Sociology of Law and Order

Assume the role of a researcher who is working for the Ministry of Law. With reference to (i) theories of crime and (ii) theories of punishment, analyse the following case scenario. How do you think the accused ought to have been dealt with? Also, do you think juveniles like the accused should have been spared from the gallows? Give reasons (via concepts or theories learnt) for your answer.

This TMA tests your knowledge and understanding of the purposes and aims of the criminal justice system. In deciding the appropriate sentence, explain the substance of your deliberations and the reasons for your decisions. If you feel that you do not have all the information you need, then outline what further information you require and why. Where appropriate, please also comment on any current penal policy issues.


‘X’, the accused, is a 15-year-old female who has been charged with murder. At the time of the incident, she had been living alone for four months. A year before the incident, her mother, whom she was close to, had died from lung cancer. Her father remarried soon after and she was initially living with her father and her stepmother. Soon after her mother’s death, she was diagnosed with depression, and her emotional problems escalated after her stepmother moved into the household. She was previously at the top of her class academically and showed no conduct problems, but she began to skip classes and stayed at home. In the four months that she was living with her father and stepmother, she had, in fact, only attended school thrice. Her form teacher had visited her with a guidance counsellor weekly, but her father pleaded with them to not to raise further alarm and ruin her “bright future”.
A month after her stepmother moved into the household, she hit her father with a baseball bat after a quarrel. Her family brought her to see her psychiatrist again and this time she was diagnosed borderline personality disorder and depression. As the stepmother was pregnant and she did not get along well with her stepmother, her father suggested that she lived alone—a suggestion she accepted. Her father was a lawyer with a busy practice, and as such she only saw her father fortnightly when he passed her a fortnightly allowance of $2000. By the time she had started living alone, she had already stopped attending school altogether, although she did not withdraw from school officially.

Evidence retrieved from her computer also led to the discovery that she had killed and dissected a stray cat before, and that she had spent most of her time at home visiting online depression and anatomy forums. Her father had visited her the Thursday before the murder occurred, and in the course of his visit, they quarrelled and she cut her wrist right in front of him. She was rushed to a private hospital, and her father wanted to commit her to a psychiatric ward for that weekend, but as the beds were unfortunately full, she was discharged after she received stitches for her wounds.

After her discharge, she turned up at school on her own accord on Monday, and on Tuesday she approached the victim—‘L’, and invited her to hang out after school. ‘L’ was her classmate and she was a popular girl in school. The two were not known to be particularly close nor were they known to have bad relations. After school, they went shopping and stopped by a café for a drink, and ‘X’ invited ‘L’ over to her place to hang out further and have dinner together as she was “bored and didn’t want to be alone”. According to the accused, an hour after they reached her place and had some pizza in the living room, she invited the victim to view her photo albums in her bedroom. The two moved to the bedroom and while the victim was distracted by the photo albums, the accused took her baseball bat and hit the victim on her head from the back, and after the victim fell down onto the floor, the accused sat astride on the victim and strangled her to death.

The accused proceeded to dissect and dismember the victim’s body—effectively decapitating her, opening up her abdomen and chopping off her limbs. The victim’s face was also found disfigured with slashes across her face. At the time of arrest, the police also found medical and anatomy textbooks, medical tools, ropes, etc sprawled on the floor near the body. When the accused was asked why she committed the act, she answered, “I just wanted to feel something…I wanted to know how it feels to kill, to dissect someone.” Evidence retrieved from her computer also revealed that she had written the following entries on an online medical forum:

“Do you all know how to warm up a body? I tried to warm the body the moment it got cold, but it doesn’t warm up well.”
“Hey guys, do you want to know what colour is the brain? I will take good care of it and the
spinal cord. They look so pretty in a solution.”

The father of the accused committed suicide a week after the incident, and besides her stepmother, she has no other family.

Student notes

This question requires you to demonstrate knowledge of theories learnt in class, but you need to go beyond providing definitions of the theories. This question tests your ability to analyse, appraise and compare points made in theories and academic writings; to research journal articles and scholarly writings, and apply the theories to specific, real life cases. To do well for this assignment, you would also have to clearly and narrowly define and critique the issues, and integrate your analysis into a coherent, persuasive essay.
Write your answers in not more than 1,500 words. Please remember to provide the word count, and list of references.