Crime and Punishment


Crime in the Anglo Saxon Period

c.500 Britain was controlled by four main factions, Celts, Picts, Vikings and Saxons.

King's Peace- believed it was the king's duty to maintain law and order.






Angelo Saxon Crimes-

person- murder, assault, public disorder.

property-theft, counterfeiting, arson

authority-treason, rebellion, betraying your lord.

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Changing Definitions of Crime in the Norman period

Feudal System-

King -> Nobles-> Knights-> Serfs

Introduction of a kings army, to control the populace after William I becomes king after the battle of Hastings in 1066.

Crime in Norman England-

Poaching was a social crime with the introduction of the forest laws, made to benefit William and his nobles

The statute of laborers passed (1351) after the plague made it illegal to ask for higher wages.

Heresy was the crime of speaking against the church, with laws passed in 1382, 1401 and 1414

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Crime in the Early Modern Period

c.1500-c.1700 Religious instability in Europe. Martain Luther protested corruption in the Catholic church and founded Protestantism, which grew during the reformation.

Monarch     Reign           Religion          Executions for Heresy

Henry VIII 1509-47 Church of England                81

Edward VI 1547-53 Protestant                             2

Mary I        1553-58 Catholic                               283

Elizabeth I 1583-03 Protestant                             5

James the first was tolerant until the gunpowder plot, when he introduced strict anti-catholic laws.

1547-the Vagrancy Act- able-bodied beggers were branded and sold as slaves.

1597- the Act for Relief of the Poor- harsh punishments introduced as a deterrent.

1601-Poor Law- parishes assisted those unable to work, able-bodied were harshly punished.

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Changes in Britain in the Early Modern Period.


Higher taxes were introduced to pay for government reforms

majority employment changed from farm to factory work


By 1885 all men had the vote so governments began to make changes to win the elections

there was also a growing acceptance of government involvement.


Importing food led to lower prices and less starvation

By 1850, 70% of people could read and wire, while a law in 1880 made schooling mandatory.

There were scientific advancements like the theory of evolution and technological advancements

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Changing Definitions of Crime in the Early Modern


Goods were bought into the country illegally to avoid paying tax, so they could be sold at a lower price. it became common in the 18th century with the increase of tax on cloth and wine. It was a social crime, and because people benefited from it they were unlikely to report instances of it. Rates fell when import duties were lowered.

Highway Robbery-

Instances recorded throughout the middle ages and 18th century, when trade and travel throughout the country increased rates fell with the introduction of the death penalty, and with the increasing use of banks.


Began as a crime in the Norman era, but evolved into large gangs of men, stealing from forests etc. The Black act made it illegal to disguise yourself in a hunting area, carry snares, or own hunting dogs.

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Crime in the Modern era




New Laws-

Domestic violence- victims are allowed to ask for an injunction(1976) marital **** became illegal (1991) control and coercion became crimes(2014)

New Crimes-

Terrorism, Human Trafficking, Cyber Crimes, Fraud, Plagiarism, Extorsion. 

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Law Enforcement & Punishment in Anglo-Saxon Englan

Trial by Ordeal- Superstition of the era, in trial by hot iron, the accused was burned, and if the burn healed well they were innocent and had gods favor.

Hue and Cry- raising the hue and cry was essentially a yell for help the community was obliged to answer.

Tithings- Groups of 10 men aged 12+ were responsible for each other, and preventing and punishing crime

Oaths- the accused swore oaths of innocence.

If an Angelo Saxon killed a norman, their lord had to pay a murdrum fine to the king.

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Punishment in the Later Middle Ages.

Stocks and Pillory-

a public punishment, a combination of physical pain and humiliation, criminals would be exposed to bad weather and their village would throw rotten fruit at them


compensation for the loss of life paid by the murderer to the victims family, introduced to reduce blood feuds.

Capital & Corporeal Punishment-

The death penalty was reserved for crimes like treason and arson, while corporeal punishments were common, and meant to act as a deterrent.

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Law Enforcement in the Early Modern Period

Town Constables were employed by the local authorities to prevent crime, expected to deliver serious criminals to the courts, break up fights and round up beggars.

Night Watchmen- Unpaid volunteers who patrol the town at night, rings a bell to enforce a curfew, patrolling between 10 pm and dawn.

Theif Takers-Hired by victims of crime to catch criminals and deliver them to the courts. Jonathon Wild was a thief-taker from London, who led a gang of thieves who handed in their own stolen goods for the rewards.

Bow Street Runners- in 1748, Henry Fielding paid 6 men to take on full-time constable duty, they became the bow street runners. They organized patrols on major roads and collected and shared information with other forms of law enforcement.

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Punishment in the Early Modern Period

Early Prisons- Considered a holding area, where criminals would wait for their trials. All demographics were kept together, so younger offenders were often taught how to become better criminals. Prison Reformers, John Howard, and Elizabeth Fry worked to introduce reasonable living standards, wages for jailers to prevent abuse, and teach prisoners skills like sewing.

Transportation-Prisoners were sentenced to manual labor in North America for 7-14 years, to further colonization. it became a great deterrent because convicts could not afford the journey home. when America declared independence, transportation moved to Australia. 160000 people, mostly non-violent were transported to Australia. Eventually, Australia became too profitable to continue sending convicts there, as free settlers suffered.

Capital punishment- under the bloody code, there were 50 capital crimes. it was meant to act as a harsh deterrent, but most crimes were those of desperation, so it was not very effective. Use of the death eventually declined, because it did not appear to reduce crime, as policing the crowds at executions was difficult and expensive.

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Law Enforcement in the Modern Period

Neighborhood Watch- the modern equivalent of tithings, a  group of people who would listen to the communities concerns, and bring them before the police if they really mattered.

Developments in policing- women were first recruited in the 1920s to work with children and female victims and in 1947 the police training college was set up to train recruits.

Scientific and technological developments-

1900- fingerprints, blood types, photography, police bicycles.

1930-cars, 999, Dogs

1960- Computers, breathalyzers, Fraud Squad, K-9 unit

1980-DNA, CCTV, misuse of drugs act

1995- National Fingerprint and DNA database, mobile phones and tablets

2000- National Hi-tech Crime Unit, Nathional Crime Agency

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Punishments in the Modern Period

Borstals- a youth offenders unit for boys only, encouraging work,  physical exercise, and practical skills. In 1982, borstals were replaced with Youth Custody Centres.

Youth Justice Reforms- Led to a graduated system of prisons, using detention centres and attendance centres for rehabilitation and probation. Later introduced Juvenile courts and Care Orders.

ASBO- a court order that places restrictions on where a criminal can go and who they can talk to.

Community Service- Supervised work for the local community

Rehab- offers treatment for drug abusers and alcoholics

Tagging- the tag allows the criminal's movements to be monitored, so new behaviours can be conditioned.

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Case Study: The Church

William the first encouraged the church to established church courts to deal with moral crime, offering a chance to reform. 

In 1215 the Pope ordered priests to stop organizing trials by ordeal

henry II tries to limit the power of the church by losing church courts, focused on becoming more uniform under the Constitution of Clarendon

in the early 13th century, senior church officials successfully argued that members of the clergy should be tried and church courts called the benefit of the clergy

the churches offer sanctuary to the accused, reporting a crime if the clergy deemed it necessary, leaving the country instead.

heresy became a crime when people started questioning in the church, laws were introduced in 1382 1401 and 1440 making the punishment burning at the stake

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Case Study: The Gunpowder Plot

The plotters wanted to break up the powerful ruling group and replace James the first with his daughter princess Elizabeth, who they would influence and control to promote their own political and religious aims . 

In 1570, queen Elizabeth the first was excommunicated from the Catholic church by the Pope he called on all loyal Catholics to depose Elizabeth- following this, catholics in the England were more actively prevented from practicing their faith. many were punished for practicing my face and stricter rules were introduced that stop Catholics attending mass or being married in a Catholic Church. 

Any Catholics that refused to attend the Protestant church were fined and treated as criminals. 

James 1st was married to a Catholic so, many Catholics believe you would give the more religious freedom. However, he was prepared to introduce stricter anti-Catholic measures. The most significant long-term consequence gunpowder Plot were the laws that stemmed from it; the popish recusants act that made Catholics take part in Protestant rituals and prevent them from working in law.

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Case Study: Withcraft

Role of the church- protestant thinking became more popular after Henry VIII split from the Catholic church people increasingly feared the Old religion, Catholicism. This feeling two attempts to clean Society by seeking out witchcraft 

The role of society- during the 16th century, there were economic problems that increased tension in small Communities, the rising fear of vagabonds and the Civil War in 1642 families and communities were divided. this lead to a climate of Fear and suspicion Cattle deaths etc would be blamed on witches. 

Role of the monarchy- in the Middle Ages, church courts were used for witchcraft trials, in 1542, Henry VIII changed the law making it punishable by death and a crime against the king in 1563 Elizabeth the first changed the law so that if a witch tried to kill someone they would receive the death penalty. Because the crime was being treated as a crime against the state people began to fear harm from witches. 

Role of James the first James 1st was a witch hunter and published demonology in 1597 it was about the nature of hell and called witches slaves of the devil which supported the use of children in Witch Trials trials and argued it was a crime against God. he thought witches tried to drown him and his wife and was hyper aware of threats after the Gunpowder Plot. He encouraged witch trials and gave explicit instructions on how to carry them out.

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Case Study: Witchcraft

Matthew Hopkins was witchfinder General, who believed which has made the Pact with the devil. Born in the 1620s to a preacher, Matthew was very religious.

In Manningtree, Essex, the wife of a tailor was sick and the Taylor and Floyd magistrates to find the witch that cursed her. They accused Elizabeth Clark, an 80 year old widow with only one leg, who was very poor and known to be bad-tempered. Landowner, John Stern gave an eyewitness account saying Elizabeth Clark and admitted to Witchcraft and knowing other witches. Stern was given a warrant to investigate this and any witches. Hopkins volunteered to help him to prove his faith. Women were sent to her house to search for the  Devil's Mark.

To convict they need a confession, so deprived her of sleep, food, and water for three days. she did not confess. She confessed to Hopkins saying devil was a tall black-haired gentleman, she said she was part of a coven allowing Sturn and Hopkins to become freelance Witch Hunters.

Clark was arrested in March, seven more in April and 30 by June. in July they were tried in Chelmsford, Hopkins had a witness, Rebecca West, an accused witch who was offered an out if she testified against the Coven 15 were found guilty and sentenced to death on Friday 16th of July execution was a short drop, they died of strangulation. in between 1540 and 1736 up to 1000 people were killed for witchcraft. Hopkins created a state of mass panic.

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Case Study: Pentonville Prison

Pentonville prison had a heating system, ventilation, piped water to each cell, wash basin and toilet. It could hold 520 prisoners. The cells had an area of 8 m squared and prisoners could not leave cells for communicate with others. It was built in 1842, with separate cells for prisoners when they were kept up to 23 hours a day. It was meant to provide prisoners with an opportunity for individual improvement, encourage reformed a religious faith and reflection, ensure the prisoners were not influenced by other criminals, and deter people from committing crimes. Facemasks insured that time outside their cells was as isolated as possible. 

Prisoners were highly disciplined, it focused on isolating prisoners even when not in their rooms: the building walls were thick to stop communication and they were given pointless tasks like oakum picking and cleaning rope. The solitary conditions and lack of contact many prisoners suffer from mental illness, depression, and psychosis. there was a high suicide rate. 

Views of the separate system- reformers wanted to give prisoners a chance to change so that after their release they could do something progressive and avoid going back to prison. both Elizabeth Fry and Oscar Wilde Express concern mental illness because of suicide rates.

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Case Study:Robert Peel

Robert Peel was home secretary in 1822 and Prime Minister from 1834 to 1834 and from 1841 to 1846. His gaols act in 1823 focused on protecting and reforming prisoners, separating people by severity of offence and gender. All prisoners attend a church hoping they would find god. 

The first professional policemen, in England, known as 'Peelers' or 'Bobbies', were set up in London in 1829 by Robert Peel, the then Home Secretary, after 'The Metropolitan Police Act' of 1829.There were 17 divisions, which had 4 inspectors and 144 constables each.The 1856 Police Act saw a system for government inspection, audit, and regulation for the first time. This County Borough Police Act now forced the whole of the country to set up police forces. The legislation obliged the counties to organize police forces, subject to government control, devised a system of inspection already in use in factories, workhouses, and education, made grants dependent on efficiency, and shifted the emphasis from the prevention of crime to its detection.

 In 1877 Criminal Investigations Department (CID) was formed with 200 detectives; 600 more were added in 1883

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Case Study: Conscientious Objectors

Cos were people who refused to fight as they said their conscience wouldn't allow it many refuse to fight due to religious beliefs, political believes all because they thought the aims of the war were wrong. 

The Military service act allowed CO's to ask for exemption on grounds of conscience. 16 and a half thousand men made this request appearing before tribunal. The tribunals were unfair because they were local so there was a wide variation from area to area, and members of the panel were too old to be called up but had a clear View on duty. 

Many were imprisoned, sometimes they faced solitary confinement to weaken their resolve, some were sent to France and if they refused to follow orders they would be sentenced to death, or the reduced punishment of 10 years in prison. 

CO's were offered other occupations in World War II like Farm work but those who actively campaigned against it was still put on trial. official attitudes changed dramatically because people were asked to fight a tyrant and protect minorities. forcing CO's to work would be hypocritical. in public there was still hostile see someone verbally and physically abused and others lost their jobs.

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Case Study: Derek Bently

Derek Bentley broke into an abandoned factory with Christopher Craig age 16, who had a gun, which he used to shoot a police officer. Craig then fell 20 feet off the roof.

He had stunted mental growth, epilepsy, was beaten and neglected by his teachers and called up for national service.

In the interrogation, Bentley denied all knowledge of the gun and guilt of the murder. he was meant to have an appropriate adult because of his mental age.

Bentley was charged with murder and considered an accomplice. he pleaded not guilty. Bentley had state representation, it was impossible for him to dictate his statement according to the judge's rules and if he had been under arrest at the time of the shooting, he would have been considered innocent.

3 police Witnesses said that Bentley incited Craig. Bentley was sentenced to death. The appeal was dismissed, and the Home Secretary refused to give him life in jail rather than death. 500 people gathered outside to sing at his execution.

His death led to the permanent abolition of the death penalty.

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