Middle Ages- Crime & punishment

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Attitudes to Crime (Middle ages)

  • Local communities were expected to police themselves using tithings, constables and the hue and cry
  • Expected to obey the kings laws- Royal Judges held courts to show the kings power
  • Kings couldnt afford the costs of police or prisons
  • Punishments were harsh, took place in public- deter people
  • Most people from labourers, to nobles realised that breaking the law was a danger to everyone and the law had to be upheld
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  • Juries decided whether the accused was guilty
  • Trial by ordeal was used when the jury could not reach a decision God decided if the accused was guilty
  • There was a variety of types of ordeal
  • Normans kept trial by ordeal but also introduced trial by combat
  • By 1100 a series of courts had developed- Royal courts and Shire courts met twice a year to deal with serious cases- Village of manor courts were held weekly by landowner
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Against punishing them

  • Most were bit criminals- devious beggars
  • Genuinely poor and unemployed looking for work
  • Population-increasing-not enough work
  • Even in years of good harvest many people could just get by
  • Bread prices increased- harvest failed- poor becamse desperate
  • Punishments were harsh- for example unemployed men and women found begging or vagrant bodies would be whipped until their bodies bled and returned to their birthplace or previous residence
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Transportation to America (1)

What was transportation to America & when did it happen?

Transportation to America started in 1660's. It started by sending them to American Colonies called 'Penal Colonies'

Between 1718-1769 70% of criminals were convicted at the Old Bailey in London then transported.

36,000 people transported.

They were auctioned off to plantation owners.

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Tranportation to America (2)

Why were convicts transported to America?

  • There was a need for labour in American Colonies
  • Labour was unpaid
  • 1607- First colony formed in Virginia
  • They could choose transportation over death penalty
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Transportation to America (3)

How did the convicts reach America and what was it like for the convicts?

  • Travelled by boat
  • The boats were very overcrowded
  • The conditions were bad- diseases- some didnt survive the journey
  • Convicts accounted for a quarter for British Immigrants
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Transportation to America (4)

Convict Case Study: James Bell. Why was he transported and what were his experiences?

  • He stole a book- petty theft
  • He was a tailor aged 20
  • Sent on a journey over sea to America which is a harsh punishment
  • Wasnt the only one
  • Defend himself in court
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Transportation to America (5)

What was the Transportation Act of 1718 and why was it created?

  • 1718- Judges could now sentence convicted felons of certain crimes to transportation overseas to a British colony
  • The need to find a new form of punishment grew
  • This new act gave judges the option of removing convicted felons from the streets and jails without having to take away their lives in the process
  • The judge could now directly sentence the guilty party to transportation for 7 years of whipping
  • Formal sentence of death the offender could receive mercy from the crown and be pardened on condition of transportation
  • Convicts- returned before finishing
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Transportation to America (6)

When and why did transportation to America end?

  • American revolution 1776- ended transportation to America
  • This caused us to have a temporary prison haults to prevent over-crowding
  • The death penalty was used more
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The Bloody Code (1)

Law makers were worried about crime

  • There was plenty of evidence to show the public about crime e.g. accounts of London trials, public hangings deterred people from crimes
  • People were worried about the crimes increasing due to newspapers

Changes in society made it harder to enforce the law

  • 16th century onwards- old social structure of Britain was slowly changing
  • Unifying power of the church was declining
  • Trade was increasing, travel was increasing- made it hard to enforce a law
  • Easier for criminals to commit crime

As rich landowners, law-makers were particularly worried about property crime

  • MP's who passed laws who made the bloody code were all wealthy landowners
  • Lawmakers were selfish
  • Laws against poaching
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The Bloody Code (2) 1500-1750

Retribution- a punishment which acts as a revenge for a crime

  • The brank, beheading, branding with hot irons, transportation
  • Ads- Made them learn their lesson, people would remember it
  • Dis- Could kill them, perhaps the easy way out

Deterrence- a punishment that prevents a further crime

  • Branding with hor irons, the brank, Bridewell/Houses of correction, ducking stool, beheading
  • Ads- People wouldnt want to commit crimes (keeps them controlled)
  • Dis- harsh punishments for small crimes

Compensation- the pay back of a victims loss

  • Fines
  • Get the money from the person who committed the crime, disadvantage- rich people could commit more crimes

Humiliation - a punishment which acts to change a criminals behaviour e.g. the stocks

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The abolition of the Bloody Code

Sir Robert Peel the Home Secretary who set up the metropolitan police was one of the greatest administrators of the 19th century. He had the skills to find a solution to the roblems and to win support for setting up the police force.

He set up the first police force in London in 1829.

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Transportation to Australia

  • An alternative was needed to hanging, imprisonment was not considered a suitable alternative at this time because of the cost
  • Australia was unknown, the government hoped that the idea of being sent to an unknown place at the edge of the world would deter people from breaking the law
  • Transportation of criminals had one advantage in common with hanging, it would reduce crime in Britain by completely removing the criminals
  • Transportation would help Britain to claim Australia as part of her Empire and to build up control over the region.
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Pre 18th century PRISONS

  • Bridewells (the first houses of correction) first built 1570s. Vagabonds, runaway apprentices and unmarried mothers sent there to be whipped and set to hard labour
  • Prisoners would have to pay a discharge fee to jailers to be let out- those who could not afford it could not leave
  • The majority of prisoners were debators, they were not punishe as harshly- were able to buy goods from tradesmen, play skittles and have their family to stay
  • Prisoners had to pay the jailer for their food and lodging, the poorer you were the more you suffered
  • Prisoners had to pay to see doctors, about 1000 prisoners died each year of diseases caught in prisons because they could not afford medical help
  • Cells were small and cramped wwith very bad conditions, men and women were mixed which led to many problems and unwanted pregnancies
  • Hulks were introduced as a short term solution to an emergency when transportation to America ended in the 1770s, conditions on board were terrible and 1 in 3 prisoners died
  • Prisons were rarely used, hanging, fining and corporal punishment were much more common punishments
  • John Howard was appointed High Sheriff of Bedfordshire (toured many prisons)
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19th Century PRISONS

  • Jailers fees started to be paid by taxes- ending the charging of fees to prisoners
  • First prison inspectors were punished and general rules for all prisons were provided by the government
  • Elizabeth Fry worked with somen in Newgate prison in London and shocked by what she saw started a campaign to improve prison conditions for women and children
  • 1823- Robert Peel Gaol Act- influenced by reformers Howard and Fry, improved conditions seperated men and women, concentrated more on reform, provided prisoners with useful work such as sewing mailbags and coal sacks
  • 1840's "The seperate system" introduced as retribution, kept on their own incells except when let out for church or exercise- then had to sit in special seats or wore special masks so they couldnt see or talk to another prisoner- many went mad
  • This was expensive because prisons had to be rebuilt
  • 1857- Hulks stopped being used as prisons
  • Prisoners now faced more hard labour, longer sentences, whipping, electric shocks, bread and water diets, mroe time in solitary confinement
  • 1860- "Silent System" introduced
  • Treadwheel or crank- physical work that produced nothing
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20th Century PRISONS

  • 1900- Borstals were first introduced for young offenders as an alternative to prison
  • 1902- Treadwheel & crank were abolished thanks to Gladstone report
  • 1907- Probation introduced as an alternative to prison- people had to report to the police once a week and meet with a probation officer
  • 1922- Solitary confinement ended- prisoners were allowed to talk to eachother, uniforms were replaced with ordinary clothes, more visitors were allowed
  • Greater focus on giving education, developing skills and rehabilitating prisoners to prepare them to live law abiding lives upon release
  • From 1960's a rise in crime led to overcrowding and as a result conditions worsened and less focus on reform
  • As a results of worse conditions and less opportunites, tensions mounted and this led to serious prison riots
  • Return to privately run prisons- run by security companies- under strict government rules
  • Return to prison ships to try and ease the problem of overcrowding in prisons
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Key Reformers PRISONS

  • Elizabeth Fry
  • Alexander Patterson (believed that imprisonment did not deter people from committing crimes)
  • John Howard
  • Sir Robert Peel
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Derek Bentley

Who? Derek Bentley, Iris Bentley, Kenneth Clarke

Derek Bentley sentenced to death

What? Murder of a policeman

Happened in 1952, Derek was hung in 1953 "case that never died"

  • Clark did not fully look into the case
  • Bentley didnt pull the trigger
  • November 2nd- tried to break into a warehouse
  • Craig was to young to be hanged
  • Witnesses stories differ from the police's
  • 5 witnesses- all of them hadnt got contacted by the home office

Derek was not guilty for murder he was guilty for being part of the murder. This is because he had the mental age of a child, there is also not enough evidence that he is guilty. However, he still had weapons on him and was still involved.

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Capital Punishment ABOLITION

For Abolition

  • It's always wrong to take a human life- even that of a murderer
  • What if the wrong person is convicted?
  • Capital punishment does not deter murderers

Against Abolition

  • Costs money to keep people in prison
  • It gives justice to families
  • It stops murderers from killing again
  • It deters other from murder
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Alternative punishments to prison 20th & 21st cent

Parole- One of a number of ways to rehabilitate prisoners. Means releasing prisoners early from prison it is it felt that they do not pose a threat to the public. Nowadays prisoners can apply up to 6 months before their earliest release date. Introduced 1967 by the Criminal Justice Act.

Community Sentences- Require offenders to attend drug or alcohol treatment programmes, work on community projects, work for charities or repair damage to property and cleaning graffiti. Introduced 1972 Community Service

ASBO- Anyone over the age of 10, if they behave antisocially you wont be allowed to do certain things: going to a particular place, spending time with people who are trouble makers, drinking in the streets, at least 2 years before it can be reviewed. Introduced July 1998- orders, available for use April 1999

Youth Justice System- Young offending teams work with young people and try to help them stay away from crime, run local crime prevention programmes help young people at the police station, introduced 1908

Restorative Justice- Bring those harmed by crime or conflict and those responsible for the harm into communication.

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Punishments of the 20th & 21st centuries

  • 1900- Borstals introduced (under 17)
  • 1907- Probation introduced report once a week to the police
  • 1914- Longer to pay fines, given time to pay
  • 1933- Age of criminal responsibilites raised to eight
  • 1948- Detention centres set up 'short sharp shock' sentences
  • 1962- Birching abolished
  • 1963- Age of criminal responsibility raised to 10
  • 1965- Capital Punishment abolished
  • 1967- Praole introduced, suspended sentences introduced
  • 1969- Juvenile courts, care orders introduced
  • 1972- Community service orders introduced
  • 1983- Detention centres youth care orders
  • 1990's Electronic tagging introduced
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Problems with policing before 1829

Justices of peace

Only employed for a year at a time- they were unpaid and held court four times a year.Dealt with people who did not attend church- they were members of the gentry.They took the workload off the kings judges.They also dealt with other petty crimes.


The watchmen called out the time. A constable would lead/coordinate them in a village. They were called the 'Charlies' They also stopped strangers at night, they took the workload off of the kings judges. Poorly paid, older men.

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Problems with policing before 1829

Hue & Cry

Hue and cry was a law in which is given so when you see a crime you jave to shout so the whole village will come out to catch the thief. It was illegal to not chase the criminal.

The Fielding Brothers

John Fielding and other pioneers made a more organised system of preventing crime which was developing in London in 1800. Still no overall coordination of the different forces of constables watchmen and runners. They also made the hue and cry newspaper.

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Reputation of the new Metropolitan Police Force

1833 Police Cartoon- Shows men who look like they would be unable to do the job. Bent in knees, droopy nose etc. They dont look fit enough to do the job.

Peeler Cartoon- Shows what somebody thinks. The peeler doesnt look approachable. The peeler looks like he would use the truncheon yet it was meant to be a deterrant. They couldnt see criminals.

Anti-police poster- given different names. Werent taken seriously. 'Blue devils' 'Raw lobsters' 'Peels police' In reference to the weapons. Evil.

Blind mans buff cartoon - People took the police force as a kind of comedy act. "Turn round three times and catch whom you can!" They way the cartoon is called 'Blind mans buff' shows how the police were seen as useless.

The new police poster- Wanted to get rid of the police as they were seen as the army which wasnt a good thing.

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Modern police force

  • Be given guns when necessary
  • Police who wear riot gear resemble the soldiers that they were intended to replace
  • A different style of truncheon was introduced in the 1990s
  • Car & motorbike improved police speed and effectiveness from the 1930's
  • Rapid response teams
  • 1901- existence of blood groups was discovered
  • First national register of fingerprints were set up
  • Security video recordings and national tv programmes helped
  • Pay is good for the police
  • 1947- National police training college started
  • 1920- women could also become part of the police however could only deal with women and young people
  • Two way radio
  • Question, arrest, report and search
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Key Dates/impact POLICING

  • 1663- 'Charlies' introduced in London                                    Bicycles were used
  • Paid watchmen                                                                       1910- wireless radio
  • Old & weak men                                                                     Telephones were used
  • 1748- magistrate court- fielding                                              1907- Training set up in London
  • Bow street runners
  • 1798- marine police force- respected
  • 1839- Metropolitan police
  • Horse patrols brought back
  • 1819- St Petres field- chage- killing 11
  • 1822- police reforms- Robert Peel
  • 1829- Legistation was passed
  • 'Peelers'
  • 1868- worked 7 days no rest- loads got ill
  • Low pay- attracted unskilled people
  • Drunk on duty
  • 1878- CID Crime Investigation Department
  • Fingerprints
  • Up to 20 miles walk a day
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Medieval Policing

  • 1066- Tithings were used to catch criminals. A group of ten people, if a member broke the law the others would have to bring him to court, or pay the compensation fine to the victim
  • Hue & Cry is when people shout and cry to alarm people that a crime has been committed. Everyone helps find the suspect- effective as everyone joins in
  • 1450- Army was one of the main ways of policing and patrolling the streets. It was effective yet the public didnt like them because they had previously done bad things with weapons.
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Early Modern Policing (1450-1750)

1748- Henry Fielding became chief magistrate. He soon realised that the police officers couldnt keep up with the increase in crime meaning more officers were needed. He set up the Bow Street Runner. They published the 'Hue & Cry' newspaper.

1750- Justices of the peace were used. Worked in courts. Held court 4 times a year.

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Industrial Revolution policing (1750-1900)

  • 1805- Horse patrols were returned to stop crime on the streets. Horse patrols were effective as the public wanted more of them as they felt safe
  • 1829- Robert Peel introduced the metropoliatn police. September 17 first police orders issued. Effective as more police
  • 1830- Night watchmen were broken up
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Punishments of time

Roman Empire (500bc-450ad)      Fines...Crucifixion...Whipping...Slavery...Stoning

Saxon England (400-1066)           Mutilation...Hanging...Wergilds...Whipping

Middle Ages (1066-1500)             Mutilation...Hanging...Whipping...Pillary & Stocks

Early Modern (Tudor & Stuart) Britain  Hanging...Prison...Fines...Transportation...Pillary & Stocks...Whipping

Industrial Revolution (1750-1900) Transportation...Fines...Pillary & Stocks...Hanging...Prisons

20th Century (1900-2000) Hanging...Prison...Community Service

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Closure of the monasteries

Henry VIII closed down the monasteries meaning all the help for the poor and the unemployed were lost.

Before they had been closed down monsteries looked after the sick, helped young boys to be educated so they could do better in life, supported travellers and helped the needy.

Churches also helped with problems such as unemployment and poverty. Unmarried women with no male relative to support them could go into convent and be secure for the rest of their lives.

Where did the poor turn for help?

  • No relatives- the poor might be forced into a poorhouse
  • They would be given food, shelter, and work to do until they found a job
  • Poorhouses- unpleasent- not enough to support all the poor and unemployed
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Sturdy Beggars

  • Lots of beggars by the end of Elizabeth I's reign
  • Rich people said there was so many because poor people were lazy and would do anything to avoid work
  • Only charity to rely on
  • Charity could not help everyone
  • Elizabeth was Queen (1558-1603) the government became very concerned with the problem of beggars
  • Poor & unemployed were beginning to cause difficulties
  • Government were worried because gangs of beggars or vagrants were wondering from town to town
  • Tricking people out their money- or simply stealing from them
  • No police force- difficult to prevent crimes
  • Links to 1601 act 'Deserving poor' 'undeserving poor' hard to tell apart
  • Beggars were treated harshly, whipped, branded with a 'V' hole bored through their ear, execution.
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  • Heresy is having a set of beliefs or actions that are different from the established religious beliefs and ways of behaving
  • Heresies were thought to offend God and tempt other people into wrong beliefs
  • 1350- Catholic Church was the established faith; however in the 16th century Henry VIII seized control of the Church of England and matters of faith became more complicated
  • Laws against heresy were established in 1382, 1401 and 1414- these show us how Christian rulers were keen to support the Church in stamping out beliefs that they thought were wrong and leading people astray
  • During 16th century REFORMATION things became more complex
  • Catholics and protestants both sides burned to death the others as heretics depending on whether they were in charge or not at the time
  • Catholics were executed when they would not accept Henry VIII as leader of the Church of England
  • Heresy could also be said to be treason (acting against the royal authority)
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Difference of Heresy & Treason

Medieval period if you had a set of beliefs or actions that were different from the established religious beliefs and ways of behaving you were thought to offend God and tempt other people into wrong beliefs. You would be persecuted.

Yet in the Early Modern period if you went against established beliefs you would be whipped, branded and a red hot poker bored through your tongue. You may also be executed, Heresy could also be said to be treason (acting against the royals)

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Changes of the treatment of Witchcraft (Medieval &

Medieval period

  • Tried for witchcraft in Church courts
  • Relatively light sentences
  • Ordinary people were too poor to afford doctors, relied on 'wise women'
  • 'Wise women' used herbal treatments, magic charms, used to try and cure both humans and animals

Tudor period

  • 1542- a new law was passed by Henry VIII
  • Witchcraft became a serious crime in Britain which carried the death penalty
  • Two types of witchcraft crime: Major- bring about a death or raise the spirits from the dead- punishable by death, Minor- use of magic and charms - imprisonment or the stocks
  • James I feared and believed in witches so had a written a book on it in 1597
  • Until 1563 law was passed by Elizabeth I witchcraft persecutions did not really begin
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Change of treatment of witches (2)

Stuart period

  • 1604- law passed under James I enforced all other witchcraft laws
  • Many plots and rebellions
  • James I disliked the secrecy surrounding practice of witchcraft
  • Economic hardship- real wages and work opportunities declined- gap between rich and poor widened
  • Most accusations were made by rich people about poor people
  • Religion- before Henry VIII's break with Rome witchcraft was seen as an offence against the church
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Witch facts

  • Most live alone & are old (over 50 usually)
  • Women are key targets- why? Due to men hating women
  • Witches have three ******* which they use to feed their familiars
  • Witches will be tried by the swimming test and the needle test. If the 'witch' sinks she is not guilty but if she floats then she is guilty
  • Whn the needle test takes place if she bleeds she is not a witch but if she doesnt bleed then she is a witch
  • Witches will be punished if found guilty by the courts by death- they will be hanged, if it is minor they will be put in prison or in the stocks
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Matthew Hopkins

  • 1645- Rode into the small town of Manningtree, Essex
  • He had been scouring East Anglia for witches
  • He tortured his suspects although torture was illegal
  • He humiliated suspects by ********* them
  • Made sure they got no sleep
  • Kept them standing up and forced them to walk
  • Effective with old people
  • Many suspects confessed
  • He swore that he had seen their 'Familiars'
  • Any scar, boil or spot was said to be the devil
  • Not difficult to find
  • Hopkins accused the 80 year old vicar John Lowes of witchcraft
  • Unpopular and had been accused before
  • Made sure he was found guilty
  • Tortured 'swum'
  • Hopkins vanished in 1647- some said he got caught by a witchhunt himself
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Which goods are smuggled? Teas, brandy, dried goods.

Who are the smugglers? Over 70% were labourers less than 10% were farmers- rest were labourers such as butchers and carpenters. Wealthy people also took part.

The smugglers were well organised.

People smuggled due to the Prime Minister increasing taxes on goods. For most people it was an easier quicker way to may money. The customs offiers couldnt control the whole coastline meaning it was easy to smuggle across the border. The punishment was hanging which the government used to deter people from smuggling, however it didnt work due to very few people being caught.

Why was it easy?

  • Organised gangs
  • Lots of coastline
  • People werent supporting the government
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Highway Robbery


  • Glamorous
  • Daring, masked, well dressed
  • Few people resisted them
  • Passengers were ready and willing to hand over belongings
  • Polite to women


  • Treachorous, cruel
  • Violent
  • Greatly feared by travellers
  • Punishment hanging- Humiliated- left as a warning
  • Disrupted trade
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Factors that Increased/Decreased Highway Robbery


There were many open lonely areas where travellers could be help up.    There was no police force, local constables did not try to track highwaymen across countries.   After wars ended some demobilised soldiers became highway robbers because they could not find any other way of living.    Handguns were easier to get and use         Horses became cheaper to buy and highwaymen used horses.       Stage coaches were introduced to carry passengers around the country- more people to nick from.      Decreased

  • Mounted patrols were set up around London and high rewards encouraged informers. Highwaymen had more chance of being caught
  • Coaches became more frequent as roads improved reducing a highway mans chance of stopping a coach for long
  • JP's refused to license taverns that were known to harbour highwaymen
  • More people travelling in their own coaches
  • Travellers no longer carried large amounts of money as the number of banks grew and the banking system became more sophisticated
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Conscientious Objectors - WW1

  • Harsh treatment- denied the right to vote till 5 years after the war
  • Referred to as 'conchies'
  • No conscription fellowship set up by Quakers who objected strongly to war- meeting often violent and broken up by members of the public or police
  • Public saw CO's as cowards or traitors
  • Conscription (Compulsory call up) introduced
  • Men who refused military service were sometimes imprisoned and often treated harshly by their community
  • About 16,000 men refused to fight in the war due to conscience however only 400 CO's were given complete exemption
  • CO's were very unpopular with the public
  • 'Absolutists' refused to do anything they felt was fundamentally wrong. They were treated as criminals and sent to prison- received harsh punishments
  • Some 'Absolutists' were sent to France, forced into military uniforms and threatened with execution
  • After war it was nearly impossible to find work
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Conscientious Objectors- WW2

  • Many more conscientious objectors- this time they were not persecuted by the authorities in the same way- government made more of an effort to give CO's jobs in farming or industry- it was rare for them to be sent to prison
  • Such people included those who had worn medals for bravery but whoe came to see war as horrifically wasteful and not the best way of solving disputes
  • Peace Pledge Union- opposed to war- tended to refuse to do any activites- authorities were reluctant to send people to prison
  • Even allowed to continue their campaign during the war- posters encouraging people not too fight
  • Attitudes of general public had changed very little- some were hostile
  • CO's were accused of being cowards & traitors both to their faces and in newspapers
  • Physically attacked- sacked from jobs
  • CO's this time did not suffer as badly as WW1
  • Start WW2 all men aged 18-41 had to register for work either to fight or work in a reserved occupation
  • December 1941- conscription of women was introduced
  • First it applied only to unmarried women aged 20-30- 1942 the minimum age was changed to 19- 1943 max age changed to 43
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Juvenile Crime 20th Century

  • Media has had a big influence- makes robbery and violence seem natural- more of an influence than parents
  • Parents have failed their children- Havent learnt right from wrong
  • Poor & deprived areas- highest- if you dont have the money to buy something you may steal it
  • Unemployment- cant get jobs to the education system meaning that because they have misbehaved they may be kicked out from school meaning they leave with no qualifications meaning it is harder for them to get jobs
  • Punishments of committing crimes are too soft- children feel above the police
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Tax Evasion & Avoidance

They dont think they should pay tax when people just be lazy and dont work (however there are some people who simply cant work) You also have to work hard to get money and then most of it gets given to the government.

  • Misrepresenting their income
  • Inflating deductions
  • Hiding money

Face being prosecuted and jailed as part of a crack down on evasion launched by Crown Prosecution Service. Stronger fraud prosecution. Prosecute not just individuals but groups and organised criminals. Prison sentences.

Prosecutions are likely to fall on HMRC. Employ more staff which will enable more tax to be collected more investigations to take place and evasion reduced.

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