Journal article

On the origins of consorting laws

Law Australia New Zealand Great Britain


Consorting laws have piqued the attention of Australian legislatures. In the last year alone, two states have re-enacted these offences, which criminalise repeated association with criminals. Such measures, though, have a pedigree stretching over seven centuries. This article offers an historical analysis of consorting offences, placing them in the context of a long line of statutes that criminalised the act of associating with undesirable classes of people. It traces their emergence from the beginnings of English vagrancy legislation in the late-mediaeval period, to early attempts in the Australasian colonies to suppress inchoate criminality, and then to 20th century efforts to tackle organised criminal activities. What emerges is that consorting offences are neither a modern phenomenon nor one restricted to the antipodes.

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