Ice-buckets apart, Obiter has not had much of a silly season this year, thanks no doubt to a plentiful supply of real hard news. That hasn’t stopped the usual desperate attempts by PR companies to place daft survey stories in supposedly quiet August news pages.
Of course these things are done with serious intent, which is usually apparent from the survey’s sponsor. What, then, are we supposed to make of a survey showing the extent of ‘moral grey areas’ in British everyday life? Apparently, 24% of Brits admit to downloading material illegally from the internet, 19% to dodging train fares and 15% to bagging unscanned items in the supermarket.
The overall impression is that we’re a nation of opportunist thieves. This is borne out by perceptions of the seriousness of crimes: while 95% of us consider burglary and mugging as serious, 74% think the same about stealing from a supermarket and only 39% about illegally downloading music or films.
So who’s paying for this study? The Home Office? The Howard League? Neither: it is home insurer Privilege. One giveaway is the inclusion of questions about the seriousness of making fraudulent insurance claims and giving false information to get a cheaper premium: 84% and 77% of Britons see these as serious crimes – ahead, for example, of causing damage to public property (74%).
One wonders how these figures will be spun in the insurance industry’s ongoing campaign to persuade ministers that they are being driven to the wall by amoral, money-grubbing solicitors.