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Crime and punishment

Against the law

If you do something illegal (= wrong / against the law), or break the law, then you commit a crime. Most people commit a crime at some time in their lives, e.g. driving above the speed limit, parking illegally, stealing from a shop when they were children, etc.

A person who commits a crime is called an offender or a criminal.

Crimes

There are different types of crimes:

  • crimes against a person (murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, rape, blackmail, etc);

  • crimes against property (robbery, shoplifting, hijacking, pick pocketing, arson, burglary, mugging, fraud, etc);

  • crimes against the state and the administration of justice (treason, bribery, perjury, counterfeiting, smuggling, etc);

  • crimes against public order (rioting, hooliganism, vandalism, drunk and disorderly conduct, speeding, etc);

  • crimes against decency (bigamy, prostitution, sexual harassment, etc) and so on.

According to their seriousness crimes can be classified as felonies (crimes of a serious nature) and minor offences or misdemeanors (crimes of a less serious nature, punished by a fine or imprisonment for less than one year).

Let the punishment fit the crime

Punishment is a way in which the state punishes offenders, which means it makes them suffer for the wrong they have done. Punishment is provided by law and imposed by the court.

Different crimes are punished in different ways, so the convict may get:

  • (fixed) penalty fine;

  • community service;

  • disciplinary training in a detention centre;

  • short-term imprisonment;

  • long-term imprisonment;

  • life imprisonment;

  • death penalty (capital punishment).

A court may impose and then suspend punishment (i.e. the criminal gets suspended sentence), subject to the good behaviour of the guilty, who may be placed on probation for a certain period of time. It is a type of punishment that allows the convict to avoid imprisonment and to stay at liberty under the supervision of a probation officer.

Sometimes a convict serving in prison may be released early on parole because of good behaviour and evidence of rehabilitation.

Pardon, by the governor or president, releases the convict from the entire punishment.

Penalties – England

In England there are no minimum sentences, except for murder, which carries a penalty of life imprisonment. There are maximum sentences for other crimes. Crimes are first heard by a magistrate who can either pass sentence, or refer the crime to a Crown Court with a judge and jury. In the chart below there are maximum sentences for some crimes.

Sentences can be reduced for good behaviour, often by one-third or more. “Life” sentences are rarely more than 14 years, and it would be possible to release prisoners after 7 years.

Crime

Magistrates Court

Crown Court

Fine

Prison

Fine

Prison

unlimited

unlimited

unlimited

unlimited

unlimited

14 years

5 years

5 years

5 years

3 years

life imprisonment

Task 1. Complete the table. Use a dictionary to help you.

Person

Verb

Crime

murderer

thief

……….

robber

……….

……….

terrorist

……….

……….

hijacker

……….

……….

vandal

……….

……….

to kill, to murder

to steal

……….

……….

to shoplift

……….

……….

to kidnap

……….

……….

to sell drugs

……….

……….

to smuggle

……….

murder

theft

burglary

……….

……….

pick-pocketing

……….

……….

hooliganism

……….

……….

blackmail

……….

……….

forgery

Task 2. Read the following texts and determine the crime they describe.

  1. Last night in Windsor a burglar broke into a house and stole a mobile phone. Later he rang the owner offering to sell it half-price for two hundred pounds…

  1. Yesterday morning at Burnham a robber tied up a bank manager and tool thousands of pounds. The bank manager dialed nine, nine, nine with his tongue and called the police. The police later arrested the robber.

  1. A thief walked into an electrical shop in Hitchin and loaded a washing machine into his car. He calmly drove away. The man has been sent to prison for six months.

Task 3. Organize these words into three groups: crimes, people, places.

Murder, thief, prison, judge, robbery, burglar, cell, criminal, court, shoplifting, blackmail, lawyer, prisoner, kidnapping, convict, police station.

Task 4. Study the chart in the section “Penalties in England”. How do you think these compare with sentences in your country? Remember they are maximum, not average!

Task 5. Respond to the statement or question confirming the crime in each one.

1) – He broke into the house, didn’t he?

– Yes, later he was charged with ………. .

2) – Did he kill his wife?

– Yes, and he was charged with ………. .

3) – She stole clothes and jewelry from that department store, didn’t she?

– Yes, she was charged with ………. .

4) – The man on the motorbike didn’t mean to kill the boy.

– No, but he was charged with ………. .

5) – Did he take the money from her bag?

– Yes, but they caught him and he was charged with ………. .

6) – I didn’t know he had been selling drugs to our students.

– Unfortunately he had, and then he was charged with ………. .

7) – How do you know that she threatened the Minister to tell his wife about their affair?

– The story was in the newspapers. She was charged with ………. .

Task 6. Complete these sentences with the correct form of the words in the box.

prison arrest steal commit thief

Police Constable Roberts heard the sound of footsteps. He went quietly into the house. Roberts hoped to __________ the burglar at the time he __________ the crime. As Roberts got to the stairs, he jumped on the man. Roberts was horrified to see that the man was the judge who last week sent a __________ to __________ for six months because he __________ a box of chocolates.

Could you imagine the end of the story? Write down your version.

Task 7. Choose the best alternative to fill in the gaps in the following sentences.

1. She was _______ by a man who threatened to tell the employer about her past (murdered / blackmailed).

2. Department stores lose millions from _______ (pick pocketing / shoplifting).

3. He _______ his father’s signature on $20,000 worth of cheque (forged / smuggled).

4. When you travel by public transport, always keep your bag carefully closed in case of _______ (hijackers / pickpockets).

5. The judge gave him a suspended _______ (sentence / fine).

6. The judge agreed to _______ him on bail (release / send).

7. It took the _______ 24 hours to give the verdict (convict / jury).

8. _______ exists in some parts of the USA (capital punishment / capital imprisonment).

9. Yesterday the police _______ a woman in connection with last Tuesday’s robbery (arrested / punished).

Task 8. Translate the text into English using the new vocabulary.

82-летний мужчина выстрелил в грабителя, пытавшегося проникнуть в его домик на садовом участке (allotment shed). Хозяин, Ted Newbery, ночевал во «времянке», чтобы не дать вандалам уничтожить его садовый участок. Он выстрелил через дыру в двери, когда услышал снаружи голоса: «Если старик там, мы прикончим его». Он был ужасно напуган и выстрелил из ружья в целях самозащиты. 28-летний Mark Revill был ранен в грудь и руку, когда он в компании еще одного мужчины пытался проникнуть во «времянку». Они пришли воровать, зная, что в садовом домике у пенсионера были телевизор и стиральная машина. В результате преступник потерял два пальца и частично утратил способность действовать одной рукой.

PART 2

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