'Frenzied law making': overcriminalization by numbers

Chalmers, J. (2014) 'Frenzied law making': overcriminalization by numbers. Current Legal Problems, 67(1), pp. 483-502. (doi:10.1093/clp/cuu001)

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Abstract

The New Labour government was accused of frenzied law making, creating a criminal offence for every day spent in office. The current government, responding to these concerns, has introduced a ‘gateway’ mechanism to halt the tide of criminalization. New research suggests that the accusations levelled against the last government badly underestimated the reality: criminal offences were—and despite the gateway mechanism, are still—created at a far greater rate than one a day. But what does this actually mean? This paper reviews the available evidence on the extent of the criminal law, including recent research by the author and others, noting the characteristics of new criminal offences, which are typically directed towards the regulation of particular activities rather than the general public, but frequently potentially carry severe maximum penalties and should not be wrongly dismissed as trivial and/or regulatory. While acknowledging the significant rate at which criminal offences are committed, it casts doubt on the common assumption that this is something which has increased substantially in recent years. It explores how the vast quantity of criminal offences on the statute book can be reconciled with the doctrinal treatment of criminal law as a somewhat narrower topic, and concludes by analysing the extent to which critiques made of criminalization in modern practice, particularly in relation to the claims made about the New Labour government, are borne out by the available evidence.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Chalmers, Professor James
Authors: Chalmers, J.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Law
Journal Name:Current Legal Problems
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:0070-1998
ISSN (Online):2044-8422
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2014 Oxford University Press
First Published:First published in Current Legal Problems 67(1):483-502
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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