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Protecting the vulnerable: legality, harm and theft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

A L Bogg, J Stanton-Ife

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)402 - 422
Number of pages21
JournalLEGAL STUDIES- SOCIETY OF PUBLIC TEACHERS OF LAW
Volume23
Issue numberPART 3
DOIs
Published2003

King's Authors

Abstract

The law of theft, as understood in Gomez and Hinks, has been the occasion of almost unanimous academic condemnation and of robust dissenting opinions in the House of Lords. While much of the critical discussion is sophisticated and challenging, it is important that the baby is not to be expelled with the bathwater. We suggest that one argument in favour of the current position is that it offers distinct protection to some of the more vulnerable members of society. This advantage ought nevertheless to be sacrificed if it can be purchased only at the cost of violating the rule of law and the harm principle. But our examination of these ideas reveals that the price need not be paid. The rule of law contains not one idea, but a plurality of ideas, many of which support the current position. As for the harm principle, it is notable that Hinks does not castigate harmless behaviour; rather it attacks the wrong of exploitation. This raises many difficult issues, but we argue that unless such exploitative behaviour is explicitly addressed in Legislation, reforming the current 'broad' understanding of the law in favour of a 'reductive' account assimilating theft to non-voluntary transfers would be a retrograde step. In principle the new concern for protecting the vulnerable from exploitation is welcome.

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