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What if imprisonment were abolished for property offences?

Ashworth, Andrew
June 4, 2015

Source: (2013) London: The Howard League for Penal Reform

My argument is that imprisonment should be abolished for property offences. The
focus is on what may be termed ‘pure property offences’, that is, leaving aside
offences intended to violate other rights as well as property. So I am not dealing
here with offences that are violent, threatening or sexual. This means that excluded
from this discussion are offences such as robbery (which requires the use or threat
of violence),1
blackmail (which requires a threat), and burglary of a dwelling (which is
intended also to violate the right of privacy2
). But that leaves a wide range of crime
within the definition of ‘property offences’. The central offence is theft, which can
run from thefts from shops and from motor vehicles through thefts from employers
and pickpocketing to lucrative thefts by persons in positions of significant trust.
Also included are fraud, handling stolen goods and criminal damage.3
My argument
is that sentences of imprisonment are disproportionate to these offences and
should therefore not be available to the courts.


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