Role of Local Communities in Law enforcement


Anglo Saxon

The community was responsible for enforcing the law.

The whole community was believed to play a part in delivering justice. Being loyal to your community was seen as a duty. 

English shires were divided into smaller areas called hundreds. Each hundred was divided into ten tithings. Men aged over 12 were responsible for the behaviour of the others. One man from each hundred and one man from each tithing had to meet regularly with the king's shire reeve. Their role was to prevent crime, particularly cattle theft in their communities. 

The whole community was responsible for tracking down those suspected of a crime. Anyone who witnessed a crime could raise a hue and cry. Everyone who heard it was expected to help chase and capture the suspects.

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Fewer decisions are made by local communities. 

Tithings still continued.

And hue and cry was still used as people still lived in small communities where everyone knew each other

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Later medieval

Community enforcement continues alongside increasingly centralised systems for upholding the law. 

More people lived in towns meaning people did not know each other making community law enforcement difficult. Also more opportunities for crime. 

There was a shift away from local communities dealing with crimes in their area towards a system where the crime was dealt with by goverment-appointed officials. 

However, townspeople were still expected to play their part in apprehending offenders and towns were divided into wards for that.

Tithingsmen became known as constables. 

Coroner and Justice of Peace were introduced

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Early Modern England

Witnesses of crime are still expected to try and stop suspects or report them to the authorities. Locals are still expected to join hue and cry.

The role of town constables expanded

Role of night watch expanded

The emergence of thief-takers

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