When speaking of the fundamental principles of the criminal law, it is important to take into consideration the definition of crime, and what distinguishes it from the civil law. When defining crime you must take into consideration various elements for example a criminal conduct can be a wrong doing against the public at large, alternately it can also be a criminal action against an individual. For an action to be deemed criminal it must fall under the definition of criminalisation, there are three separate categories which must be proven to show that an act is seen as criminal conduct.
The first stage is the parliament of the state in question determines what conduct is criminal, this is seen as the most integral part of the process, as quoted in the fifth edition of (Jane Dine and James Gobert criminal law cases and material)” This is the most important stage of the process for there will be no criminal charge, no prosecution, and no punishment if the conduct has not been made criminal. ” The second stage of this process works on the concept of grading which helps make sure that the offences and the subsequent punishment reflects the seriousness of the crime committed.
For example murder and rape are deemed more serious then criminal damage therefore a greater punishment would be imposed for their commission. The final step in this process relates to any relevant legalisation which the courts will apply if needs be. When defining crime from legal prospective it is important to ask what a crime is, in general a sense this may be quite easy to understand, but as the nature of the question becomes more formal it may not be as easy to define. There is no statutory basis which defines crime, this come through the common law and case law.
The seminal case on this matter in the Irish jurisdiction is Melling v O Mathghamhna, in this case the defendant was accused of smuggling butter, the sanction imposed was either a fine or three times the price of the goods, and the court had to decide if this amounted to a criminal charge. The Supreme Court held that this conduct did amount to criminal behaviour Kingsmill Moore J held that a criminal charge could be identified by the following three elements. I. Its nature as an offence against the public at large. II. The punitive nature of the sanction. III. The requirement of mens rea.