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The Oxford History of the Laws of EnglandVolume XIII: 1820–1914 Fields of Development$
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William Cornish, J Stuart Anderson, Ray Cocks, Michael Lobban, Patrick Polden, and Keith Smith

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199239757

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199239757.001.0001

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General Introduction and Overview

General Introduction and Overview

Chapter:
(p.3) I General Introduction and Overview
Source:
The Oxford History of the Laws of England
Author(s):

Keith Smith

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199239757.003.0001

This chapter presents an overview of the criminal justice system during the early 19th century. Stark mismatches became increasingly identifiable between evolving social and political expectations and the capacity of the criminal justice system to meet such expectations. Urbanization, often accompanied by social dislocation, generated widespread perceptions of relentlessly rising rates of crime, a belief bolstered by the early deployment of officially produced criminal statistics. Concerns over the ability of a formally severe punishment regime, and most especially the capital threat and transportation, to suppress a vast range of criminality soon broadened into official scrutiny of the whole loose structure of prosecution and punishment. Increasing general pressure and willingness to resolve social problems through some state agency was manifest in some, but not all, areas of the criminal justice system. As for the criminal law itself, a combination of judicial resistance and parliamentary indifference thwarted sustained attempts at fundamentally reshaping both its form and much of its substance.

Keywords:   English law, legal history, criminal law, policing, prosecution

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