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The Department is involved in research and teaching in the field of Criminology, including Forensic Sciences, Forensic Medicine, related Social Policy issues and similar areas of study. It also acts as a resource centre for the provision of experts and expertise in the various fields of its activity to the Courts of Justice.  Furthermore, it acts as an advisory body to the Government on matters pertaining to criminal justice.

Besides carrying out a series of courses, the Department is also involved in a number of EU-funded research projects. In addition, the Department provides consultancy to the Ministry for Home Affairs and Justice and is represented on the Police Academy Board.


What is Criminology?

Criminologists try to answer the questions: Who breaks the criminal laws and why? What can be done to prevent crime? What can be done to help victims? How should criminals be treated? Is rehabilitation possible? In the middle ages, it was assumed that human behaviour was influenced by the supernatural. Consequently, those allegedly evil where presumably exorcised by the use of barbaric tortures which resulted in futile loss of life. This is, for example, reflected in historical accounts of the inquisition.

The arbitrary and cruel treatment of those presumed criminally guilty was challenged by the scholars of, what is referred to as the Classical School (the two main scholars being Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham). Amongst other principles that are still echoed in modern criminal codes, these humanitarians insisted that: everyone is equal in front of the law, punishment is necessary but it should be proportional to the harm done to society, punishment should not be cruel, punishment should be immediate, prisoners should be treated with dignity, the people should be educated and made aware of the law – which should be accessible to all and written in the language understood by the man/woman in the street. The classical scholars considered people human calculators, endowed with free will, insisting that before acting, an individual weighs the pros and cons of his/her action – the probability of getting caught against that of escaping justice. If the balance tips towards the advantages, that person will choose to commit the crime. The advocates of the Classical School believed that only two springs control humans: the fear of pain and the search for pleasure. Therefore, to prevent people from committing crime, one would only need to calibre the pain/pleasure balance in a way as to add the pain or the possibility of incurring it. In other words, make laws harsher and improve law enforcement.

However, in the early 19th century, the Classical School was challenged by the emergence of the natural sciences, particularly medicine. The rivals of the Classical School belonged to the Positivist School. People started asking: If people are aware of the law, if there is a strong possibility of capture, why do they still choose to commit crime?

Crime-related questions were no longer being answered philosophically, but scientifically. New questions were being posed and answered scientifically, like, for example: Are criminals made by socialisation or born with criminal genes? Although the early positivists (Cesare Lombroso is sometimes referred to as the father of positivist criminology) claimed that criminals are born, that they are either atavistic (belonging to a different, non-evolved species of humans) or maladapted organisms (drawing on Charles Darwin’s theories) that needed to be removed from society (hence their belief in the death penalty) like a malignant cancer from a human body. Therefore, according to the early positivists, people did not have free will … some were just born criminal.

However, modern criminologists are aware of the flaws in the theories of the early positivists yet they recognise that it is thanks to them that science was introduced to Criminology. Positivist thought evolved thanks to exponents like Enrico Ferri who admitted the importance of social, economic and political determinants that could lead people to commit crime. Raffaele Garofalo believed that criminal behaviour has its roots in psychological features. Charles Goring refuted Lombroso’s theory using scientific methods. He was convinced that: poor physical conditions and a defective state of mind are determining factors in the criminal personality.

Modern Criminology is built on this platform. It is a multidisciplinary subject since it attempts to answer any crime-related question with the help of the knowledge brought in from the various fields, both from laboratory, traditional sciences (commonly referred to as criminalistics) and social sciences particularly: biology, chemistry, physics, medicine, environmental studies, information technology, psychology and sociology. Criminology is a dynamic subject since its knowledge is kept updated (even by keeping abreast of technological advancement) and since it rises to contemporary crime-related challenges, like for example: terrorism, human trafficking, drug trafficking and illegal immigration. However, no degree course in Criminology would be complete without a solid base of research methods since Criminologists are expected to be able to conduct criminological research on which to base planning and policy-making, not only to answer the questions: Who breaks the criminal laws and why? But also to come up with solutions to reduce crime, help victims and treat criminals. The multidisciplinary nature of Criminology brings a lot of different professionals/academics together and a degree in Criminology is found to be applicable and useful to people working in diverse fields.
 

Opportunities

Criminology offers students a wide range of expertise opportunities which they will be able to employ in the field. Whilst  the University does not offer job opportunities, students are encouraged to be informed of the various options available in the diverse fields related to the criminal justice system. These include probation services, parole, policing, vice issues and many other streams. The arena is open both within the public  sector and private enterprise.

Further opportunities for studies are also available in local and foreign scenarios.

 

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Last Updated: 15 April 2013

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