Fascinating facts from the Garrow’s Law blog archive

Hi everyone,

Here is a re-post of something I put up for the first series, Garrow’s London and how it worked from Crime to Punishment.

Enjoy!

 

Garrow’s law is set in London at the end of the 1700s.  It was quite a time to be alive:  the American Revolutionary War had just ended, leaving thousands of disgruntled British soldiers looking for work; there was revolution in France, and back in England there winds of change were starting to blow.  People were starting to talk about rights, and about democracy. The movement to end slavery was getting going, women, like Mary Wollstonecraft, were asserting themselves and talking about the rights of women.  And reform was in the air, people were getting frustrated with the corruption in parliament and were hungry for change.

And all this was being played out in a new public arena.  There had been an explosion of newspapers and journals:

  • In 1770, London has 5 daily papers;
  • In the 1780s, it had 9 dailies, 8 tri-weeklys and 9 weeklys;
  • In the 1790s, it had 14 dailies, 7 tri-weeklys and 2 weeklys.

But whilst there was change on one side, on the other the ruling classes were battening down the hatches and steeling themselves.  They were quite happy with things as they were thank you very much!

From Crime to Punishment

A common way for crimes to be detected is that a Night Watchman would hear or see something.  Have a look at the case of Henry Morgan 15 September 1784, we hear from a Watchman examined by Garrow in the Old Bailey.

http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t17840915-1&div=t17840915-1&terms=stop|theif|garrow#highlight

If there were no watchmen around, there was no choice other than to run after the criminal yourself.  If you discovered a felony, you were legally obliged to apprehend those responsible and notify the constable.  Also, if a constable was trying to catch a felon, he could require people to join the ‘hue and cry’.

In this case, a man explains the steps he took to catch the highwayman:

This isn’t a Garrow case, but it shows you just how swift and harsh the justice was.  No defence counsel, not even a prosecution.  Basically, the judge was in charge and played all the parts …

http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t17830115-6&div=t17830115-6&terms=stop|theif|garrow#highlight

Next step

OK, so the crime has happened. How else would the suspect be brought to court?  A common option was to use a Thieftaker.  As you’ll know if you’re read the outline for this Sunday’s episode, Garrow defends Peter Pace, who is accused by renowned thief-taker Edward Forrester of robbing a man at gunpoint.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00nsp4s Thieftaking was most notorious in the 1720s – 50s, but carried on as long as there were rewards paid.  The Times newspaper was writing against the corrupting effects of the reward system well into the 1780s.  Thieftaking didn’t stop finally until 1818 when the reward system was abolished by Parliament.

The core idea is that Thieftakers are driven by the reward money.  They will do anything to get it.  However, they were not all bad, and many performed useful functions.   These included,

1) Recovering stolen property and claiming any private reward that was offered from the victim eg man’s horse stolen.  He offers a reward and puts an advert in the paper. You find it, bring it to him and claim the reward.

2) Apprehending criminals:  Often, private citizens would go to a Thieftaker and ask them to intercept a criminal.  Basically, the Thieftaker is like a private policeman. The Thieftaker is paid by getting some of the reward money offered by the state for successful conviction of criminals.

That’s it, let’s wait and see what happens in Episode 1 (series 1) !!!

If you are interested in learning more about Thieftakers, have a look at the historical section of the Old Bailey Proceedings Online.  It gives you a great overview of the development of policing over a long period – much longer than just Garrow’s time.

We have a crime, we have a suspect, but we’re not ready for the Old Bailey just yet.

Here is a nice example, with Garrow for the defence, where a victim of crime obtains a warrant from the magistate, and then, with the warrant in hand, goes and gets a constable to accompany him to the suspects’ house.  The accusation was that someone has stolen some meat.  … But when they got there, the cats had already gnawed it!!

http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t17850223-120&div=t17850223-120&terms=garrow|warrant|magistrate#highlight

 

 

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One Response to Fascinating facts from the Garrow’s Law blog archive

  1. Molly Joyful says:

    Ahhh… thanks so much for all the extra-information! Thief-taking – interesting concept. If I remember correctly, there was one thief-taker who met an untimely death in series 1, wasn’t there? Can’t wait for the next episode. :)

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