I was staggered yesterday to learn that according to a 2008 study by retired Louisiana State University law professor John Baker, the USA has an estimated 4,500 crimes in federal statutes. But I was only really surprised because I had only just found out that the UK has precisiely 1,455 – 3 times less. We’ll be producing a separate page of all UK criminal offences for you shortly.
Comparing crime and punishment between nations is always very difficult. Many of us have heard a lot about the difference respective sizes of the prison populations in the UK and USA – 85,000 v. 2.2 million (according to this wiki) which even adjusted for populations of 62 and 307 million is a huge difference. Are we Brits ready to have 5 times as many prisoners as we do now and so be like America?
But here’s the beef: do we want that many lawyers as well?
It says something about how the reach of the law has become so pervasive in America that they don’t know quite how many crimes are on the federal statutes whereas we at least still do. Unkind observers would be tempted to conclude that in the USA, the lawyers really have taken over !
According to the same article, a major reason for the growth of these criminal statutes are;
lawmakers responding to hot-button issues—environmental messes, financial machinations, child kidnappings, consumer protection—with calls for federal criminal penalties. Federal regulations can also carry the force of federal criminal law, adding to the legal complexity
For all that, I’m not trying to grandstand here and say Britain and its boys in blue lead the world etc. Far from it. No one in Brtain for example, has a clue how many regulations are in force today and precisely how many originate from Brussels and nor is there any proper cost benefit analysis, just a sort of regulatory impact assessment.
In fact, I think there’s actually a great deal we could import and learn from America’s crimefighters. Starting with Bill Bratton, which just might be on the cards . . .