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The Oxford Handbook of Criminology

The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (7th edn)

Alison Liebling, Shadd Maruna, and Lesley McAra
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date: 13 April 2024

p. 532. Criminalization: Historical, legal, and criminological perspectiveslocked

p. 532. Criminalization: Historical, legal, and criminological perspectiveslocked

  • Nicola Lacey
  •  and Lucia Zedner


This chapter examines the relationship between legal and criminological constructions of crime and explores how these have changed over time. The chapter sets out the conceptual framework of criminalization within which the two dominant constructions of crime—legal and criminological—are situated. It considers their respective contributions and the close relationship between criminal law and criminal justice. Using the framework of criminalization, the chapter considers the historical contingency of crime by examining its development over the past 300 years. It analyses the normative building blocks of contemporary criminal law to explain how crime is constructed in England and Wales today and it explores some of the most important recent developments in formal criminalization in England and Wales, not least the shifting boundaries and striking expansion of criminal liability. Finally, it considers the valuable contributions made by criminology to understanding the scope of, and limits on, criminalization.

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