It is always a few bad apples that spoil it for the rest of us, isn’t it?

Not according to a new study, which suggests that the image of the “law abiding majority” is a myth and more than 6 in 10 of us are prepared to commit criminal offences.

So-called “harmless” crimes are apparently rife with many of us considering it perfectly acceptable to steal from employers, official and government bodies, or to claim illicit refunds from a wide variety of businesses.

Everyone’s at it, apparently, with the research team from Keele University acknowledging that although such criminal activity might not be classed as anti-social they are still “anti-civil”.

The team’s poll of 1,807 people in England and Wales found 61% had committed one of a series of offences. Among the long list of offences by the respectable majority are paying cash in hand to avoid taxation (34%); keeping the money after being given too much change (32%); failing to disclose faulty goods in second-hand sales (8%); and padding out an insurance claim (7%).

Of those who admitted to an offence 62% committed an offence on up to three occasions and 10% admitted to nine or more offences.

So does this point to the fact that the criminal mind lurks deep within us all?

Are we continually on the verge of a complete collpase into a lawless state?

Some experts maintain the survey points to the fundamental changes in society and attitudes that have taken place over the last 30 years. The heavily populated centre ground dictates the overall moral well-bveing of society, therefore, this study paints a fairly gloomy picture of 21st century Britain.

But I’d suggest such “offences” have always been committed and we haven’t seen a rapid increase since the 1970s.

It is more likely that the changes in attitude merely relate to our tendancy to boast about such triviliates, rather than maintain a veil of secrecy.

So, instead of seeing a downward spiral to a morally bankrupt society, I regard this study as merely confirming a fact that has been with us for many years.

It is a new form of keeping up with the Joneses – getting one over on some faceless organisation or individual and managing to trump someone’s else slice of “good fortune” into the bargain.

Tricking your way to a windfall is a badge of honour these days.

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