Centre for Penal Theory and Penal Ethics - Behaviour

Legal Prohibition of Offensive Behaviour


Prohibitions against 'offensive' conduct (e.g. indecent exposure) have existed for many years, but until recently it was assumed that their number would decrease, in keeping with trends towards decriminalisation. Now, several jurisdictions, including England and Wales, are extending the reach and severity of measures against 'anti-social behaviour' or 'incivilities', as part of a Government-led campaign to improve the quality of public environments. Included are expanded measures against intrusive and non-intrusive begging, and legislation authorising magistrates to issue prohibitory orders against 'anti-social' conduct of any kind. Because the scope of such quality-of-life prohibitions are potentially so broad, it is essential to develop principles that limit their scope.

The Centre has undertaken a project to explore such principles. Topics include the conception of offensiveness itself; what mediating principles, such as principles of tolerance, should restrict the criminalisation of offensive conduct; and what social factors have generated the current political interest in 'cracking down' on incivilities?

A first colloquium on the subject, discussing these and related issues, was held at Cambridge in October 2002; a second meeting, reviewing and discussing papers, was held a year later. Authors or co-authors of papers include Anthony Bottoms, Elizabeth Burney, Antony Duff, Tatjana Hörnle, Douglas Husak, Sandra Marshall, Paul Roberts, John Tasioulas, Bryan Turner, Andrew Simester, and Andrew von Hirsch. The resulting book has been published by Hart Publishing as the third volume in the Centre's series of books, under the title, A. von Hirsch and A.P. Simester (eds) Incivilities: Regulating Offensive Behaviour (2006).