Criminal law or Penal law is the body of law that relates to crime. It regulates social conduct and proscribes whatever is threatening, harmful, or otherwise endangering to the property, health, safety, and moral welfare of people. It includes the punishment of people who violate these laws. Criminal law varies according to jurisdiction, and differs from civil law, where emphasis is more on dispute resolution and victim compensation than on punishment.
The first civilizations generally did not distinguish between civil law and criminal law. The first written codes of law were designed by the Sumerians. Around 2100–2050 BC Ur-Nammu, the Neo-Sumerian king of Ur, enacted the oldest written legal code whose text has been discovered: the Code of Ur-Nammu although an earlier code of Urukagina of Lagash ( 2380–2360 BC ) is also known to have existed. Another important early code was the Code Hammurabi, which formed the core of Babylonian law. Only fragments of the early criminal laws of Ancient Greece have survived, e.g. those of Solon and Draco.
The Old Bailey in London (in 1808) was the venue for more than 100,000 criminal trials between 1674 and 1834, including all death penalty cases.
Objectives of criminal law
Criminal law is distinctive for the uniquely serious potential consequences or sanctions for failure to abide by its rules. Every crime is composed of criminal elements. Capital punishment may be imposed in some jurisdictions for the most serious crimes. Physical or corporal punishment may be imposed such as whipping or caning, although these punishments are prohibited in much of the world. Individuals may be incarcerated in prison or jail in a variety of conditions depending on the jurisdiction. Confinement may be solitary. Length of incarceration may vary from a day to life.
Five objectives are widely accepted for enforcement of the criminal law
Retribution : Criminals ought to Be Punished in some way. This is the most widely seen goal. Criminals have taken improper advantage, or inflicted unfair detriment, upon others and consequently, the criminal law will put criminals at some unpleasant disadvantage to "balance the scales." People submit to the law to receive the right not to be murdered and if people contravene these laws, they surrender the rights granted to them by the law. Thus, one who murders may be executed himself. A related theory includes the idea of "righting the balance."
Retribution : Individual deterrence is aimed toward the specific offender. The aim is to impose a sufficient penalty to discourage the offender from criminal behavior. Generaldeterrence aims at society at large. By imposing a penalty on those who commit offenses, other individuals are discouraged from committing those offenses
Incapacitation : Designed simply to keep criminals away from society so that the public is protected from their misconduct. This is often achieved through prison sentences today. The death penalty or banishment have served the same purpose.
Rehabilitation : Aims at transforming an offender into a valuable member of society. Its primary goal is to prevent further offense by convincing the offender that their conduct was wrong.
Restoration : This is a victim-oriented theory of punishment. The goal is to repair, through state authority, any injury inflicted upon the victim by the offender. For example, one who embezzles will be required to repay the amount improperly acquired. Restoration is commonly combined with other main goals of criminal justice and is closely related to concepts in the civil law, i.e., returning the victim to his or her original position before the injury.