Crime: Trends and Jurisdiction
Generally speaking, a crime is an unlawful act which is punishable by a state or other authority under the prevailing laws. There has been an increase in the number of criminal activities reported across the world over the years. Many crime records are not reported to the police and thus are not quantified. Studies have also established a positive correlation between crime and economic crisis in countries. There are different types of crimes with varying degree of seriousness and impact. Each country and region have different legislation to tackle those crimes. The current article provides an insight into the different major types of crimes and global legislation in addressing them.
The rule of law in each country requires measures to adherence to principles such as equality before the law, accountability to the law and fairness in application of the laws. Only a strong and robust criminal justice system can ensure application of these principles. A weak criminal justice system only leads to increase in criminal activities, corrupt practices hampers social and economic development and derails political stability. An effective and fair criminal justice system is based on the principle of upholding human rights in administering justice and prevention and control of crime.
On a broader level, homicide is understood as the intentional killing of one person by another. It is one of the most heinous and violent crimes. Measuring homicide in a country is a strong indicator of the prevalent violence. Intentional homicide led to deaths of 437,000 people in the year 2012. More than one-third of these homicides took place in the Americas (36%), followed by Africa (31%), and Asia (28%). Europe (5%), and Oceania (0.3%) had the lowest rates of homicides. The global average homicide rate was 6.2 per 100,000 population in 2013. However, countries in Central Americas and Southern Africa have rates which are over four times of the global average. According to the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), 2013, nearly 750 million of the world’s population lived in countries with high homicide rates (rates above 20%). Nearly half of the world’s homicides in 2012, occurred in countries which constitute only 11% of the total global population.
Gender is also an important filter for understanding global homicide. Women are considered to be more at risk of homicide than men. Females are also at risk of homicide being perpetrated by intimate partners and close family members. About 47% of all the female victims of homicide in 2012 were killed either by their intimate partners or close family. Youth aged 15-29 and 30-44 constitute the vast majority of global homicides. They are generally the earning members of households and this can lead to destabilizing of the household and overall economy. The use of firearms is a major driver for homicide with nearly 41% of total homicides being accounted for by the use of firearms. This number is particularly high at 66% for Americas.
Response and Justice for Homicides
Homicides are first reported to the police after which they are investigated. The global homicide clearance rate stands at 60%, which means that the perpetrators in a large portion of the cases are not brought to justice. It is observed that countries with lower homicide rates have higher clearance rates. Americas has one of the lowest conviction rates in the world (24%). Asia and Europe with 48% and 81% conviction rates respectively fare much better. Conviction rates are a direct indicator of the health of justice system in a country. A justice system which has low conviction rates means that the impunity for homicides is high which will only encourage the perpetrators to engage in such crimes.
Assault means physical attack against the body of another person which can result in serious bodily injury. It can include battery but exclude indecent/sexual attacks, threats, slapping/punching, etc. There is a distinction between simple and major assault in different countries. In Canada, simple assault is considered the least serious form of assault and consists of pushing, slapping, punching, and verbal threats. Major assault there includes wounding, maiming, disfiguring, or endangering the life of someone. The US has the highest assault rates in the world. In the year 2016, 803,000 cases of assaults were reported in the US which comprise an overwhelming 38.43% of the total assault cases reported globally. The top 5 countries with highest assault rates (US, France, Colombia, Argentina, and Germany) accounted for 72.19% of the total reported assault crimes (2.09 million reported cases) in the year 2016.
There are wide fluctuations and differences between the reported assaults in different regions of the world. West, Central, and Southern Africa depict the highest rate of reported major assaults- nearly 50% of all the assaults in the region. On the other hand, majority of the assaults reported in the Oceania region-90%- are simple assault cases. Globally, the number of total assault cases have increased steadily from 1996 to 2006. The major assaults have increased during the period 1996-2001 and has slightly decreased during 2001-2006.
Penal Action for Assault in Different Countries
The actual definition of what comprises of simple and major/aggravated assault differs from country to country. In Canada, the punishment for assault depends on the type of assault committed and the manner in which the charge proceeds through the court. The police can arrest a person for assault even without a warrant if it is in the public’s best interest to do so. The English law applicable to England and Wales provide for two types of assault- common assault and battery. According to the law in England and Wales, a common assault lacks any aggravating features as identified by the parliament and is not serious enough to deem higher and stricter punishment. Common assault cases are generally tried in the magistrate’s court and only if they are linked to more serious offenses, are they to be tried in the Crown court. The United States assault is subdivided into subcategories- simple assault and aggravated assault. Each state has different state-specific laws to deal with the punishments pertaining to assault cases.
Rape is defined as the act of sexual intercourse without valid consent. It is one of the most violent and derogatory crimes globally. In terms of the number of reported rape cases, the United States of America is the top country in the world with highest cases recorded. As per the data of 2015, 124,047 cases of rape were reported in the US which accounted for 52.93% of the total reported rape cases (234,354) globally. Based on the number of reported rape cases, the top 5 countries (USA, Mexico, Colombia, France, and Peru) account for nearly three-fourths (74.90%) of the total rape cases. It is important to note that the total number of reported cases of rape is still relatively small as a small proportion of the total cases only get reported due to the sensitive nature of the crime.
Rape rate, which is defined as the number of recorded rapes per 100,000 of population is a better indicator to assess a country’s status on rape. Based on the data in 2015, Sweden had the highest rape rate at 56.7 cases per 100,000 population. Iceland was second on this list with a rape rate of 54, followed by Guyana at 41.9. The US and El Salvador completed the top 5 countries with rape rates of 38.6 and 36.7 respectively.
Judicial System and Punishment for Rape
Generally, male is the perpetrator and female are the victim in rape crimes. However, there are few countries whose penal code define rape as a gender-neutral crime. The judicial treatment and penal action against rape is complex due to the sensitive nature of crime. There is no single uniform federal rape law in the US. The laws are state-specific and the exact word “rape” is not used in them, instead offenses like sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual abuse, etc. The states have varied sex offenses which deal with different situations. Russia has penal laws which punish the perpetrators for up to 20 years in prison depending upon the nature of crime committed. France follows punishments up to life imprisonment for rape. There are some countries like Iran, where the penal action for rape is death sentence by hanging in public squares or prisons.
Interpretation of marital rape as a crime varies between countries. It is considered a criminal offense in some countries while it is decriminalized in other countries. Many countries criminalize marital rape only if the husband and wife are separated and not living together. In some countries like Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Philippines, Tajikistan, and Tunisia, the perpetrators of rape and sexual offenses can escape punishment if they marry the victim.
Robbery as a crime involves threat of violence or actual use of violence. It is defined as theft from an individual by overpowering them and overcoming resistance by force or threat of force. Robbery generally includes mugging, bag snatchings, and theft with violence but excludes pickpocketing and extortions. On the basis of number of reported cases, Argentina was the top country for robbery crimes in 2016. The country reported 433,477 cases of robbery in 2016, accounting for 23.02% of the total global robbery cases reported (1.88 million). United States of America was next on the list of reported robberies with 332,200 reported cases in 2016. The top 5 countries (Argentina, USA, Mexico, Colombia, and Chile) accounted for 63.08% of the total reported robbery cases in the world.
Argentina tops the robbery rate (reported robberies per 100,000 population) also based on 2016 data. It had a robbery rate of 988.90 per 100,000 population followed by Chile with 647.20. Uruguay and Ecuador are next on the list with robbery rates of 547.70 and 502.80 respectively. Paraguay rounded off the top 5 countries with robbery rate of 331.30. The trend for robberies reflects a steady growth over a 10-year period of 1996-2006.
Penal Action for Robbery
In the US, robbery is treated as an aggravated form of common law larceny. Robbery punishments in the US differ from state to state. In the state of California, the maximum sentence for robbery is 9 years. Robbery leads to custodial sentence in the UK. The maximum sentence for robbery is life imprisonment in the UK. Robbery is an indicted crime in Canada and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. If the perpetrator uses prohibited or restricted firearms for robbery then the minimum sentence is 5 years for the first offense and 7 years for subsequent offenses.
Burglary is defined as gaining unauthorized access to a part of a building/premises, including by use of force, with the intent of stealing goods. It includes theft from factories, shop or offices, military establishments, and theft by using false keys. Burglary does not include theft from a car, vending machine, parking meter, container, and fenced meadows/compounds. The US reported the highest number of burglaries-1,515,096 during the year 2016, accounting for nearly one-third (33.44%) of the total reported cases of burglaries in the world- 4.53 million. The top 5 countries in terms of reported cases of burglaries (USA, Germany, France, Russia, and Chile) account for 61.42% of the total global cases of burglaries.
On the basis of burglary rates, Chile tops the list with the highest burglary rate of 1139.90 per 100,000 population in 2016, followed by Denmark with 1053.10. Austria was placed third on the list with burglary rate of 925.40, followed by Sweden (905.50) and Australia (782.60) completing the top 5 countries based on burglary rates. Data suggests that burglary incidents and rates have been declining during the period 1996-2006. However, during the same period, burglary trend has shown an increase in countries like Belarus, Croatia, Cyprus, Mauritius, and Slovenia.
Penal Action for Burglary/Housebreaking
In the US, burglary is prosecuted as felony and misdemeanor. Each state has its own penal code and action on burglary cases. In Florida, depending upon the circumstances of the crime, burglary can be classified as third, second, or first-degree felonies with sentences of 5 years, 15, years, and life imprisonment respectively. In Massachusetts, burglary is a felony crime punishable for up to 20 years, but it can extend to life imprisonment if the accused uses dangerous weapons. Finland does not have laws for burglary as a crime. If the accused commits theft during burglary, they can be sentenced for a maximum of 4 years. Burglary is not an offense in Sweden. If someone breaks into a premise unlawfully, then it is considered unlawful intrusion or breach of domiciliary peace. These crimes attract mostly fines as punishment but can lead to maximum of 2 years sentence. In case the accused is involved in theft then they can be sentenced to a maximum of 6 years of prison sentence in case of gross theft.
Motor Vehicle Theft
Motor vehicle theft is referred to as removal of a motor vehicle without the consent of the owner of the vehicle. Vehicles can be stolen for joyriding, selling, or for being used for committing other crimes. Motor vehicle thefts have a high rate of being reported to the police, primarily because of their high value. The US reported the highest number of motor vehicle thefts in 2015 with 707,758 reported cases. This accounted for 38.51% of the total motor vehicle theft cases reported in the year (1.84 million). The other countries after the US to feature in the top 5 countries for reported cases of motor vehicle theft are France, Italy, Mexico, and Canada accounting for a total of 69.46% of total motor vehicle theft reported cases.
Uruguay tops the list of countries with the highest motor vehicle theft rates with a rate of 476.50 per 100,000 population. Italy is second on the list with motor vehicle theft rate of 277 and is closely followed by Italy with a rate of 261.90. Sweden and Greece are placed fourth and fifth on the list of countries with highest motor vehicle theft crimes and have motor vehicle theft rates of 258.80 and 242.10 per 100,000 population respectively.
Penal Action for Motor Vehicle Theft
Canada has provision for sentencing the accused for up to 10 years for motor vehicle theft for an indictable offense. An accused can be sentenced for a maximum of 1 year or a fine not exceeding AED 10,000 in the UAE. The US has state-specific laws for motor vehicle theft cases. The punishment for motor vehicle theft can vary based on the charges imposed. If a convict has committed Class E felony, it attracts sentences of up to 4 years in prison. Convicts involved in carjacking which is a Class C felony can face up to 15 years in prison.
Kidnapping is broadly defined as unlawfully detaining a person against their will which includes use of force, threat, fraud, or enticement for the purpose of demanding for their liberation an illicit gain or other material benefit; in order to oblige someone to do or not do something. Turkey reported the highest number of reported cases of kidnapping (26,766) in 2016 which accounted for 35.35% of the total global reported cases (75,711). Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Germany, and France were the top 5 countries for kidnapping cases and accounted for 84.34% of total reported cases globally. Lebanon had the highest kidnapping rate in 2016, at 177.10 per 100,000 population. Turkey was a distant second with kidnapping rate of 33.70, followed by Canada with 10.30. Pakistan was placed fourth on the kidnapping rate list with a rate of 9.30.
Penal Action Against Kidnapping
Kidnapping is a criminal offense in Australia as defined either by the State Crimes Act or the Commonwealth Criminal Code. The accused can be punished to a maximum of 14 years in prison for kidnapping in Australia. In Canada, if the kidnapping does not lead to homicide, then the convict can face a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. If a murder results due to kidnapping, then the crime is classified as first-degree with a sentence of life imprisonment. In Netherlands convict can face a maximum of up to 12 years in prison for kidnapping. People who corroborate the act of kidnapping are also convicted. In the UK, kidnapping is a punishable offense with punishment in the form of imprisonment or fine which is at the discretion of the court. There is no limit on the term of imprisonment or the fine that may be imposed, provided the sentence is not inordinate.
It is estimated that nearly 275 million people worldwide, which is about 5.6% of the total population aged 15-64 years, used drugs at least once a year in 2016. Nearly 450,000 people died in 2015 due to drug use in 2015. Drugs related crimes can be further subdivided into three categories- drug-related crimes, drug possession or use, drug trafficking.
Among the countries for which data is available in 2006, Scotland had the highest rates of drug-related crimes with a rate of 868 per 100,000 population. Sweden was second on the list with drug-related crime rate of 734. Norway had a drug-related crime rate of 622 and was followed by Barbados and Iceland which reported rates of 580 and 574 per 100,000 population respectively. The median rate of drug-related crime for all the countries was 45 per 100,000 population in the year 2006. The drug trafficking rates were the highest in Switzerland at 628 per 100,000 population. New Zealand had the second-highest drug trafficking rate of 92, followed by Scotland (92), Moldova (84), and Slovenia (79). The median drug trafficking rate for all the countries during the same year (2006) was 20.
Penal Action for Drug Crimes
Most countries take a dim view of drug-related crimes and drug trafficking and hence have tough laws for punishing such offenses. South-East Asian countries have some of the toughest laws for drug-related crimes and drug trafficking. The punishment can be death penalty in countries like Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. In the UAE, even tiny amount of drug possession can lead to imprisonment up to 4 years and the maximum punishment for drug trafficking being death sentence.
Bribery and Corruption
Bribery and corruption refer to requesting and/or accepting material or personal benefits or the promise thereof, in connection with performance of a public function for an action that may not be a violation of law and/or promising as well as giving material of personal benefits to a public officer in exchange of a requested favor. Corruption is again classified into active corruption and passive corruption. Active corruption refers to a situation where a citizen or organization seeks favor from a public official by promising or offering gifts, money, or any other favors.
Passive corruption is a case where a public official who is in a position to provide advantages or favors to individuals or organizations and requests them for money, gifts, or other favors. In the year 2006, the median rate of bribery and corruption was 1.3 per 100,000 population for the countries for which data was available. Majority of the countries had rates below 1 per 100,000 population, while only 6 countries-Belarus (34.80), Romania (38.80), Poland (17.10), Serbia (18.40), Singapore (14.90), Tajikistan (14.60), had rates above 10 per 100,000 population.
Penal Actions Against Bribery and Corruption
France takes a strong stance on bribery and corruption and any official or individual face penalties up to 10 years in prison and/or fine up to 1 million euros. The fine can also be set at twice the proceeds of the offense. Companies involved in bribery and corruption can face fines up to 5 million euros and can be prohibited from business for up to 5 years. German laws punish the convict individuals for imprisonment for maximum of 10 years. Companies cannot be held criminally liable under German laws.
However, if its representatives commit corruption and bribery, the company can be charged fines of up to 10 million euros. In the UK, individuals committing this type of crime can be imprisoned for up to 10 years and be subjected to an unlimited fine. Companies can be penalized with unlimited fine and debarment from competing for public contracts. The US penalizes bribery and corruption by 15 year’s imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 ($500,000 for companies) or up to 3 times the value of bribe, whichever is greater. The officials accepting bribe and indulging in corruption will be debarred from holding any federal office.
Crimes related to counterfeiting currency not only leads to losses for consumers but also impacts national economies considerably. Based on the available data, the median rate of counterfeit currency was 3.50 per 100,000 population in 2006. Canada had the highest rate of counterfeit currency with a rate of 366.50 per 100,000 population which was much higher than the median rate. It was followed by Austria with 119.70 and Slovenia at 91.10. Portugal (67.90) and Monaco (55.20) were placed at 4th and 5th positions respectively in terms of counterfeited currency. However, the trend for counterfeited currency has been steadily declining over the years. This can be partly attributed to enhanced security features which make replicating the currency notes more difficult for the counterfeiters.
Penal Action for Creating Counterfeit Currency
In the US, the maximum sentence for creating counterfeit currency is 20 years with the fine or in lieu of imprisonment while it is 10 years with the fine or in lieu of imprisonment in the UK. China takes a more tough stance on the crime with maximum punishment of life imprisonment. The minimum punishment in China is 3 years with fines of up to 500,000 Yuan. South Korea and Hong Kong also have provisions for life imprisonment as the maximum punishment for counterfeit currency. Creating counterfeit currency in France can attract a maximum penalty of 30 years imprisonment with fine of 450,000 euros. Canadian laws punish counterfeiting with maximum sentence of 14 years of imprisonment.
Smuggling of Migrants
According to the data collected by UNODC, 2.5 million migrants were smuggled in the year 2016, which generated an income of nearly $5.5-7 billion for the smugglers. These are still the minimum figures as it represents only the known portion of this crime. The smugglers charge a decent amount from the migrants for shipping them into different countries. Conservative estimates put the fees which migrants have to pay at nearly $13,000 to smugglers to travel from Bangladesh to France and more than $16,000 to travel from Sri Lanka to Canada. The smuggling charges depend on different factors like risk of detection, distance, geography and weather conditions, number of border crossings, use of false or fraudulently obtained documents, and migrant’s perceived wealth. The data availability for smuggling of migrants is scarce as many countries find it difficult to collect and document such data.
Smuggling of migrants also involves high number of fatalities. In 2017, nearly 7,494 fatalities were reported of which 58% occurred by drowning on sea routes. 19% deaths occurred due to harsh conditions or illness. The Mediterranean Sea route remains one of the most dangerous routes for fatalities. Out of 8,919 recorded deaths in 2016, 3,832 (46%) of the deaths occurred due to drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. The Central Mediterranean route accounted for 91% of recorded deaths in 2017, and 89% in 2016.
Penal Action for Smuggling of Migrants
The EU legislation includes two important legal documents- Council Directive 2002/90 and Framework Decision 2002/946/JHA. The Council Directive allows the EU member states to take appropriate action against migrant smugglers. The Framework Decision document focuses on strengthening the penal framework for preventing smuggling of migrants in the EU. The countries can decide to impose fines or consider imprisonment along with fines for the crime. The US considers migrant smuggling a criminal offense and the smugglers can be fined and sentenced to 10 years or imprisonment or both. If someone gets injured due to the crime, the punishment can be increased to 20 years of imprisonment or if someone dies it can result in life imprisonment.
With the proliferation of technology and internet, cybercrime has emerged as a new complex form of crime which is affecting countries and economies globally. Conservative estimates put the profitability of cybercrime in 2018 to be over $1.5 trillion. The annual revenues from illegal online markets and trade secret, IP theft is estimated to be $860 billion and $500 billion respectively. Individual hackers can earn about $30,000 for one or several job, but platform managers offering multiple card platforms can make as much as $2 million. Generally, individual earnings from cybercrime is 10-15% higher than traditional forms of crime. The US has the highest rate of cybercrime at 23%, followed by China (9%), and Germany (6%). Britain and Brazil have cybercrime rates of 5% and 4% respectively.
Penal Actions Against Cybercrime
72% of the countries in the world have a legislation against cybercrime while 18% have no legislation. 9% countries have draft legislation in place. Most developing countries though have ambiguous and weak legislation which further incentivize cybercrime. In the US, cybercriminals can get sentences of up to 15 years of imprisonment and fines for identity theft and 6-20 years of imprisonment for hacking and damaging computer properties. UAE penalizes criminals for up to 2 years imprisonment and fines of 250,000-500,000 AED for basic cybercrimes like stalking and harassment. The penalty can extend up to life imprisonment for cyber terrorism. Cybercrime like hacking, sabotaging data or creating viruses attract a minimum of 3 years imprisonment in China. CWP
By John Young