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 !!!
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.