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Violent crime: Includes assault, mugging and armed robbery

White-collar crime: Crimes committed by “office works”, for example fraud.

Organised crime: Large scale crime by crime organisations such as the Mafia, for example smuggling

  1. Key words for Crime

Another key word here is “offence” which is a close synonym for crime. It is a slightly broader word as it includes behaviour that is not necessarily criminal. You can also use the phrase “criminal behaviour“.

  1. Punishments

Prison : Note the vers “to imprison” and the phrase “to send to prison”

Serve a prison sentence/ custodial sentence: “Serious offender should be forced to serve at least a 3-year prison sentence”

Community service (order): The offender has to do work that helps the community rather than go to prison

A fine: People who commit some petty crimes or road traffic offences should pay a fine

(receive) a caution: If the offence is less serious then the offender may be let off with a caution

(be puts) on probation: Sometimes first-time offenders are not imprisoned but are placed under supervision for a set period of time to ensure their good behavior

A ban: Some driving offences such as “drink driving” are punished with a ban

There is a common saying that “the punishment should fit the crime“. If you wish to practise this vocabulary, a standard exercise is to look at the crimes and decide what punishment you think they should receive.

In some countries, there is still capital punishment/the death penalty, while this is banned in other countries. An occasional IELTS essay topic is to discuss the merits of capital punishment. What are the arguments for and against it?

Another topic you need to consider is crime prevention. Is it more effective to send someone to prison or to prevent the crime in the first place? Linked into this idea is whether prison sentences act as a deterrent to criminals.

  1. The justice process

The details of this will vary from the country to country, but here are some of the main ideas:

Pass a law/legislate against: This is the role of government

Enforce the law: An alternative phrase here is “law enforcement”: this involves the courts and the police force.

Investigate a crime: The first step in the criminal process

Arrest a suspect: Before the trial he is “a suspect”, during the trial he is a “defendant” and, if convicted, he is then “a criminal”

Punish an offender: “Offender” is another useful word for “criminal”

Pass a sentence: Normally this is the role of the judge. “Sentence” is also a verb/noun, so a judge may “sentence a criminal”

Convict a criminal: Another phrase meaning to find someone guilty and punish them. The noun “conviction” is just as common

Plead innocent/guilty: In a trial the defendant can either plead guilty or innocent

A court case/trial: This is what happens in the court. A trial is a criminal process, whereas a court case includes proceedings for civil (non-criminal) matters.

  1. Other useful phrases

Law-abiding citizens: Another way to say this is “to abide by the law”

To fight crime: This is the role of the police force and the courts. Another way of saying this is to “tackle crime”

A crime wave: When there is a rise in crime, particularly of one type

To turn to crime: Another way of saying to become a professional criminal

Antisocial beharvior: Behaviour that may not be against the law but disrupts the community, being drunk in public

The incidence of crime: How much crime happens

Motive for crime: The reason why people commit crimes

Juvenile delinquency: Antisocial behavior committed by people under the ager 18

A repeat offender: Someone who has been convicted more than once