Kidnapping occurs when a person, without lawful authority, physically asports (i.e., moves) another person without that other person’s consent, with the intent to use the abduction in connection with some other nefarious objective. Under Model Penal Code (a set of exemplary criminal rules fashioned by the American Law Institute), kidnapping occurs when any person is unlawfully and non-consensually asported and held for certain purposes. These purposes include gaining a ransom or reward; facilitating the commission of a felony or a fight after the commission of a felony; terrorizing or inflicting bodily injury on the victim or a third person; and interfering with a governmental or political function (Model Penal Code S 212.1).

Kidnapping laws in the United States is derived from the Common Law of kidnapping that was developed by courts in England. originally, the crime of kidnapping was defined as the unlawful and non-consensual transportation of a person from one country to another. In the late nineteenth and early centuries, states began to redefine kidnapping, most notably eliminating the requirement of inter state transport.

Kidnapping may be done to demand for ransom in exchange for realizing the victim, or for other illegal purposes. kidnapping can be accompained by bodily injury which elevates the crime to aggravated kidnapping. Kidnapping of a child is known as child abduction, which is a separate legal category.

Causes of kidnapping

Lack of stiffer punishment by government

The lack of stiffer penalty on the kidnappers is one of the many reasons why this ugly practice still thrives in Nigeria. The kidnappers see this criminal business as a hug profit making venture and therefore find it difficult to quit. This business is like child trafficking. If the government imposes a strict penalty on those caught for kidnapping, this trade will die completely. in the words of Dodo,a nd Ohwonohwo (2008:64), “this is because there is little risk of prosecution for traffickers hence, the trade thrives on”.

Quick money

This assertion is not far from the cause. For instance, the life in Nigeria is one of survival of the fittest. Therefore you cannot harvest where you did not plant. Many Nigerian especially the youths are people with tall dreams. How can these tall dreams of their be achieved?
This is a question that rovers in their minds. Because they want to make quick money without working. They go about searching for people to kidnap and make much money in return. This is barbaric and sinister! This is the state of Nigeria.


Terrorism is another cause of kidnapping in Niger. Some hungry and jobless youths in Northern Nigeria have taken it upon themselves that terrorism is the answer to their many problems. This is especially in the Niger-Delta area.

Today in Nigeria, we experience major security problems that seems to be shaking the Nigeria society. There are series of attacks on the oil facilities by militants in the Niger-Delta. For instance, in March 2006, Nigeria’s daily crude oil loses rose to 631, 000 barrels per day, about 26% of its output of 2.4 million barrels per day, following an attack on the Italian oil giant, Nigeria Agip oil company’s pipelines. On October of the year 2006, some militants killed 5 soldiers along the oil-rich Cawthorowe Channel, one of the major oil reserves in the southern region. In the same vein, February 2007, nine Chinese workers were kidnapped in Bayelsa State. From the few examples states above, one can now see that terrorism is one of the causes of kidnapping Nigeria. It is a tactics of political revolutionaries or terrorists seeking concessions from a government.


Motivations for the crime

Kidnapping of children is usually done by one parent or others. The kidnapping of adults is often for ransom or to force someone to withdraw money from an ATM, but may also be for sexual assault. Children have also been kidnapped for the commission of sexual assault.

In the past, and presently in some parts of the world (such as southern Sudan), kidnapping is a common means used to obtain slaves and money through ransom. In less recent times, kidnapping in the form of Shanghaling (or “pressganging”) men were used to supply merchant ships in the 19th century with sailors, whom the law considered unfree labour.

Criminal gangs are estimated to make up to $500 million a year in ransom payments from kidnapping.

Kidnapping has been identified as one source by which terrorist organizations have been known to obtain funding. The Perri, Lichtenwald and Mackenzie article identified “tiger” kidnapping as a specific method used by either the Real Irish Republican Army or Community Irish Republican Army, in which a kidnapped family member is used to force someone to steal from their employer.

  1. Bride kidnapping is a term often applied loosely, to include any bride “abducted” against the will of her parents, even if she is willing to marry the “abductor”. It still is traditional amongst certain nomadic people of Central Asia. It has seen a resurgence in Kyrgyzstan since the fall of the Soviet Union and the subsequent erosion of women’s rights.
  2. Express kidnapping is a method of abduction used in some countries, mainly from Latin America, where a small ransom, that a company or family can easily pay, is demanded.
  3. Tiger kidnapping is taking a hostage to make a loved one or associate of the victim do something (e.g. a child is taken hostage to force the shopkeeper to open the safe). The term originates from the usually long preceding observation, like a tiger does on the prowl.

Kidnapping has sometimes been used by the family and friends of a member of an alleged cult as a method to remove the member from the alleged cult and begin a deprograming process. Deprogramming and exit counseling have been used with the purpose of getting alleged cult cult members to abandon their groups’ beliefs.
The danger presented by cult groups has been used by deprogrammers to justify using the extreme act of kidnapping to get alleges members to change their allegiance away from the group.

Jurisdictional applications of kidnapping


Kidnapping that does not result in a homicide is a hybrid offence that comes with a maximum possible penalty of life imprisonment (18 months if tried summarily). A murder that results from kidnapping is classified as 1st-degree, with a sentence of life imprisonment that results from conviction (the mandatory penalty for murder under Canadian law).


In Australia, kidnapping is a criminal offence, as defined by either the State crimes act, or the Commonwealth Criminal Code. It is a serious indictable offence, and is punishable by up to 14-25 years imprisonment.


According to a 2022 study by political scientist Danielle Gilbert, armed groups in Columbia engage in ransom kidnappings as a way to maintain the armed groups’ local systems of taxation. The groups resort to ransom kidnappings to punish tax evasion and incentivize inhabitants not to shirk.


Article 282 prohibits hostaging (and ‘kidnapping’ is a kind of ‘hostaging’). Part 1 of Article 282 allows sentencing kidnappers to maximum imprisonment of 8 years or a fine of the fifth category. Part 2 allows maximum imprisonment of 9 years or a fine of the fifth category. If there are serious injuries. Part 3 allows maximum imprisonment of 12 years or a fine of the fifth category if the victim has been killed. Part 4 allows sentencing people that collaborate with kidnapping (such as proposing or make available a location where the victim hostaged). Part 1, 2 and 3 will apply also to them.

United Kingdom

Kidnapping is an offence under the common law of England and Wales. Lord Brandon said in 1984 R v D.

‘‚ĶFirst, the nature of the offence is an attack on, and infringement of, the personal liberty of an individual. Secondly, the offence contains four ingredients as follows: (1) the taking or carrying away of one person by another; (2) by force or fraud; (3) without the consent of the person so taken or carried away; and (4) without lawful excuse.

In all cases of kidnapping of children, where it is alleged that a child has been kidnapped, it is the absence of the consent of that child which is material. This is the case regardless of the age of the child. A very small child will not have the understanding or intelligence to consent. This means that absence of consent will be a necessary inference from the age of the child. It is a question of fact for the jury whether an older child has sufficient understanding and intelligence to consent.

Lord Brandon said: “I should not expect a jury to find at all frequently that a child under fourteen had sufficient understanding and intelligence to give its consent”.
If the child (being capable of doing so) did consent to being taken or carried away, the fact that the person having custody or care and control of that child did not consent to that child being taken or carried away is immaterial. If, on the other hand, the child did not consent, the consent of the person having custody or care and control of the child may support a defence of lawful excuse. It is known as Gillick competence.

Regarding restriction on prosecution, no prosecution may be instituted, except by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions, for an offence of kidnapping if it was committed against a child under the age of sixteen and by a person connected with the child, within the meaning of section 1 of the Child Abduction Act 1984. Kidnapping is an indictable-only offence.

Kidnapping is punishable with imprisonment or fine at the discretion of the court. There is no limit on the fine or the term of imprisonment that may be imposed provided the sentence is not inordinate.

A parent should only be prosecuted for kidnapping their own child “in exceptional cases, where the conduct of the parent concerned is so bad that an ordinary right-thinking person would immediately and without hesitation regard it as criminal in nature”.

United States

The United States law derived from English common law. Following the highly publicized 1932 Lindbergh kidnapping, Congress passed the Federal Kidnapping Act, which authorized the FBI to investigate kidnapping at a time when the Bureau was expanding in size and authority. The fact that a kidnapped victim may have been taken across states lines brings the crime within the ambit of federal criminal law.

Most states recognize different types of kidnapping and punish according to such factors as the location, duration, method, manner and purpose of the offense.
There are several deterrents to kidnapping in the United States of America. They are:

  1. The extreme logistical challenges involved in successfully exchanging the money for the return of the victim without being apprehended or surveilled.
  2. Harsh punishment. Convicted kidnappers face lengthy prison terms. If a victim is brought across state lines, federal charges can be laid as well.
  3. Good cooperation and information sharing between law enforcement agencies, and tools for spreading information to the public (such as the (AMBER Alert system).

One notorious failed example of kidnap for ransom was the 1976 Chowchilla bus kidnapping, in which 26 children were abducted with the intention of bringing in a $5 million ransom. The children and driver escaped from an underground van without the aid of law enforcement. According to the Department of Justice, kidnapping makes up 2% of all reported violent crimes against juveniles.

From the 19990s on, the New York divorce coercion gang was involved in the kidnapping and torture of Jewish Husbands in New York City and New Jersey for the purpose of forcing them to grant gittin (religious divorces) to their wives. they were finally apprehended on October 9, 2013, in connection with a foiled kidnapping plot.

According to a 2003 Democratic Violence Report in Colorado, out of a survey of 189 incidents, most people (usually white females) are taken from their homes or residence by a present or former spouse or significant other. They are usually taken by force, not by weapon, and usually the victims are not injured when they are freed.

In 2009, Phoenix, Arizona reported over 300 cases of kidnapping, although subsequent investigation found that the Phoenix police falsified data. “Phoenix Kidnappings: Uncovering the Truth”. Achieved from the original on 2012-04-13. If true, this would have been the highest rate of any U.S. city and second in the world only to Mexico City. A rise in kidnappings in the Southwestern United States in general has been attributed to misclassification by local police, lack of a unified standard, desire for Federal grants, or the Mexican Drug War.

In 2010, the United States was ranked sixth in the world (by absolute numbers, not per capita) for kidnapping from ransom, according to the available statistics (after Colombia, Italy, Lebanon, Peru, and the Philippines).

In 2009, the Los Angeles Times named Phoenix, Arizona, as America’s kidnapping capital, reporting that every year hundreds of ransom kidnappings occur there, virtually all within the underworld associated with human and drug smuggling from Mexico, and often done as a way of collecting unpaid debts. However, a later audit by the U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General found only 59 federally reported kidnappings in 2008, compared to the over 300 claimed on grant applications.

During the year 1999 in the United States, 203,900 children were reported as the victims of family abductions and 58,200 of non-family abductions. However, only 115 were the result of stereotypical” kidnaps (by someone unknown or of slight acquaintance to the child, held permanently or for ransom).

Kidnapping statistics of countries

Kidnapping for ransom is a common occurrence in various parts of the world today, and certain cities and countries are often described as the “kidnapping capital of the world”. In 2018 the UN found Pakistan and England had the highest amount of kidnappings while New Zealand had the highest rate among the 70 countries for which data is available.

As of 2007, that title belonged to Iraq with possibly 1,500 foreigners kidnapped. In 2004, it was Mexico, and in 2001, it was Colombia.
Statistics are harder to come by. Reports suggest a world total of 12,500-25,too per year with 3,600 per year in Colombia and 3,000 per year in Mexico around the year 2000.

However, by 2016, the number of kidnappings in Colombia had declined to 205 and it continues to decline. Mexican numbers are hard to confirm because of fears of police involvement in kidnapping. Kidnapping seems to flourish particularly in fragile states and conflict countries, as politically motivated militias, organized crime and the drug mafia fill the vacuum left by government.

I’m not surprised Nigeria wasn’t recorded because you can’t count devil while listing sinners.


Kidnapping on the high seas in connection with piracy has been increasing. It was reported that 661 crewmembers were taken hostage and 12 kidnapped in the first nine months of 2009. The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre recorded that 141 crew members were taken hostage and 83 were kidnapped in 2018.

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