Crimes, Courts and Corrections: An Introduction to Crime and Social Control in Canada


274 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-03-921623-3




Reviewed by P.F. McKenna

P.F. McKenna was librarian at the Police Academy, Brampton, Ontario.


Mr. Brannigan informs his readers in the Preface that he is going to take a “critical approach.” He proposes to introduce the subject of crime and social control from a perspective that does not take for granted conventional views. The ideological underpinnings of Mr. Brannigan’s book are clearly visible in the first chapter and remain so throughout this work. The author begins with a highly selective presentation on the social bases of law and summarizes human history as the oppression of the working class, etc., by the landowners, etc. In the second chapter Brannigan espouses the definition of criminal law that flows from positivism. Criminal behaviour is that behaviour against which legislators have enacted sanctions. Nothing is inherently right or wrong, only right or wrong in relation to the laws of lawmakers. Chapter three presents an altogether negative overview of modern policing in Canada and focuses primarily on police illegality. The next chapter examines civil rights in Canada and compares our situation to that in the United States. Chapter five looks at the process by which crimes become apparent and the impact of uniform criminal statistics upon public perception of crime. Here Mr. Blanchard presents a number of statistics that purport to reflect social bias in the administration of justice. Chapter six delves into the question of white collar crime and the reluctance of our criminal justice system to prosecute private corporations. The next chapter looks at the disposition of criminal cases in lower courts and gives an analysis of plea bargaining. Chapter eight shifts the critical light to the higher courts and presents the case of R.V. Demeter to illustrate specific issues and problems encountered at this level. The next chapter discusses the area of eyewitness testimony and gives the reader samples from the recent literature which impeaches the absolute validity of such testimony. Chapters ten and eleven deal, respectively, with the problem of punishment as deterrence and the Correctional Services of Canada. The concluding chapter contains an overview of the federal government’s Criminal Law Review project, which was implemented to rationalize and modernize criminal law in Canada. The book also contains a 16-page bibliography of references related to the wide range of topics addressed within the book.

By way of criticism it should be clearly stated that this work is limited in scope. It is tempting to call this work an indoctrination rather than an introduction. Mr. Brannigan has forthrightly imposed a particular ideological perspective upon the whole structure of crime and social control. For example, the author refers to portions of the work of Prof. Walter Berns as “palpable nonsense.” This dismissal of a highly respected scholar’s work does little to encourage the rigorous scholarship one would hope to nurture in the students of criminology who will constitute the major portion of Mr. Brannigan’s audience. Secondly, there are significant gaps in Mr. Brannigan’s list of references. This fact would lead the objective observer to view the author as one not entirely motivated by an interest in providing students with the tools necessary to formulate an independent understanding of the problem of criminal law in Canada. Rather, he wishes to establish a dogmatic response to the issues that should make criminal law, criminology, and connections fascinating areas of study and research. Mr. Brannigan’s errors of omission greatly diminish the value of this text as an introduction to the complex issues and themes attached to the study of crime and deviance in Canada.


Brannigan, Augustine, “Crimes, Courts and Corrections: An Introduction to Crime and Social Control in Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed January 23, 2022,