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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

Section IV - Property and Propriety


In this Section, comprising Chapters 11, 12 and 13, we examine criminal law's regulation of property. Both the importance of the social institution of property and the prevalence of property offences, which constitute three-quarters of recorded crime (Home Office 2009), make this a highly significant field. It is also a vast field, encompassing many different kinds of terrain, and even a partial survey such as that offered here can be disorienting. In what follows, therefore, we focus upon a number of specific themes which may help to illuminate the landscape.

First, following on from the theme of the last two Sections, much of our discussion is concerned to examine the relationship between property crime and perceived risk or threats to the prevailing social order. In this context, patterns of enforcement of property offences vary as between offences which are seen as more or less threatening to social order, closer or more distant from our ideas of ‘real’ crime – for example, tax evasion or corporate fraud on the one hand versus shoplifting or social security fraud on the other. These varying levels of enforcement are facilitated by the wide discretion of the police and specialised regulatory bodies; they illustrate both the blurred boundaries between property and public order offences and the potency of legal conceptions of ‘real’ crime.

Second, the field of property offences illustrates the fragility of social consensus about the lines to be drawn between ‘criminal’ and ‘non-criminal’ behaviour.

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