Wednesday, December 11, 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.