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What is a criminal offence?


A criminal offence is an act or omission which contravenes the law. When a person commits a criminal offence, the state becomes responsible for punishing that person by establishing criminal liability and sentencing them. A criminal offence is punished through criminal litigation, but this does not exclude the act from also being a civil wrong, which can be litigated in the civil courts. What this means is that if a person is criminally prosecuted for assault, they could also be sued in the civil courts to achieve damages for the person assaulted.

A person will be prosecuted in the criminal court by the Crown Prosecution Service and they will be represented by a criminal defence solicitor. It is important to obtain legal advice from a criminal defence solicitor as soon as possible after an arrest.

The purpose of making an offence criminal is to preserve public order and decency and to protect other citizens. There are specific purposes to the punishment given in each case. Retribution is the most obvious reason for sentencing: it is the criminal’s punishment, just desserts for their actions. In effect it is society’s vengeance against the criminal’s actions.

A further purpose of sentencing is as a deterrent factor, showing other would-be criminals that society will not tolerate this behaviour. Rehabilitation is a newer form of reasoning for sentencing - that by training and teaching criminals, society can make them better. A key reason for incarceration following the committing of a criminal offence is to keep the criminal out of society so that they may not harm any further.

Our current penal system attempts to take a bit of every reason for sentencing a person and apply a little bit of everything in an attempt to punish, rehabilitate, deter and incapacitate.

If you would like to obtain legal advice on criminal offences, Contact Law can put you in touch with a local specialist criminal defence solicitor free of charge. So, if you have any questions or would like our help in finding local criminal defence solicitors please call us on 0800 046 1464 or complete the web-form above.

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