Forensic medicine is also called Medical Jurisprudence or Legal
Medicine, and includes all questions which bring medical matters into
relation with the law. It deals, therefore, with (1) crimes and (2)
1. A crime is the voluntary act of a person of sound mind harmful to
others and also unjust. No act is a crime unless it is plainly forbidden
by law. To constitute a crime, two circumstances
are necessary to be
proved--(a) that the act has been committed, (b) that a guilty mind or
malice was present. The act may be one of omission or of commission.
Every person who commits a crime may be punished, unless he is under the
age of seven years, is insane, or has been made to commit it under
Crimes are divided into misdemeanours and felonies. The distinction
is not very definite, but, as a rule, the former are less serious forms
of crime, and are punishable with a term of imprisonment, generally
under two years; while felonies comprise the more serious charges, as
murder, manslaughter, rape, which involve the capital sentence or long
terms of imprisonment.
An offence is a trivial breach of the criminal law, and is punishable
on summary conviction before a magistrate or justices only, while the
more serious crimes (indictable offences) must be tried before a jury.
2. Civil injuries differ from crimes in that the former are
compensated by damages awarded, while the latter are punished; any
person, whether injured or not, may prosecute for a crime, while only
the sufferer can sue for a civil injury. The Crown may remit punishment
for a crime, but not for a civil injury.