Crime and Punishment in Victorian Edinburgh by Lynne WilsonFrom the Author of A Year in Victorian Edinburgh, a selection of true crimes, punishments and court cases from Edinburgh in the Victorian era, giving a mixture of humorous, harrowing and strange accounts of Victorian crime in this city.
Edinburgh found fame as the seat of learning in the Victorian era, leading the way in knowledge and enlightenment. But what was the true picture of Victorian life; of people trapped in a cycle of poverty and crime, living in cramped conditions, with alcohol and laudanum abuse commonplace? By reading some of the real life court stories, prison reports and newspaper articles from the Victorian period, uncover the social problems, the prison conditions and the disparity in a legal system that would sentence one person to seven years imprisonment for a petty theft, whilst sentencing another to only a few months for culpable homicide. Find out how the Victorians dealt with youth crime and disorder, and the work of reformers who sought to make positive changes. Follow some of the more notorious cases from the trial through to the criminal’s time in prison and finally the public spectacle of the resulting execution. Also, read about the emergence of Forensic Medicine and the use of expert witnesses in court trials, and finally, draw your own conclusions as to the significance of ‘Victorian values’ within a society which faced many of the social problems we have today.
Victorian Crime and Punishment
Although the Victorians firmly believed in punishing criminals, they faced a problem: what should the punishment be? One attempt to stop the growth of crime had been through making punishments severe hanging or transportation. However, since the end of the 's, many people had become more and more angry at the number of people hanged for petty crimes. By the time Queen Victoria came to the throne, fewer crimes carried a compulsory death sentence. There were fewer hangings, and sentences for petty crime were getting lighter.
The removal of a person's freedom has been used since ancient times as a punishment. However, until the late eighteenth century in England, it was unusual to imprison guilty people for long terms. Hanging and transportation were the main punishments for serious offences. Prisons served as lock-ups for debtors and places where the accused were kept before their trial. However, by the Victorian era, prison had become an acceptable punishment for serious offenders and it was also seen as a means to prevent crime.
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C rime and punishment in the Victorian era were harsh. The smallest of offenses for Victorian criminals could see them in prison for months to years., British Broadcasting Corporation Home.
Tasks Background Teachers' notes Young people have always got into trouble with the law. What changes over time is how society deals with its young offenders. Before Victorian times no distinction was made between criminals of any age. Accordingly, young children could be sent to an adult prison. There are records of children aged 12 being hanged.