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On the Origins of Consorting Laws

41 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2013  

Andrew McLeod

Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford; The University of Sydney Law School

Date Written: December 1, 2013


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

Keywords: Legal history, vagrancy laws, consorting offenses, organized crime, reception of English law, inchoate criminality, motorcycle gangs, anti-bike legislation

JEL Classification: K10, K30

Suggested Citation

McLeod, Andrew, On the Origins of Consorting Laws (December 1, 2013). Melbourne Univeristy Law Review, Vol. 37, No. 1, 2013; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 13/88. Available at SSRN:

Andrew McLeod (Contact Author)

Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford ( email )

Norham Gardens
Oxford, OX2 6QA
United Kingdom

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006

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