The aim of the project is to recommend how the state, through the criminal law (and through other kinds of repressive legislation) should deal – or not deal – with begging in public places, an issue of increasing interest in at least some of the Nordic countries (so Sweden, Denmark, and Norway). Not only “orthodox” begging, but similar activities – such as troubadouring in the metro followed by asking for money, as well as institutionalized begging from charity organizations – need to be given some attention. In order to answer the main question investigations in three different scientific branches have been made:
- criminal law, regarding current legislation, preparatory works and court practice in the Nordic countries and some other countries (e g USA and England);
- criminology, of empirical as well as theoretical kind; and
- political philosophy (and to some extent moral philosophy).
The results of the project will be published in 2011, as a lengthy article (preliminarily to be published in an anthology on different kinds of “public disturbances”). Further funding is being applied for, in particular because more time needs to be spent with problems related to trafficking for begging purposes, a phenomenon which in the last few years (also since the original application to NSfK) has received much more attention from legislators (and to some extent courts and authorities) in the Nordic countries.
Some preliminary conclusions of possible interest:
The Nordic countries, in views regarding criminal law and policy matters otherwise quite often rather similar, have in the last few years seemed to be going in slightly different directions regarding begging. Norway, on the one hand, de-criminalized begging, clearly stating that the act of begging in itself is not something that the State should be entitled to criminalize.
In Sweden, on the other hand – where begging is not criminalized – voices were raised, albeit with no result, in favor of a criminalization. Such differences (or potential differences) in attitude probably will diminish, though, as it now seems that all of the Nordic countries instead focus their interest on begging in relation to trafficking, thus focusing not on the single beggar and the act of begging itself, but instead on the cases where there are traffickers behind, exploiting those who beg. This development is mainly one that should be deemed a good one. The problem of what might be wrong with the act of begging in itself remains, though.
It is interesting – and in my opinion alarming – to note that in North America and UK, under the broader banner of measures necessary against “anti-social behavior” etc, also passive begging is deemed unwished-for (and is to some extent also criminalized), without much of further discussions regarding what is actually wrong with the practice.