciary, has fixed it for them. Yet, such a definition is ultimately unsatisfactory for a number of reasons. Inevitably, there are differing views about what should amount to a criminal offence among individuals in the same society. This is where positivists usually draw the line and insist on confining themselves to the legal definitions, although even they must concede that this divergence indicates that the content of the criminal law is not set in stone.

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