Victorian Crime, Punishment, and the Criminal Classes

By Kevin Collins, Chase Harrison, and Hank
Types of Punishment
 Hanging- common and most severe punishment. Could only be ordered by Assize
judges (highest court). Criminal would die of strangulation and wouldn’t lose
consciousness for several minutes. Were done publically until 1868
 Transportation-replaced hanging, criminals would be
sent to the colonies for several years to serve their
 Penal servitude-replaced transportation- imprisonment
that involved hard labor and was served in the country.
 Imprisonment- until the late 19th century when many
new prisons were added, they were just used to hold criminals
awaiting trail, debtors, or those serving petty offences
 Hard Labor- included quarrying, building roads or laboring
on the docks. Could also be carried out in theirs cells.
 Whipping- in the early 19th century the amount in public
decreased but the amount in private increased. Was not abolished
until 1848.
 Sending to Armed Forces- often sent to the navy where the conditions were much harder.
Sometimes those that enlisted in the navy would receive a pardon.
 Fines- not common since most criminals were very poor
Treatment in Prison and
 In prison- had to pay for every service, even being put in shackles for
 Prisons were squalid, overcrowded, and unsanitary
 Food was poor and conditions uncomfortable
to make prison a deterrent
 Conditions improved near the end of the
19th century
 In court- often not treated well due to lack of
Typical Arrests
 Common Serious and Violent crimes- Garrotingstreet robbery, murder, rape, treason
 Offenders were usually young males
 Serious non-violent crimes-financial
scandals and frauds
 Common Victimless crimes (petty
offences) -soliciting, drunkenness, and
 Most common crime of women- prostitution
Capital Offenses
 Criminal offenses went from 5,000 a year in1800 to 20,000
per year in 1840
 Since Queen Victoria came to the throne fewer crimes
carried compulsory death sentence
 Serious crimes often resulted in transportation instead of
 Transportation was an alternative punishment to hanging
Convicted criminals were transported to the colonies to serve
their prison sentences. It had the advantages of removing the criminal
from society and being quite cheap - the state only had to pay the cost of
the journey.
 Garroting- was the popular term for street
 The 1862 panic began when an MP was
robbed on his way home from a late sitting of
the House of Commons; the press began to
see garotters everywhere,
 Also, garroting refers to the strangulation
of a victim in the course of a robbery
Criminal Classes
 By the middle of the century the term 'criminal classes' was more
in vogue; it was used to suggest an incorrigible social group –
a class - stuck at the bottom of society. Intrepid
explorers of the slums and the 'rookeries' of the
poor, like Henry Mayhew, often wrote of this 'class‘
as if its members belonged to some distinctive, exotic
tribe of Africa or the Americas.
 Towards the end of the century, developments
in psychiatry and the popularity of Social Darwinism had led, in turn, to the
criminal being identified as an individual suffering from some form of
behavioral abnormality that had been either inherited or nurtured by dissolute
and feckless parents. All such perceptions informed the way that criminals
were treated by the criminal justice system.
 There were also concerns about 'the dangerous classes' who were thought
to lurk in the slums waiting for the opportunity for disorder and plunder.
Bobbies and Peelers
 British police came to be known as Bobbies after
Sir Robert Peel, with Bobby being
short for Robert, who set up
the first organized police
service in 1829 in London.
Peelers came from his second
name Peel.
Scotland Yard
 Colonel Charles Rowan and Richard
Mayne were in charge of organizing the
new police force. Mayne’s house opened
onto a courtyard; the Great Scotland
Yard. The name was inspired by its site,
a medieval palace that housed Scottish
royalty on their visits to London.
 Responsible for protection of
important individuals, community
patrols, public affairs, and recruitment
and personnel management
 Although at first uncomfortable,
several successful cases and attitude of
many detectives changed the publics mind.
Old Bailey
 The Central Criminal Court of
England and Wales, commonly known
as the Old Bailey from the street on
which it stands, is a court in London and
one of a number of buildings housing
the Crown Court. The Crown Court
sitting at the Central Criminal Court
deals with major criminal cases from
Greater London and, in exceptional
cases, from other parts of England and
Wales. Part of the present building stands
on the site of the medieval Newgate goal,
on Old Bailey, a road which follows the
line of the City of London's fortified wall (or bailey), which runs from Ludgate Hill to the
junction of Newgate Street and
Holborn Viaduct
 So unsanitary, physicians would
often refuse to enter.
 30 died a year on average
 Fines had to be paid by prisoners for
 Weren’t supplied many basics such
as bedding or clothing
 The Ordinaries of Newgate would
document accounts of the lives of the
 Most well documented prison in 18th
century England
Crime and Punishments
in Literature
 Before 1800’s, crime literature focused
on “sympathetic hero”. Changed with the
Publication of Newgate Calendar.
 Charles Dickens’ Bleak House was the
first Victorian detective story about
Inspector Bucket who solves the murder of
a lawyer.
 Victorian Period is considered to be the
“golden age” of detective fiction. Largely
due to Sherlock Holmes
 Sensational novel followed. Focused
more on amateur sleuths but never became
as popular as detective fiction
Famous authors who
wrote about crime
 Charles Dickens Bleak House
 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes
 Wilkie Collins The Woman in
 Fergus Hume The Mystery of a
Hansom Cab
 William Russell Recollections of a
Police Officer
 Grant Allen Strand
Jack the Ripper
 Killer who murdered 5 women in
Whitechapel, London in 1888.
 All of the women killed, except one,
were prostitutes. All were mutilated.
 Thought to be a doctor or butcher based
on the weapons and mutilations thinking
he had some knowledge of the body.
 Victims: Mary Ann Nichols, Elizabeth
Stride, Catherine Eddoweson, Jane Kelly,
Annie Chapman, and Mary Jane Kelly.
 Suspects: James Maybrick, Francis
Tumblety, Walter Sickert, Joseph Barnett,
and George Chapman.
Other Famous Criminals
 Dr. Neill Cream- serial killer
 William Palmer- Britain’s
“Prince of Poison”
 Burke and Hare- murderers
 Mary Ann Cotton- Britain’s first
serial killer
 Amelia Dyer- baby killer