Professor of Criminal Law, Durham Law School. Many thanks to Andy Aitchison, Dan Carr, Andrew Cornford, Antony Duff, Chloë Kennedy, Colin King, Nick Lord, Neil Walker and the anonymous reviewers for valuable feedback, and to David Ford for research assistance.
The phenomenon of ‘corruption by organised crime’ is the subject of increased attention from policymakers in the UK. This focus is notable, given the limited political and academic consideration of the scope and meaning of this intersecting term. Both ‘organised crime’ and ‘corruption’ are difficult notions to pin down, definitionally and empirically, and such complexity is compounded by their conjunction. In this article, I problematize the dominant conceptualization of ‘corruption by organised crime’, and suggest that it is questionable in an abstract as well as operational sense. Given the ambiguity of the constituent concepts, as well as the implications for the development of criminal justice policy and law, I call for caution in its use. Instead I propose that we refer, and thus respond, to specific manifestations of corrupt practices for different criminal ends.