June 25, 2007 / 7:53 AM / in 13 years

Most Britons admit to petty crimes

LONDON (Reuters) - Almost two-thirds of Britons regularly commit petty crimes, according to a report, challenging the notion that the country is made up of a law-abiding, respectable majority.

A survey by researchers at Keele University found that 61 percent of people they questioned had committed one of a variety of crimes.

These ranged from paying cash in hand to avoid taxation, keeping money when given too much change, taking something from work or avoiding paying their TV licence.

Of those who confessed to breaking the law, 62 percent said they had committed up to three crimes while 10 percent admitted nine or more offences.

The report, based on a survey of just over 1,800 people aged 25-65, said the findings cast doubt on what politicians liked to describe as a “law-abiding majority”.

“Although the middle classes are engaging in this type of behaviour, they are also eager to blame when they find themselves victims of such behaviour,” said the report, published by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College, London.

“Consumers are sheep and wolves — easy prey and preying on others. Offending and victimisation are as closely and intricately linked at the core of society as at its margins.”

It concluded that most people do not believe in the value of laws and rules, and shrugged them off in the pursuit of their interests and desires.

“They even regard law-abidingness as a disadvantage,” it said.

“Contempt for the law is as widespread in the centre of society as it is assumed to be rampant at the margins and amongst specific marginal groups,” said Professor Susanne Karstedt, one of the report’s authors.

“Neither greed nor need can explain why respectable citizens cheat on insurance claims or in second hand sales — and do not hesitate to discuss their exploits with friends in pubs.”

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