The sentence in which I've seen that is :"Non-translators should be aware that the trading conditions for dishonest translation and interpreting companies are optimum, in other words, the translation business itself can be a crook's charter."

Thanks a lot for your help.

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    An opportunity for dishonest people to get away with fraud. 'A rogue's charter' is possibly more common (though perhaps more open to jocular use). Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 17:46

2 Answers 2


The meaning of "charter" in this instance is that a charter is a description of a business's methods.

By calling it "a crook's charter," it's another way of stating "in describing the methods by which dishonest people use dishonest translation to earn money by swindling others, you are teaching other unethical people how to turn it into a lucrative business."

  • Ah thank you very much, your explanation of "charter" makes it clear :-)
    – FrenchMan
    Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 17:54
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    @JohnDeters, it's also customary (and even encouraged, in order to give other answer-givers opportunity to weigh in) to allow 12 to 24 hours for other answers to come in before accepting one. :-)
    – Hellion
    Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 19:21
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    Yes, especially since the other answer given so far is actually correct.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 20:55

Charter OED

A written grant by the sovereign or legislative power of a country, by which a body such as a borough, company, or university is created or its rights and privileges defined:

1.3 British A policy or law regarded as enabling people to engage more easily in a specified undesirable activity:

In its broadest sense, a charter gives permission to operate under the specified conditions of a higher authority.

The more common British expression is rogue's charter, implying that a law gives permission for rogues to operate freely. The first use available online is a Law Review in 1860:

Well indeed it said that "the case showed how the working classes might be wronged by these companies!" Yes, here is Limited Liability in practice. Did we err in calling it The Rougue's Charter?

A more recent use in The Comparative Law Yearbook of International Business:

Such a proposition would indeed establish a new rogue's charter: the poorer the defendant and the more his wrongful diversion of the plaintiffs business to himself is injuring the plaintiff, the smaller would be the prospects of gaining an injunction against him.

Another example with a small morphological shift from Citizens Advice in 2011:

Plans unveiled by Business Secretary Vince Cable today to water down workplace rights protecting millions of British workers against exploitation have been branded a ‘rogues’ charter’ by Citizens Advice...

Ministers have said they want to create a level playing field that is fair to workers and decent employers alike. But tearing up employment protection will not stop rogue employers gaining an unfair advantage over law-abiding competitors by exploiting their workforce.

The concern was that new laws would empower rogue employers to exploit the workforce.

Another example of from a 2002 article in The London Evening Standard:

LAWS that give investors protection from unscrupulous companies floating on the London stock market will vanish under a rogues' charter proposed by the European Commission.

The article goes on to demonstrate that the existing laws are necessary, but the European Commission is trying to empower unethical players with a new law.

The legal connotations become very clear from its common use. Since crook is an informal expression for a subset of rogue, the expression crook's charter seems clear enough, but one might question the legitimacy of moving the application from laws to the behavior pattern within an industry.

The philosophical obstacle of that shift is probably quite large in a lawyer's mind. The linguistic obstacle in Everyman's mind is much smaller. As individuals and groups, our behavior offers implicit permission for the people around us to behave in a particular manner.

So the sentence under consideration could easily be interpreted:

Non-translators should be aware that the trading conditions for dishonest translation and interpreting companies are optimum, in other words, the translation business itself gives permission to crooks.

An implied definition of crook's charter from that usage in the context of its linguistic origin:


A condition or moral atmosphere that enables undesirable activity.

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    +1. I'd note that the "a [bad type of person]'s charter" snowclone is more often used (and with more obvious applicability) of such things as individual laws or policies than general moral atmosphere. The example in the question is a bit vaguer than that you give in answering, but that the question is vaguer than how it is normally used, while you match it well. The jump from what you explain to the questionable use quoted is clear though.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 21:05
  • This answer is so much better than the selected one.
    – Good A.M.
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 20:34

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