Methods of Combating Crime

Methods of Combating Crime

Early Middle Ages (c.500-1066)

  • Local enforcement and collective responsibility were important methods to control crime. Groups known as tithings were responsible for each other’s behaviour.
  • Trial by ordeal was used where the accused would be subjected to a painful task. The belief was divine intervention would determine guilt or innocence.
  • Physical punishments such as flogging or mutilation were common, acting as deterrents for potential criminals.
  • Wergilds or ‘man payments’ were used to settle disputes through compensation rather than resorting to violence.

Late Middle Ages (1066-1500)

  • The Normans introduced the murdrum fine to deter the secretive killing of Normans.
  • Gallows and public executions became more common, serving as a warning to potential wrongdoers.
  • Coroners were instituted, primarily to safeguard the financial interests of the Crown.
  • The Justices of the Peace (JP) system was implemented, signalling the start of a more unified legal system in England.
  • Forest laws were particularly harsh to deter poaching of deer, viewed as royal property.

Early Modern Period (1500-1700)

  • A network of informants was used to detect and combat religious nonconformity and heresy.
  • Capital punishment was often used for crimes against property as well as for serious offences such as murder and treason.
  • Bridewells or workhouses were set up to control vagrancy and begging.
  • Witch trials were a method of controlling the panic and fear associated with witchcraft.

Industrial Revolution (1700-1900)

  • Introduction of modern police forces like the Bow Street Runners and later the Metropolitan Police, provided structure and uniformity in combating crime.
  • Transportation to Australia was utilised as a punishment for a wide range of crimes.
  • Prison reforms began to take place, leading to increased use of imprisonment instead of physical punishment.
  • Juvenile courts were established to better deal with crimes committed by children.

20th Century Present (1900-Present)

  • Probation and community service orders were introduced as alternatives to prison.
  • Greater emphasis was put on crime prevention strategies like community policing, CCTV surveillance, and public education around crime risks.
  • A more holistic approach to crime control was developed, incorporating social services, mental and physical health services, and education.
  • Advances in forensic science and technology vastly improved crime detection methods, such as fingerprinting and DNA analysis.