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le 6 septembre 2012


An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers

This work of reference, quite rightly described as seminal in this field, is part of the Research Handbooks in Law and Economics series published by Edward Elgar Publishing. Carrying on the tradition established by, amongst others, Jeremy Bentham, the book is a largely successful and thought-provoking attempt to analyse criminal law in utilitarian and economic terms.

Fundamentally the book offers up a number of economic analyses of criminal law -- and therefore encompasses the social sciences, including economics, behavioural economics, psychology and, to some extent, sociology. Those interested in criminology too, should also read this book.

To put it fairly simply: what does crime cost? And what does it cost -- and what might it cost -- to put in place sanctions and other deterrents which would lead to a decrease in crime? The possible and sometimes theoretical answers to these and a host of related questions are the stuff of the often very rigorous academic research and analysis to be found in this book.

The work is a collection of articles, not gleaned from specialist publications, but original and specially commissioned. Each article reveals a differing, but methodical approach to exploring the ways and means by which economics can enhance the way we understand the development of criminal law.

The learned contributors are based mainly at American universities and the orientation is certainly American, but in view of the subject matter, which is crime and criminals, this probably matters little. Criminality, especially in developed societies, is a global problem.

In their introduction, the editors draw a distinction between ‘the retributive tradition’ (of criminal law sanctions)…and economic analysis, which considers the most effective measures for dealing with, mainly, future behaviour, which centres on deterrence and prevention.

They stress that criminal law sanctions should be used only when they reduce the costs of crime and anti-social behaviour, including both the direct costs of crime and the costs of crime prevention measures.

Enhanced by illustrative diagrams and tables (including some detailing the relationship between mobile phones and crime rates!), plus detailed reading lists at the end of each chapter, this book is an interesting and instructive read, certainly for criminal lawyers, as well as criminologists, sociologists and those making difficult policy decisions with respect to crime prevention and punishment. The publication date is 2012.
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