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Molly Mole Criminologist - The Mental Element

Updated on July 27, 2017

Molly Mole couldn’t believe her luck. She had just graduated as a criminologist after three long years of diligent studies and within a couple of months after the completion of her degree she’d managed to land herself a job at Hicksville Community College as a part-time lecturer. Peter Badger, the principle, had promised her a full time position in the Sociology Department if she could put the college on equal footing with the rest of the colleges in the county.

Thus far despite having been in operation for almost a hundred years Hicksville Community College had not produced a criminologist of any note. Molly however was ready to change all of that and hoped to push the college up the ranking. It was currently sitting at the bottom of the ladder and Molly had made up her mind to push it up at least a notch or two. She felt that it was the only way she could thank Principle Badger for his faith in her.

Today was her first class and she got on her bicycle, just before 8 in the morning, to make her way to college. She was in no hurry because she’d managed to get an early start. As she pedaled her way through the barrage of bicycles that were in front of her, at a leisurely pace, she began to mentally run through her first lesson. She decided she would start by helping her students dissect a crime.

There are two elements to any crime, thought and action i.e. the mental element and the physical element. She decided to start with the mental element.

There are two tests to establish the mental element the subjective test, which is more often than not used to establish criminal liability and the objective test which is more often than not used to establish civil liability. Molly however had to admit that the lines between the subjective test and the objective test have become blurred in recent times.

The subjective test takes into account the peculiarities of the accused and looks into his or her frame of mind while the objective test takes into account the view of the general public. These tests however are only a guide and there is no hard or fast rule as to establishing criminal or civil liability and each and every case has to be decided on its facts.

The severity that is attached to a crime may differ from county to county and therefore a snatch thief or a burglar may get away with slap on the wrist in fox county where the overall crime rate is extremely high while the same snatch thief or burglar may be imposed with a harsher sentence, probably a jail term in rabbit county, where the crime rate is almost nonexistent. It is safe to somewhat say that the objective test is at times subject to prevailing social and economic factors.

“That ought to explain things” she said to herself and she decided that she’d elaborate more on the mental element when she was dealing with proper criminal cases.

There was a possibility however that she might have a particularly astute student in her class who might decide to throw her a curve ball. What if one of her students decides to bring the rational choice theory into play? The rational choice theory is an economic principle that states that individuals always make prudent and rational decisions i.e. the decisions that give them the greatest benefit or satisfaction. Is the rational choice theory a subjective or an objective test?

The rational choice theory per se is a subjective test because it looks into the level of benefit or satisfaction that is derived from the act and that level of benefit or satisfaction differs from individual to individual. It addition to that it also implies a choice i.e. in any given situation an individual has a choice as to whether to commit an act or otherwise. Likewise there is no law that compels a person to commit a crime. He or she can walk away from it at anytime and in most cases people are forgiving.

There may be other mitigation factors that compels a person to commit a crime for example duress, diminished responsibly, impulse control disorders or cases where the offender is not able to appreciate the nature or the result of his or her actions. These factors normally come into play during sentencing.

© 2017 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward

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