Crime, Justice and Discretion in England 1740-1820

Paperback | April 13, 2004

byPeter King

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The criminal law has often been seen as central to the rule of the eighteenth-century landed elite in England. This book presents a detailed analysis of the judicial processs - of victims' reactions, pretrial practices, policing, magistrates hearings, trials, sentencing, pardoning andpunishment - using property offenders as its main focus. The period 1740-1820 - the final era before the coming of the new police and the repeal of the capital code - emerges as the great age of discretionary justice, and the book explores the impact of the vast discretionary powers held by manysocial groups. It reassesses both the relationship between crime rates and the economic deprivation, and the many ways that vulnerability to prosecution varied widely across the lifecycle, in the light of the highly selective nature of pretrial negotiations.More centrally, by asking at every stage - who used the law, for what purposes, in whose interests and with what social effects - it opens up a number of new perspectives on the role of the law in eighteenth-century social relations. The law emerges as less the instrument of particular elite groupsand more as an arena of struggle, of negotiation, and of compromise. Its rituals were less controllable and its merciful moments less manageable and less exclusively available to the gentry elite than has been previously suggested. Justice was vulnerable to power, but was also mobilised toconstrain it. Despite the key functions that the propertied fulfilled, courtroom crowds, the counter-theatre of the condemned, and the decisions of the victims from a very wide range of backgrounds had a role to play, and the criteria on which decisions were based were shaped as much by the broadand more humane discourse which Fielding called the 'good mind' as by the instrumental needs of the propertied elites.

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The criminal law has often been seen as central to the rule of the eighteenth-century landed elite in England. This book presents a detailed analysis of the judicial processs - of victims' reactions, pretrial practices, policing, magistrates hearings, trials, sentencing, pardoning andpunishment - using property offenders as its main f...

Peter King is a Professor of Social History, University College Northampton.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:398 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.87 inPublished:April 13, 2004Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199259070

ISBN - 13:9780199259076

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Table of Contents

List of Figures and MapsList of TablesList of Abbreviations1. IntroductionPart I: Pretrial Processes2. Victims, Informal Negotiations, and Prosecution Options3. Resources Available to Victims: Public Funding, Prosecution Associations, Print, and Policing4. Magistrates and Summary CourtsPart II: Offences and Offenders5. Patterns of Crime and Patterns of Deprivation6. The Offenders: Property Crime and Life-Cycle ChangePart III: From Trial to Punishment7. Trials, Verdicts, and Courtroom Interactions8. Sentencing Policy and the Impact of Gender and Age9. Pardoning Policies: The Good Mind and the Bad10. Rituals of Punishment11. Conclusion: Law and Social Relations 1740-1820Index

Editorial Reviews

`This thorough empirical study of the prosecution of property offences in the English courts will stand alongside the classic studies of the eighteenth [century] history of crime by Beattie, Hay, Gatrell, Langbein, Linebaugh and Thompson... but one will never be able to read their works againunscathed by King's incisive commentary and powerful counter evidence... Criminologists seeking to gain new perspective on the meanings of crime and the social role of the criminal law will learn much from the extraordinarily vivid picture drawn by King of the workings of the eighteenth centurycriminal court.'British Journal of Criminology 41, 2001