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.
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:
- Sutherland concept of white- collar crime has put forward the kind of
crime committed by powerful and influential members of the elite society
- 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.
- Sutherland also elaborated the reasons why such crime went unpunished
because of their social status and principally due to difference in their
- White Collar criminality is real criminality, being in all cases in
violation of the criminal law
- 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.
- 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.
- A theory of criminal behaviour which will explain both white collar
criminality and lower-class criminality is needed.
- 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
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.
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.
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.