CRITICALLY EXAMINE THE IMPORTANCE OF PUNISHMENT IN CRIMINAL LAW AND EXPLAIN IN DETAIL ANY NAMED THEORY OF PUNISHMENT STUDIED
Punishment may be seen to have similar meaning with sentencing. This is because the sentence of the court conveys the punishment to be meted out to the offender or criminal who has been convicted. The word “punishment has been defined by different scholars and legal jurists. For instance “Black’s law dictionary defined punishment as follows:
Any fine penalty, or the law and the Judgement and sentence of a court, for some crime or offence committed by him, or for his omission of a duty enjoined by law. A deprivation of property or some right. But does not include a civil penalty redounding to the benefit of an individual such as a forfeiture of interest.
And according to the classical school, punishment is a contractual obligation that can be computed in relation to the degree of guilt and infact an ascertained bases of criminality. It is also postulates that there must be definitive approach to punishment for every crime insisting that every punishment must be proportionate to the crime committed.
While the neo-classical school based its formula on responsibility in favour of the convict. In other words, is the offender capable of knowing that he has committed an offence. Eg cases involving infants, accident and insanity were the justifying factors utilized.
Punishment was also seen to be the act of imposing a penalty by a court on a wrong done by a person or to make him undergo pain, loss or suffering for a crime or wrong doing.
Punishment may also be defined as the instrument with which the criminal law performs it’s function of checkmating crime.
H.L.A Hart is of the view that the definition of punishment should be divided into five parts in the following manner;
1. Unpleasant experiences
2. Inflicted for breach of legal rules
3. Upon actual or supposed offenders on the ground of the offence committed.
4. Intentionally administered by human beings and;
5. Constituted as authority within that legal system.
Punishment as an award for criminal offences has advantages that could be seen as follows;
1. It prevents further commission crime this is the view of the Utilitarian school. see the case of R.V. Adebesin where two men were convicted for the offence of armed robbery and burglary. Having thought that the sentences were excessive, they decided to appeal to the west African court of Appeal (WACA). The president judge having looked at the nature of offences committed increased the sentence of the two accused persons, from 10 years and 8 years imprisonment respectively to 15 years and 12 years. In the view of the court, the sentences were increased “for the protection of the public.
2. Punishment can serve as a means of educating the society about the need to abstain or refrain from crime. Where a community forbids the perpetuation or a particular kind of conduct and attaches punishment for the breach of it, apart from serving the purpose of deterrence, it will also educate others for the need to refrain from such act.
3. Punishment can serve a deterrence purpose of determining a particular accused from committing another crime again. This is relevant where certain types of crimes are on increase in a particular society, locality, community or place. It is also relevant as a check against professional criminals.
4. It promotes good governance; when some acts are prohibited and punishment stipulated for the breach of such acts, good governance could be achieved.
5. For maintainance of public order in the areas of morality and tranquility. That is why in Nigeria public nuisance, brothel keeping, adultery e.t.c are punishable.
6. preservation of life; when criminal offences like homicide, assault and physical violence abduction, kidnapping, wrongful restrain or false imprisonment hurt e.t.c.
Retribution as a theory of punishment
“It is something givenor demanded in payment in criminal law, it is punishment based on the theory which bears its name and based strictly on the effect that every crime demands payment in the form of punishment”
Stephen, j. maintains that retribution is a philosophy which tries to appease the public especially in cases where passion are aroused by the commission of crime. He observed as follows:
“I am of the opinion that this close alliance between criminal law and the moral sentiment is in all ways healthy and advantageous to the c community. I think, it’s highly desirable that criminals should be hated; the punishment inflicted should be so contrived as to give expression to the hatred and to justify it so that as the provision of means for expressing and gratifying a healthy and natural sentiment can justify and encourage it “
salmond on his part had this to say:
Retributive punishment, in the only sense in which it is admissible in any rational system of administering justice, is that which serves for the satisfaction of that emotion of retributive indignation which in all healthy communities is stirred up by injustice. It gratifies the instinct of revenge or retaliation, which exists not merely in the individual wronged, but also by way of sympathetic extension in the society at large.
The position expressed by salmond finds support by the supreme court of Nigeria in the case of UZOLOKE V. STATE. Where the appellant met a little on the road, took her to the bush, poured acid on her and cut off her left ear and leaving the girl unconscious in the bush and ran away. This can also be seen in the case of R. V. BLAKE, The accused had pleaded guilty to five offences having breached the rules under the official secret act and was sentenced to fourteen years imprisonment on each count. The court further ordered that the sentence should run consecutively giving a total of 42 years.
And finally on this point, F.H. BRADLEY. Is of the view that punishment must be meted where it is deserved. He said:
If there is any opinion to which demand of uncultivated morals is attached, it is belief in the necessary connection of punishment and guilt. Punishment is punishment only where it is deserved. We pay the penalty because we owe it to and for no other reason; and if imprisonment is inflicted for any other reason whatever than because it is merited by wrong, it is a gross immorality, a crying injustice, and abominable crime are not what it pretend to be.