Breaking the law in fiction

Breaking the law creates plots for novels. I write about people who solve crimes and bring the criminals to justice and have written about real and fictitious police heroes. Most novelists let their principal characters break the law in a good cause. Some take a stricter view than others. Sherlock Holmes cared about justice more than the law. Some fictitious detectives tamper with evidence to get a conviction when they know the suspect is guilty but they can’t prove it. Does this mean everyone should obey the law only when it fits their ideas of justice? Where would that lead?  We writers need to be careful.

Breaking the law in my novels

In Accounting for Murder, Book III, New Money, some of the characters break the Covid restrictions, but I point out in the introduction that I don’t recommend it. I also say that someone commits murder and I don’t recommend that either. Of course, none of those covid rule breakers was prime minister!

The cover of New Money, in which not only by the villains are breaking the law!

The cover of New Money, in which not only by the villains are breaking the law!


Should Christians ever break the law?

Most Christians are law-abiding citizens just as both St Peter and St Paul exhort us in the New Testament. Obviously, if you love your neighbour, you won’t want to steal from him or her or do anyone any harm. Easy! In this country, most of our laws were once based on the Bible and in more recent times the law has been based on the British form of humanism which has Christian roots.

What if there are unjust laws?

What about countries which ban Christianity or all religion or put severe restrictions on religious activity? Plenty of Christians are in jail in places like China, Iran, Eritrea and North Korea. There is a conflict between your duty to the state and your duty to God. Some people say the present laws concerning protests are too strict. The main issue has been climate change protesters, but what next?  What I hope is for parliament to amend the law to enable reasonable non-violent protests.

What about the government breaking the law?

I have been appalled at the government’s attitude to international law, including the European Convention on Human Rights. Even within this country, water companies and other polluters are rarely prosecuted. Corruption and tax evasion also seem to be tolerated more than lesser crimes. Does that justify the rest of us breaking the law? Once law and order break down it’s hard to restore them and everyone suffers. Many opponents of the tyranny of Charles I and other monarchs were most reluctant to join in rebelling for that reason.

There is an old saying, dating from the time of the enclosure of common land:

The Law will punish man or woman who steals a goose from off the common, but lets the greater felon loose who steals the common from the goose.

I want the law to protect the common and the goose. I hope to reflect that in my novels.

What about you?

When do you break the law? What do you think about fictitious heroes? Should they place justice above the law? Let me know in the Comments or use a contact form or send an e-mail.