This paper identifies a form of non-compliance with COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in the UK: “creative non-compliance”. Here, individuals justify breaking restrictions as meeting the “spirit of the law” if not the “letter of the law”. Drawing on interview and focus group data collected between April and August 2020 in the UK, we outline this concept of “creative non-compliance”, detailing how: (i) our participants undertook a purposive construction of rules, (ii) balanced their behaviour against these aims, and (iii) how Government messaging informed these rationalizations. We conclude by outlining the implications of our “creative non-compliance” theory both for studies of compliance and rationalizations for deviant behaviour under the COVID-19 restrictions.


© 2021 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

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Meers, J., Halliday, S. & Tomlinson, J. 2021, 'Creative non-compliance : complying with the "spirit of the law" not the "letter of the law" under the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions', Deviant Behavior. https://doi.org/10.1080/01639625.2021.2014286

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Last updated: 10 April 2023
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