Crime, Policing and Punishment in England, 1700-1900

  • Created by: Monique
  • Created on: 11-04-20 18:11

Before 1829

The Constable- two characteristics of a constable.

The Saxon Constable- Families were grouped and made responsible for their own behaviours.

Medieval Constable- A man appointed from within the community and charged with carrying out the duties of the office for no more than a year, it was his responsibility to make regular reports to the local court leet about felons 

  • Responsible for maintaining peace within King's district.
  • Acquired royal authority
  • Patrolled at night
  • Poorly paid
  • Poor reputation
  • Local men that continued living in the parish which they policed 
  • Some were illiterate (also due to the times & low economic status of their parish) and some even had their own criminal background
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Before 1829

Watchmen were local agents of law enforcement who had long been recruited by, and from among, urban dwellers

Justices of the peace-

  • Royal officials from the outset to keep the peace.
  • The Justices were the social superiors of the constables
  • They were often lords of the manor 

Bow Street Runners & Fielding’s (1750s onwards)

  • Assist in the detection and apprehension of offenders 
  • They were a group of professional thief-takers
  • By the 1790s an armed patrol of (Bow street runners) began to watch the main roads
  • Watchmen into the centre of London
  • Night foot patrol, Dismounted Patrol, Horse Patrol, Day foot patrol.
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Before 1829

Justices of the peace

  • Royal officials from the outset to keep the peace.
  • The Justices were the social superiors of the constables
  • They were often lords of the manor 

Bow Street Runners & Fielding’s (1750s onwards)

  • Assist in the detection and apprehension of offenders 
  • They were a group of professional thief-takers
  • By the 1790s an armed patrol of (Bow street runners) began to watch the main roads
  • Watchmen into the centre of London
  • Night foot patrol, Dismounted Patrol, Horse Patrol, Day foot patrol.
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The rise of Professional Policing (19th c.)

Background to change:

Why 1829?- 

  • Gentry weren't happy with the creation of the met police because it undermined their discretion
  • old system seemed to be working 
  • need to maintain authority and control, almost paternalistic view on the local magistrate in his own parish as opposed to giving authority to the state


  • Rising tension in society e.g. Post Napolenonic wars: rise of crime ,shortage of food supply, riots, 
  • Political movements/reform:  industrial revolution-luddities, swing riots, waterloo massacre.
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The rise of Professional Policing (19th c.)

Path to professional police

  • 1785- London & Westminister Police Bill
  • 1792- Middlessex Justice Act
  • 1798- Wst India Force- Set up by P. Colquhoun to police the Thames on trade from West Indies to Britain 

More of a pressure to have a police system outside London than in London because London was already well policied. 

The 'New Police' :

Metropolitan Police Act 1829 features:

  • Uniform- deliberitlety make unifrom look civil, dark colours 
  • Bowstreet Runners- London's first prof. police force
  • Hierarchy (dual commissioners in charge of police drawn from law and other military)
  • Disiplined
  • Recruited policemen from other areas so that they ont bump into criminals they know
  • Principles- deter, investigate, prevention, patrolling, stop+search 
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The rise of Professional Policing (19th c.)

Policing England: Gradual change not revolution

  • 1829- only really in london
  • England + Wales- 1856- when they got a policeforce
  • Great Reform Act 1832- Extending the Franchise to the Municpal Corportations Act 1835
  • Poor Law 1834- Indoor relief
  • Chartism-1830s (Violent+ Not violent) e.g. Newprt Rising 1839
  • Rural and Constabulary Act- Allows rural areas to raise money through taxation to create own rural policeforce (one of the first- Northampton)

Emergence of the detective branch

  • 1842- Detecitve department
  • 1878- CID (Criminal Investigation Department)
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The rise of Professional Policing (19th c.)

Triggers to change:

  • The detecive in fiction e.g. Sherlock Holmes, Charles Dickens...
  • Rise of the criminal class
  • High profile criminals e.g. Daniel Good
  • Irish Fenians - Nationalists wanting home rule

Historians and the Police

Orthodox, Revisionist, Neo-Reithian


  • Idea: Criminals=bad, Police=great
  • Quite biased entries, tend to be Whig history, if you read 1950's-60's

Revisionist (60s-70s)

  • Marxist Historians (e.g. Robert Storch)- focused on oppression and that the police was reinforcing it.
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The rise of Professional Policing (19th c.)


  • Say that police are being hated, not just criminals
  • New engine of force to oppress people
  • Police are new tool to knock down 19thc society as opposed to gallows in 18thc
  • Police are now seen as another oppressive institution like the prisons, workhouses and factories.

Neo-Reithian (70s onwards)

  • People like Inwood set out investigations of police.  
  • Findings: police not oppressive, but specifically targeting and not acting against the lower class, just pragmatic. Moral/ sympathetically working.
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Juvenile Delinquency

The causes of youth crime:

  • Post Napoleonic war- alarming increase of juvenile delinquency- therefore, greater focus on criminality 
  • Once Met police created the met police was created it began to deal with a lot of j.crime
  • alarming increase committee created to look at the problem- tells us what contempories thought juvenile sentencing
  • Unstable home 
  • Economic conditions e.g. poverty
  • Faminly environment 
  • Education
  • Gambling
  • Homeless
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Juvenile Delinquency

6 Main features of the CJS to Juvenile crime in the 18thc

  • No sperate courts for hearings
  • J. awaiting trial in same prison wards as adults
  • J. subjected to same range of sentences as adults
  • No seperate penal institutions for j.
  • J. Punishments were based on the same principles as adult offenders
  • Age of criminal responsibility was very low- @7
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Juvenile Delinquency

6 Main changed to the CJS for J. 18thc (1969)

  • Separate courts developed for j.
  • Awaiting trial on remand (not guility yet) not held in same cells as adults
  • Sentences began to change
  • Penal institutions set up
  • Ideological basis for j. changed from punishment-welfare 
  • Age of criminal responsibility doubled

Separate courts for J.

  • 1847-1850- powers given to magistrates to hear thefts caes of those aged 7-14

Separation of J. from Adult prisoners

  • Separate wards.
  • Problem: overcrowding in j.prisoners-solution= 1834 JPs used workhouses then passed law to do this in 1866
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Juvenile Delinquency

Other changed to punishment policy

  • By early 19thc children were no longer hanged 
  • 1907-probation and offenders act
  • 1933-abolition of capital punishment for under 18yr olds

Separate institutions

  • Marine society 1756-- Try to help young criminals & youthful poor chnage their lives and train them to work in navy (charity)
  • Philanthropic society- Train youths away from crime, taking them out of criminal environment

Other institutions- Transportation & Parkhurst Prison 1838

Mary Carpenter and the J. Reformatory movement 

  • Believed that young people got in trouble because of their environment 
  • She set up residential institution that trained them & helped find better position in society
  • Under funded
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Juvenile Delinquency

Reformatiories in Action:

  • Under funded- could not meet ideals Carpenter set
  • 1914- 43 reformatories. 132 industrial schools, 12 truant schools-30,000 children
  • Post war dentention centres- short, sharp &shock.

Ideological shift from punishment to welfare:

  • Reformaties- breakthrough
  • Probation- alternative non-custodial 
  • J. courts- judical space
  • 1933- welfare of children
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The rise of the prison 

18thc gaol

  • Newgate- would be a holding place for debtors & other types of crimes 
  • houses of correction- very small prisons, short period of time, element of rehabilitation because people set to work- for people who committed minor offences e.g. ******* bearer, theives or vagabonds
  • Prisoner had to pay for own accomodation to the masters

Newgate and Barking house of corrections e.g

  • diseases
  • mismanaged
  • overcrowding
  • bribery and corruption
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The decline and fall of the bloody code

Why punishment?- Setting example, revenge, new concept of rehabilitation in 18thc (part of enlightenment thinking)

Early modern punishment (medieval-end of the war of the roses-stuart)

  • public illustrations of punishment
  • individual is elevated for view
  • humiliation, painful
  • not designed for rehabilitation 

Bloody code of Hanoverian England

  • The Waltham Black Act (1723)- Established the system known as the Bloody Code which imposed the death penalty for over two hundred, often petty, offences. Its aim was deterrence.
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Early 18thc- Hanging, pillary, whipping- all public

Mid 18thc:

  • Increasingly juries dont want to convict people of crimes they could be executed for.
  • Increasing concern for effectiveness
  • Prison us just to hold you to decide, not punishment in itself

End of 18thc:

  • New ways of punishment 
  • transportation (trans act of 1718)- used to get trans to America but lost colony so now Australlia
  • Hulks (floating prison)
  • Penitary act (1779)- prisons used to rehabilitate offenders, not just holding, new form of punishment
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Murder act of 1752- make punishment worse rather than finding new ways 

  • Response to moral panic
  • Arg: cant hang everyone for everything
  • decided on post execution punishment- dissection and anatomisation

Why dissection ?- Religious reasons, body should be intact for the rupture & for scientific reasons due to enlightenment era

Jeremy Bentham panopticon- inspection house- people know they are being watched so they would act different.

The rise of Prisons 

Imprisonment as rehabilitation- George Onesiphorus Paul- pioneered ideas of how prisons should run 

  • Prison reformers- John Howard, Elizabeth Fry- religiously motivated- argue that prisoners dont have sense of morality (Bible, parents, poverty, education)
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Competing prison systems of the 19thc

Separate v silent

Separate- isolated convicts, segmented cubicles, convicts wore hoods over heads. Bad- mental health issues, higher suicide rates. Good- Self-reflection.

Silent- together, uniform in rows, being lectured at.

Conclusion- Nothing much changed in terms of the effects to the individual (18th-19thc.)

Establishing the Victorian prison system 

  • Increasing role of the state e.g. penitentary act- allows to build prisons rather than using old castles- 1779 - Beginning of state being involved in prison systems

1865 Prison act- Official declaration of the Victorian state taking control of the running of prisons, no unfair treatment.

  • Diet- scientific starvation- no more than 5 a day (impact: different sizes)
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