At the most basic level compliance means a desired state of conformity with the law, a regulation, or a demand. Defining compliance may therefore appear to be simply a matter of 'measuring up' whether or not a given state of affairs or an act accords with the demands encoded in law. In practice this 'measuring up' may not be so simple, since interpreting the meaning of rules and applying them to real-life situations is not always straightforward. Indeed, cynics might point out that it is the fact that the law is not always clear and unambiguously applied that keeps solicitors, barristers, and other members of the legal profession in a job. This is not simply a case of dealing with those who seek to evade the law, but also relates to the fact that what happens in the 'real world' does not, indeed cannot, be reduced to the classificatory scheme of the law. Hence there is necessarily scope for interpretation in the enforcement of the law.
The scope of interpretation in implementing the law may be structured by a variety of factors, such as the way in which the law is framed and worded; enforcement agency directives about legal interpretation; the application of these interpretations by individual enforcement officials; and, in a number of matters, consideration of case law. In this Chapter a variety of definitions of compliance will be considered, starting with the legal definition and finishing with the subject of the next chapter, the working definition employed by those at the 'sharp end' of the enforcement process, the field-level officials.
The question of how precisely the law should be written is one that has occupied many a legal mind, not least because it is related to the issue of the scope which should be given to the enforcement official to determine what may be defined as an offence--how much de jure discretion officials should be accorded ( Baldwin and Hawkins, 1984; Davis, 1969; Jowell, 1973). Pre-Robens, health and safety legislation tended to be very precisely defined. This may have left less scope for inspector