Enforcing Law and Order

Enforcing Law and Order from c.500 to the Middle Ages

  • In the absence of a centralised police force, enforcement of law was community-based, often involving tithings and the hue-and-cry system.
  • Social standing played a significant role in enforcement with the lord or the monarch acting as the chief judicial authority in their land.
  • Church courts, overseen by clergy, maintained law and order related to spiritual and moral offences.
  • Trial by ordeal and trial by combat were methods used to determine guilt or innocence.
  • There was a strong belief in divine intervention, where God would protect the innocent and expose the guilty.

Enforcing Law and Order from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern Period

  • The JPs (Justices of the Peace) were established as local authority figures, given the power to arrest, judge and punish offenders.
  • The nation’s judiciary system began to formulate, with the establishment of courts like the Star Chamber.
  • Rewards and pardons were introduced as incentives for community members to enforce law by capturing criminals.
  • The role of Sheriff gained prominence as the main authority figure responsible for law enforcement in the counties.

Enforcing Law and Order from the Late Modern Period to the Present

  • The Bow Street Runners and then the Metropolitan Police were set up, marking the start of professional and centralised policing.
  • Technological advancements, such as fingerprinting and CCTV, began to aid detection and prevention of crime.
  • The Police Force was established across the nation, replacing the largely ineffective parish constable system.
  • New divisions within the force were developed to deal with specific types of crime, such as fraud or narcotics.

Key Themes Across Periods

  • Implementing law and order has always involved a combination of central authority, local community efforts, and technological assistance.
  • The relationship between crime and punishment has constantly been adapted and reevaluated, reflecting societal norms and attitudes towards criminal behavior.
  • Understanding societal unrest and discontent has been a continuous challenge in enforcing law and order, highlighting the importance of sympathetic and sociologically-informed approaches towards crime prevention.
  • The role of professional police forces has been crucial in maintaining law and order, with increasing emphasis on their accountability and professionalism.