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White-Collar Crimes And Contribution Of Professor Sutherland In The Development Of The White-Collar Crimes

With the advancement in science and technology there are certain anti-social activities which the person of upper class carries on their occupation or business. These anti-social activities are termed as White-Collar Crime. White Collar Crime has become a political issue as it affects key areas of contemporary life. The harmful activities on the part of upper class have endanger the safety of workers, consumers and passengers and have a wide impact on public health and the environment.

These harmful activities are subject to criminal law and criminal justice but they are not regarded as crime in the same way as murder, robbery or assault. This was the main issue that was raised while studying white collar crime. The existence of white- collar crime questions the way in which crime is defined and treated by criminal justice agencies.

White collar crime encompasses a wide range of harmful activities which are not widely regarded as criminal, raising questions of how it can be compared with other crimes. The analysis of white- collar crime move beyond the traditional concerns of criminology into wide areas of financial regulation, occupational health, consumer affairs and food regulation.

Historical Background Of White-Collar Crime

Carrier case was the first case of white- collar crimes which was documented in the year 1473 in England. In this particular case, the agent was entrusted with the responsibility of the principal to transport wool from one place to another. The agent was found guilty of stealing some of wool.

The English court after this case adopted the doctrine of breaking the bulk which means that the bailee who was given the possession of goods tried to break it open and misappropriate the content. In the year 1907 Edward A. Ross was the first to report upon the Sins of the Criminoid in his classical Article in the Atlantic monthly in 1907.

The said article focuses on flagitious practices which have not yet come under the effective ban of public opinion and they are guilty in the eyes of law but since they are not culpable in the eyes of the public and in their own eyes, their spiritual attitude is not that of the criminal.
Albert Morris was the first to discuss the abuses of the Criminal of the upper world in the form of book.

In his treatise on criminology (1935) he defined criminals of upper class as:
That numerous but never clearly defined group of criminals whose social position, intelligence and criminal technique permit them to move among their fellow citizens virtually immune to recognition and prosecution as criminals.

The most influential criminologist and sociologist of the 20th Century, Edwin Hardin Sutherland in the year 1939 first coined the term White Collar Crime and worked upon the concept of white- collar crime throughout his career. Sutherland had not only defined the term white collar crime but he had also given his opinion that the criminals who are committing these white collar crime should be differentiated as there are differences between the person belonging to the lower socio-economic status who are committing crimes by violating the regular penal code or violating special trade regulation which are applicable to them or the person who are belonging to high social economic status and violating the provision of regular penal code in such a way which are not connected with their occupation and who are committing white collar crime.

Definition Of White-Collar Crime

Edwin Sutherland defined White Collar Crime as:
Crime which is committed by a person who is having high social status and also having respectability which is acquired by him in the course of his occupation.

Hartung defined White Collar Crime as:
A violation of law regulating business which is committed for a firm by the firm or its agent in the conduct of its business.

Herbert Edelhertz defined White Collar Crime as:
An act which is illegal or series of illegal act which is committed by using such means which are non- physical and these acts are done for the purpose of concealment or guide for obtaining money or for the purpose of avoiding the payment of loss in respect of money or property or for the purpose of obtaining any business and in some cases the purpose is personal advantage.

Contribution Of Sutherland Towards White Collar Crime

Edwin Sutherland defined White Collar Crime as, Crime which is committed by a person who is having high social status and also having respectability which is acquired by him in the course of his occupation Sutherland definition of White- Collar Crime is therefore built upon three overlapping circles of misbehaviour.

The first circle represents any crime committed by a person of high status. The second circle represents the crime committed by a person having respectability.The third circle represents the crime committed in the course of occupation.

Sutherland distinguished himself from those who preceded him in one important respect. He made the study of white- collar crime not only respectable but feasible. He stated the problem clearly and succinctly. He spearheaded the systematic study of the phenomenon. He articulated a distinctive theoretical concept of white -collar crime and provided an operational definition and supported his thesis with empirical data based upon legal and administrative violations of 70 companies. Thus, Sutherland contributions can be best summed up in the following propositions:
  1. Sutherland concept of white- collar crime has put forward the kind of crime committed by powerful and influential members of the elite society
  2. Sutherland pointed out that White-Collar Crime was more dangerous to the society than crimes committed by the members of the lower class because the financial loss were higher and damage is inflicted on public moral.
  3. Sutherland also elaborated the reasons why such crime went unpunished because of their social status and principally due to difference in their social position.
  4. White Collar criminality is real criminality, being in all cases in violation of the criminal law
  5. White Collar criminality differs from lower- class criminality principally in an implementation of the criminal law which segregates white collar criminals administratively from other criminals.
  6. The theories of criminologist that crime is due to poverty, psychopathic and sociopathic conditions are invalid because first they are derived from samples which are grossly biased with respect to socio-economic status; second, they do not apply to white collar crime criminals; and third they do not even explain the criminality of the lower class since the factors are not related to a general process characteristic of all criminality.
  7. A theory of criminal behaviour which will explain both white collar criminality and lower-class criminality is needed.
  8. A hypothesis of this nature is suggested in terms of differential association and social disorganisation.

Sutherland impact was great and unmistaken. He reoriented the thinking of a generation of criminologists and others to come. He provided personal leadership in theory development and research verification. He inspired others to follow his example. He raised controversial issues and sharpened debates over existing theories and research of crime and delinquencies. Largely because of his influence the period between 1940 and 1960 was described as the classical period in the research and study of white-collar crimes.

Impact Of Sutherland's Legacy

The cumulative effect of Sutherland's contribution has given earth breaking concept to white collar crimes with defined body, substantive content and renewed focus to gather the momentum. Sutherland's concept of White- Collar Crime provided conceptual tools, theoretical foundations and database for later researchers to build upon. Thus, Sutherland's legacy by virtue of his pioneer quality set the tone, pace, texture, direction of later research and debate in the field.

Criticism Of Sutherland's Definition Of White- Collar Crime

Sutherland definition of White- collar crime:
A crime committed by person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation was fraught with objective ambiguity and has not given subjective value judgement. The term respectability and high social status was not capable of precise definition and is subjected to much less objective measurements.

Many scholars raised issues with regard to the definition given by Sutherland on the concept of white- collar crime. Lack of conceptual clarity how important is social status in finding white collar crime criminality and what is the exact meaning of occupational activity are some key points where Sutherland faced criticism with regard to his definition on white collar crime.

While some scholars criticized Sutherland's definition because the definition has included deviant behaviour and has covered a broad range of diverse and inconsistent behaviours that did not considered them as criminals.

Conclusion
It is clear from the above discussion that white- collar crime are different from the other type of offences as these offences cause harm in a greater magnitude if compared to the magnitude of the traditional crime and these offences do not represent the cases of positive aggression or the cases of invasion, though these offences generally do not create a direct or immediate injury but actually they create such type of great danger which may hamper the economic growth of the country.

After discussing the ambit of white-collar crime and contribution of Sutherland towards White Collar Crime there is a need for the establishment of some special courts that would particularly and exclusively deal with these types of offences and there should be effective and speedy disposal of these types of cases so that the offender cannot get away from the purview of justice.

While concluding it is pertinent to note that in India there are several problems of ill nourishment, corruption, poverty, illiteracy and exploitation that are coming in the way of economic development of the country. If white- collar crimes continue to harm the economic development of the country then we will not be able to develop as whole.

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