This chapter considers the history of how crime has been related, throughout the historical past, with the idea of collapsing moral standards. At a fundamental level, how a society considers the morality of its citizens is frequently a clear indicator of how it conceives its governing role. How far should a government’s laws and policies aim to protect its citizens from harm (either that perpetrated by others or themselves)? How much is this intention compromised by the phenomenon of individual rights and liberties which effectively evolved during this period? The history of these also shows us how the moral paternalism of the State has partially (but interestingly not wholly) been defined as constituting ‘the public interest’. More intriguingly, this demonstrates the inherent balancing act that any liberal democracy, such as the UK, must face up to. Essentially, government laws have to balance the protection of the vulnerable against permitting freedoms that enhance the lives of individuals. Since the arrival of urban societies, governments and policing authorities have expressed concerns about the growth of so called ‘moral crimes’. These are ‘crimes’ that are considered to have wider impacts outside the context of the individual crime. Drunkenness, for example, may not be a significant problem on its own, but in the domestic sphere, it may lead to accidents or interfamilial violence. In the public sphere, it may lead to interpersonal violence, public order offences, theft or other crimes.
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- Moral Crimes and the Law in Britain since 1700
- Macmillan Education UK
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