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Do Freegans Commit Theft?

By Sean Thomas


The definitive version is available at wileyonlinelibrary.comThe environmental impact of mass consumerism is a growing concern, with a particular\ud consequence being the production of significant levels of waste goods. Goods are often\ud disposed of whilst still being useable. One proposed method of reducing the environmental\ud impact of the levels of waste of useable goods is freeganism. This paper provides an\ud overview of freeganism, followed by an evaluation of the impact of English criminal law\ud on freeganism. This paper will consider the claim that freegans commit theft. First there\ud is analysis of the possibility that freegans cannot be guilty of theft because they only deal\ud with abandoned property. Although there is considerable strength in this claim, the\ud difficulties with establishing that property is abandoned necessitates the development of an\ud alternative defence. It will be suggested that freeganism is not an activity that is dishonest\ud in a way so as to attract criminal sanction. This argument is based on the structure of the\ud criminal law relating to theft, which has defences based on claims of right, subjective\ud honesty and the considerations of ordinary people (ie jury members). It is concluded that\ud freegans should not be guilty of theft under the current English criminal law.Peer-reviewedPost-prin

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell (on behalf of the Society of Legal Scholars)
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1111/j.1748-121X.2009.00142.x
OAI identifier:

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  1. above n 144,
  2. considerable strength in Steel’s thesis that such an approach overstates the importance of regime protection, and understates the necessity of some sort of felonious thought
  3. (1982). Elliott ‘Dishonesty in Theft: A dispensable concept’
  4. On the Nature and Rationale of Property Offences’ doi
  5. text accompanying
  6. text accompanying n 79
  7. text following n 100.
  8. (2008). The Harms and Wrongs of Stealing: The Harm Principle and Dishonesty in Theft’

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