Sir Robert Peel became Home Secretary on 17th January 1822. He is best known for introducing the firstmodern police force but he also reformed the criminal law with the "Criminal Statutes Repeal Act of 1827", reducing the number of crimes punishable by death, and simplified it by repealing a large number of criminal statutes and consolidating their provisions into what are known as "Peel's Acts".
These acts are as follows and cover some of the basic crimes that we still know today:
'Forgery Act 1830 Coinage' & 'Offences Act 1832'
'Larceny Act 1827', 'Malicious Injuries to Property Act 1827', 'Offences Against the Person Act 1828'
(some provisions being repealed by the 'Offences Against the Person act 1837')
The final three acts in the list above, were still contrary to Common Law, the acts merely detailed various sentences depending on the nature of the offence.
Many offences carried the death penalty but several were repealed under the: 'Substitution of Punishments of Death Act 1841', such as Rape and Carnal Knowledge of a girl under 10 years.
The 'Offences Against the Person Act 1837' had also repealed the death penalty for "shooting, stabbing, cutting or wounding with intent" and also "Post Quickening Abortions".
The 'Offences Against the Person Act 1828' also introduced the term "Carnal Knowledge" in that for an offence of Rape to be committed "The emission of seed" (Ejaculation) had to be proved. This resulted in many unsuccessful prosecutions due to the difficulty to prove this requirement. Section 18 established that only "Penetration" need be proved and was to be referred to as Carnal Knowledge .
These crimes were still dealt with by Crown Court. Magistrates courts still dealt with much lesser crimes. This was to change with the "Criminal Justice Act of 1855" when lesser offences of Larceny, Property Damage and Assaults could be tried by a Magistrate.
Other acts effecting the people of Victorian England
Crimes tried at the Old Bailey (Crown Court) - gives explanations of offences and their relevant acts between 1674-1913:
> Old Bailey <
A scanned copy of the Public General Acts of 1827
(printed in 1886):
> Public General acts of 1827 <
Laws on Poaching
In 1851 the desperation of the 'hungry 1840’s' were still being felt by many. Records show that whenever there was a shortage of food there was never a shortage of poachers.
The newly built railways may be moving food around the country, but it had only just begun making it more accessible to those in need.
Poaching was still a risk worth taking, even though the newly formed police force was now making it’s way into the country side.
Law on prostitution
The first law which made reference to the term ommonprostitute' was the 'Vagrancy Act of 1824'. Subsection 3 of this Act stated that "any common prostitute behaving in a riotous or indecent manner in a public place or thoroughfare" was liable to a fine or imprisonment.
The next law of prostitution control was only applicable to London's police districts: subsection 54 of the 'Metropolitan Police Act of 1839'. This stipulated that "any common prostitute loitering or soliciting for the purposes of prostitution to the annoyance of inhabitants or passers-by" would be subject to arrest and, if convicted, to a fine, which would increase upon subsequent convictions.
Section 28 of 'The Towns Police Clauses Act' stated that "Every common prostitute or night walker loitering and importuning passengers for the purposes of prostitution"- "In any street to the obstruction, annoyance or danger of residents or passengers" - commits an offence. Together, these 'solicitation laws,' as they came to be called, were used by police in England and Wales to control unruly women in public.
Not all the following parliamentary acts were made by Victorians, though the early Victorian poor certainly had to cope with the effects of them.
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