The term social defence is of Italian origin. It became popular when it was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. According to Marc Ancel (1965:1) “It often appears strange and is frequently misunderstood, especially by lawyers brought up in the common law tradition or by the criminologists of English speaking world”. It was not completely engrossed in the terms of Anglo-American criminological studies.

The frequency and diversity of situations where the term was used and is supplemented by misuse and distortion. Even those who use the term regularly do not always give it the same meaning. These were the days, when the purpose of criminal law and penal policy was to ensure absolute protection of society irrespective of the methods used.

The modern meaning of social defence evidently discards the primeval procedures for the protection of society decrease punitive scheme, introduces the element of humanity into the administration of criminal justice system and establishes the need to treat crime as a social fact and a human act. In the light of this, social defence emerges as a new approach to the problem of crime and as a new trend in the decision-making, which organizes the means of controlling crime.

Positivists gave a new philosophy of punishment as contrasted with the older notion of the protection of society by way of repressive punishment alone. Positivists emphasized a close relationship between criminal law and morality and asserted that the concept of social defence endeavor to establish the necessity and the relevance of a large number of preventive, curative and rehabilitative measures so as to reduce the relapse of offenders to criminal behaviour.

In this sense, the concept of social defence involves the systematization of penal or correctional measures that is the measures of social protection against dangerous offenders.


Marc Ancel has enumerated the following’ characteristics:

Social defence presupposes the means of dealing with the crime conceiving society as a protector of people of the society.

Intention of social defence is achieving social protection as a means and measure to ambit societal law. Removal of segregation is also one of its purpose.

Social defence favors individual rather than the collective approach of eradicating crime and preventing criminals.

Process of socialization can take place, which will have humans to call upon from all resources of the person concerned and also restoring the confidence of the people.

Humanization of the criminal law and the criminal will merely be the result of humanitarian movement. This process will be based on the scientific understanding of the offender.

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