Our British law system throughout history:

Monday 17th January 2022. LC: To use different sentence structure depending on the formality of writing


Throughout the ages, crime and punishment has changed and advanced as well as how people would bring the criminal to justice. From 43AD to today, our legal system is still advancing for the better. From locking someone in place to be humiliated, to dunking someone in a lake, to then  sending people away to another country. Today, I will be discussing different crime, punishment and how people would be put to justice.

The romans:

During 43AD, the Romans came to invade Britain. They were successful and had power over Britain, this meant the Britons had to follow all the Romans laws and accept all the Romans punishments. The Romans had a very big population, meaning the streets where very dirty and their new Settlement attracted lots of slums. Many people where poor during that time period. Making theft the most common crime in the city.

What would happen to thief’s in the Roman era?:

If someone was caught stealing during the Roman era, they would be taken the magistry, who was the judge, and he would decide if the accused was guilty or innocent and what punishment they would get. If someone stole something (for example gold) they would be taken to the magistry for Manifest theft, this is when the accused is seen committing the crime and they are forced to pay back 4x the amount of goods they stole. There is also non manifest theft, this is the opposite of manifest theft. This is when the accused hasn’t been seen committing the crime but, the person who brought them to magistry thinks it could be them. They would still have to pay for the goods but, it would 2x the amount instead of 2x the amount.

If they accused couldn’t pay, they would be sentenced to death (they would be pushed off a cliff or executed publicly). The most painful way to be executed was crucifixion, this is when your heels and palms are nailed to cross. It was really painful because it would slowly drown you. This would happen due to the position you would be put in, which would fill your lungs with fluids and drown you without knowing it.

Anglo Saxons:

During 410AD, the Anglo Saxons came to over throw romans and they were successful. This then meant the laws the towns people used to know where replaced by Anglo Saxon law. For example, only major crime would be punished with death.

How would people be punished?:

A currency was introduced that went by the name ‘weregild’, this was used to pay fines depending what crime you committed. Theft once would resolve in a fine. However, if you stole more than once you would have your hands cut off making life more difficult. However, if the judges’ could not decide if the person accused was guilty or innocent, they would be given a trial by ordeal (A trial by God). The Anglo Saxons believed if they could not decide if someone was guilty or not, they would let God decide. They would do this by: making the accused walk across hot coal, making the accused put their hand in boiling hot water to get a stone or they would be branded with hot iron. After this, they would be left for 3 days to heal. If they healed in those 3 days, the Anglo Saxons believed God chose to heal them because they where innocent and the accused would be let go. But, if the  accused hadn’t healed the Anglo Saxons believed that the accused was guilty and they would be put to death (executed). Criminals would be brought to justice by someone raising a Hue cry (a call for help) and then chasing down the criminal until they where captured.

Tudor times:

When it was 1485, the tudors came to rule Britain. Which meant yet again another new law system was introduced. Theft was still one of the most common crimes due to more people who had no money, a much smaller town and there being no police force. As well as that, it was a lot stricter making it harder to find a job. Just like in the Roman period, criminals would be caught by locals and then taking to a panel of judges. The most common punishment was being flogged (whipped) on the back.

However, serious crimes were the only exception to execution again -for example treason and fraud-. For more minor crimes, people would be put in stocks (stocks where made to keep someone in place by their hands, head or legs) and have rotten food thrown at them as punishment. Another example of punishment is getting drunk in a public area. The punishment would be being put in a barrel (this was because that is how they stored wine and beer) to let people know what you did. One last example of a crime and how someone would be punished if a girl ‘nagged her husband too much’. This punishment was only for women and the punishment was wearing a scolds bridal.  The woman would have a helmet put on her head with a metal spiky ball on the inside. The lady would put the spiky ball in her mouth and she would be led around by her husband (as they had control over it). If the lady spoke, the spiky ball would rip her tongue. Most homeless people would be branded with a V for vagrant or vagabond using a hot iron.


During 1837 to 1901, Victorian Britain rose to the throne. It was very cramped as one family shared a room each (as well as sharing one public toilet and water tap). The Victorians boosted fear of crime by writing a book called ‘penny dreadfuls’. This was a book that went into detail about terrible crimes and was used to scare people away from committing crime.

In 1827, Robert Peel introduced a police force in England (the first police force) to ensure the citizens were a lot safer and to improve order in England and London. At first, not many people could trust the new police force but, over time they gained the towns peoples’ trust by proving that they where able to reduce crime. But despite this, they did not make a big wage although they where doing the public a big service. To raise an alarm, they would carry a ‘trucheon’, it raised the alarm by rattling.

As well as the new police force, prisons where also introduced for the first time in history and quickly became a very common form of punishment in that age. In addition to this, criminals would also be sent to Australia to do hard labour as a punishment; this would also happen to children. They did this because they believed if they got criminals to do hard labour, other towns folk would avoid committing crime In fear it would happen to them. In the prisons, it was common for the Victorian’s to get the people in there to do labour that contributed towards nothing..for example, winding a crank up to 10,000 times a day. Sometimes, the prisoners would have to tighten the screw on the handle to make it harder to crank, this is where the nickname ‘screws’ originated from. There were still fines and hanging. Another punishment was being sent to join the army.

World war 2:

World war 2 was a battle that started in 1939 and ended in 1945. During the war, lots of bombers and gas attacks happened which resolved in hardships for many people. During this time, crimes in England and Whales grew immensely! As I mentioned earlier, lots of bomb and gas attacks happened, making shop lifting and looting a very common crime. There were police forced during the war and due to lots of crime, the police officers on duty grew very quickly. At the time, their job was to capture criminals, check if anyone was braking the wartime blackout rules, search for any soldiers after bombing raids and help nurses/doctors after bombing raids. Not many woman where police officers because they had to do other daytime jobs as place holders of the men who did go to fight in the war.

As I have mentioned, looting was a very big problem during the war most looters would be given short prison sentence or a fine of the amount of the goods they stole. Due to the amount of airaids, lots of people where unfortunately killed. Not all the deaths could be investigated by police officers so criminals would take advantage of this. If someone was found guilty of murder, they would be sentenced to death. Lots of crime happened at night because of the new laws of having to black out during any air raid (lots if air raids happened at night).

The conclusion:

In conclusion, our legal system will always be changing and advancing for the grater good and the safety of the people around us. Crime has changed over the ages and how people decided what to do with criminals. Beliefs have also played a role in how we deter crime. Globally, crime will always be deterred and changed.

Excellent and well- written facts in each paragraphs, Emma.  Check through some of your spelling errors (look for the red lines underneath).  

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