Crime & Punishment.   Posted by The GM.Group: 0
The GM
 GM, 11 posts
Fri 1 Jul 2011
at 09:21
Crime & Punishment
Crimes and punishments in the 1660s are both simple and brutal.

Minor crimes are punished in the stocks or pillory, capital crimes (of which there are a great many) are punishable by death or occasionally may be commuted to transportation. Death may be by hanging, hanging drawing and quartering, burning at the stake or beheading, depending on the circumstances of the crime and the perpetrator.

Long term incarceration was seldom used as a punishment and torture was banned in England (however, it could be hard to define and even harder to prove). It was widespread elsewhere.

In the late 1600s, the ‘justice system’ was not set up as a central law enforcement body. There was a set of laws, but nobody was in charge of enforcing them, except for crimes against God and the State, for which the clergy and parliament would pay. Murder was generally classified as such a crime insofar as the authorities would pursue it at their own volition, but generally they would seek recompense for the costs from the victim’s family.

For a citizen, obtaining justice was largely a matter of bringing a private law suit, at your own cost, against someone who had wronged you. The Law was simply a yardstick to measure whether you had legal recourse.

If a man stole your horse, and you could prove it, you could have him hanged, because horse theft was a hanging offence, but there was no police force to ‘put out an APB’ for the horse, pursue the thief and restore your property. You could ask the local constable if anyone had heard anything, but you had to pursue the thief yourself, prove your ownership of the beast, obtain legal advice and representation if necessary, or otherwise plead your own case in front of the magistrate. The authorities would only step in, merely to carry out sentence, once a guilty verdict had been recorded.

Often, it was even hazardous to ‘discover’ a crime, as it was not unknown for the first responder to be presented with the bill for pursuit of the case if no other more worthy source of income could be found (ie the culprit or victim).

This message was last edited by the GM at 20:15, Wed 18 Apr 2012.