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Last Updated: Monday, 25 June 2007, 03:55 GMT 04:55 UK
Law-abiding majority 'is a myth'
The offences admitted to would be subject to various penalties
More than six out of 10 people regularly commit crimes against the government, their employers or businesses, research suggests.

Keele University researchers said it showed petty crime was rife among the middle classes and exposed the "law-abiding majority" to be a myth.

Their poll of 1,807 people in England and Wales found 61% had committed one of a series of offences.

They included paying "cash in hand" to avoid VAT and stealing items from work.

The study found that around one-third of those questioned (34%) paid "cash in hand" to avoid taxation and about one in five (18%) had taken something, such as stationery, from work.

Other findings included:

  • One in 11 had wrongly used identification for their own gain
  • 7% of those questioned had padded out an insurance claim to get more money
  • A total of 11% avoided paying their television licence
  • A total of 8% did not disclose faulty goods in second-hand sales
  • And 6% asked a friend in a bureaucratic job to bend the rules

Of those who admitted to an offence, nearly two-thirds (62%) had broken the law on up to three occasions and 10% admitted to nine or more offences.

The study's author, Professor Suzanna Karstedt, said: "Contempt for the law is as widespread in the centre of society as it is assumed to be rampant at the margins and among specific marginal groups.

"Anti-social behaviour by the few is mirrored by anti-civil behaviour by the many.

"Neither greed nor need can explain why respectable citizens cheat on insurance claims or in second-hand sales, and do not hesitate to discuss their exploits with friends in pubs."

The study, of people aged 25 to 65, was published by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College, London.

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