Meaning of Crime
Crime is a peculiar concept which is known all over the world and notorious in every legal system. Due to the vast nature of this concept, its definition is relative depending on what is obtainable in a given legal system.
Eminent learned writers on the common law have sought with varying results to postulate such a definition. For example, Blackstone defined crime as “an act committed or omitted in violation of the public rights and duties to the whole community considered as a community.”
Professor Kenny, an English scholar also defined crime to mean “a wrong whose sanction is punitive and is in no way remissible by any private person but is remissible by the crown alone if remissible at all.”
This concept was also defined by another scholar as “an act or omission that constitutes an offence that may be prosecuted by the state and is punishable by law. It is also an act or omission that violates a law which results in a punishment. It can be said to be an illegal act, omission or event, whether or not it is also a tort, a breach of contract or a breach of trust, the principal consequence of which is that the offender, if he is detected and it is decided to prosecute, is prosecuted by or in the name of the state, and if he is found guilty.
According to the Blacks Law Dictionary, crime is defined as social harm that the law makes punishable; the breach of a legal duty treated as the subject matter of a criminal
proceeding. By another author, it was defined as an act or omission prohibited by law that may be prosecuted by the state, if one is found guilty of violating the law, the individual may be formally punished. Crime can also be said to mean a wrong which affects the security or well being of the public generally so that the public has an interest in its suppression.
Some other author has also proffered the psychological and sociological meaning of this concept. In my opinion, crime can be said to be an act or omission which a law operational in a given society has proclaimed to be a crime and in which the punishment has be provided there in.
Under the Nigerian jurisprudence, crime is defined in its criminal code as an act or omission which renders the person doing the act or making the omission liable to punishment under the code, or under any act, or law.
Who is a Criminal In Crime
A criminal can be said to be a person charged with or convicted of a crime. According to the Longman dictionary, a criminal is someone who is involved in illegal activities or has been proved guilty of a crime.
In the commission of a crime, there are usually the principal offenders and the secondary offenders. The principal offenders are usually the ones whose act is the most immediate cause of the actus reus. It is the principal offender who makes the knife wound which causes the death of the victim in a crime of murder or who snatches the bag in a crime of theft.
Secondary parties are usually those who aid, abet, counsel or procure the commission of a crime. Every person who actually does the act or makes the omission which constitutes an offence, or any person who does or omit to do an act for the purpose of enabling or aiding another person to commit an offence, or any person who aids another person in committing the offence, or any person who counsels or procures any other person to commit the offence shall be deemed to have taken part in committing the offence and to be guilty of the offence, and may be charged with actually committing it.
Moreso, where two or more persons have a common intention to prosecute an unlawful purpose and further carries it out, each of them is deemed to have committed the offence. Where a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all, each of such people is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone. In the case of AGWUNA V. A.G OF THE FEDERATION, lguh, J.S.C., in interpreting section 7 of the criminal code stated thus:
“It is certainly not the law that only persons who manually write or sign a forged document that may be convicted for the forgery of the document. The law is settled that all persons who are participis criminis whether as principals in the first degrees or accessories before or after the fact to a crime are guilty of the offence and may be charged and convicted with the actual commission of the crime.
This does not mean that for the fact that one was at the scene of crime or exhibited some element of callousness at the scene of crime that such a person was a party to the crime. It was held in the case of MOHAMMED V. STATE that mere presence and callousness at the scene of a crime does not as a matter of law render the person so present or so callous guilty of a crime.
Offenders can also be classified based on their degree of participation in a crime and there are five degrees of this classification.