Criminal law, is law which is mostly enforced by the state. Criminal law deals with offences committed against the state.
A crime in criminal law may be defined as a legal wrong that can be followed by criminal proceedings which may result to punishment of the offender. An offence can be an act or an omission considered contrary to the societal or community norms. The state is under a duty to prosecute in criminal matters. This is done by the legal department which is headed by the State Counsel. In criminal actions, prosecution is done in the name of the people of Cameroon.
Classification of offences
According to section 21 of the Cameroon penal code, offences have been classified into three basic categories:
- Simple offence
According to section 21(1) (a) of the Cameroon Penal Code (PC) a felony shall mean any offence punishable with death or with loss of liberty for a maximum of more than ten years. Examples of offences that can fall under felony are murder, rape and aggravated theft. In summary felony constitute the highest offence in Cameroon.
According to section 21(1) (b) of the Cameroon Penal Code a misdemeanor shall mean an offence punishable with loss of liberty or fine, whereas the loss of liberty shall be for more than ten days but not for more than ten years and the fine more than twenty five thousands francs. An example of such offence is theft. It is the second highest criminal offence in Cameroon.
This shall mean an offence punishable with imprisonment up to ten days with a fine a fine up to 25000 FRS. Example may include indecent exposure.
Criminal Liability or Responsibility.
Section 74(1) of the Cameroon penal code, state that no penalty may be imposed on an individual, except the individual is criminally responsible.
Therefore for criminal responsibility to arise the Actus Reus (material elements) and the Mens Rea (mental elements) must be present. The material elements may consist of physical acts, for example
- A slap
- Omission where there was a legal duty to act
And the Means Rea constitute the intension to commit the offence.
Parties in an offence
- Principal offender: The principal offender is the person who does or commit the act.
- Co-offender. A co-offender is one who participated in the commission of an offence.
- Accessory: Accessory are those who facilitate, aid or help in the commission of an offence. There are two types of accessories. Accessory before and after the commission of an offence.
General defenses to Criminal Responsibility
Defenses are elements or factor that can exonerates someone from criminal responsibility or liability.
- Insanity (section 78 of the penal code). This section states that no criminal responsibility shall arise from an act or omission of a person suffering from mental illness or mental disorder.
- Intoxication. Intoxication here may refer to act committed as a result of drunkenness or drugs.
- Infancy or minority ie children below age18. No criminal responsibility shall arise from the act or omission committed by a person aged less than years 18years
- Respect of lawful authority (section 82) and obedience of the law.
- Lawful defense (Section 84). This refers to self-defense or defense of one’s property. It is an absolute defense, provided the force used is proportionate to the attack.
- Provocations (section 85). This is a situation where the defendant is unlawfully provoked in the presence of his wife, children, or siblings.
- Sate of necessity. This a situation or circumstance where someone is compelled to act even unlawfully in order to prevent a greater harm or danger.
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