The Bloody Code


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When England went crazy for hangings.

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The Bloody Code

  1. 1. The Bloody Code
  2. 2. John Amy Bird Bell <ul><li>On 1 st August, 1831, an illiterate pauper was hanged by the neck until dead </li></ul><ul><li>Four thousand people came to see him hang in Maidstone, Kent </li></ul><ul><li>Afterwards his body was dissected by surgeons </li></ul><ul><li>He was 14 years old </li></ul>
  3. 3. “ At the trial the prisoner exhibited the utmost indifference to his fate, and appeared to entertain no fear for the consequences of his guilt.”
  4. 4. The Sentence: DEATH BY HANGING
  5. 5. At half-past eleven o'clock on Monday morning the wretched malefactor ceased to exist, and his body was given to the surgeons of Rochester for dissection.
  6. 6. “ He exhibited some emotion when he was informed that a part of the sentence was that his body should be given over to the surgeons to be dissected.”
  7. 8. Bird had attacked and murdered a 12 year old boy who was collecting money for his disabled father. The victim had been stabbed in the throat with a knife and robbed of nine shillings. Bird admitted he had planned the crime with his brother.
  8. 9. Despite what you may think, it was rare for people as young as this to be hanged in 1831. One hundred years earlier, it was a different matter altogether….
  9. 10. 15 year old Elizabeth Marsh was convicted of the murder of her grandfather. She was hanged in public on Monday, the 17th of March, 1794 . Four juveniles were hanged at Tyburn on Monday, the 20th of May 1717 . They were 18 year old Martha Pillow who had been convicted of stealing in a shop, 17 year old Thomas Price and 18 year old Joseph Cornbach for housebreaking and 17 year old Christopher Ward for burglary . 15 year old Elizabeth Morton was hanged at Nottingham on the 8th of April 1763 for the murder of two of her employer’s children. 15 year old James Booty (age also given as 12) suffered at Tyburn on Monday, the 21st of May 1722 for the rape of a 5 year old girl. William Jennings, aged 12 , was hanged at Tyburn on Monday, the 12th of March 1716 , having been convicted of housebreaking at the February Sessions.
  10. 11. Possibly the youngest children ever executed in Britain were Michael Hammond and his sister, Ann, whose ages were given as 7 and 11 respectively in a book published in 1907. Previously, no claims as to their precise ages had been made, although they were referred to as being “under age,” without specifying what this term actually meant, and as “the Boy and the Girl” as they were both small. They were reportedly hanged at (Kings) Lynn on Wednesday, the 28th of September 1708 for theft. The local press did not, however, consider the executions of two children newsworthy! A painting of the two being taken in the cart to the gallows appears in Paul Richard’s book ”King’s Lynn”. It was reported that there was violent thunder and lightning after the execution and that their hangman, Anthony Smyth, died within a fortnight of it.
  11. 12. The Bloody Eighteenth Century? Why was hanging the answer to everything in the 1700s?
  12. 13. The Bloody Code No of crimes carrying the death penalty 16885017651601815225 225 1815 160 1765 50 1688 No. of crimes carrying the death penalty
  13. 14. <ul><li>Some of the crimes carrying the death penalty in the 1700s </li></ul><ul><li>stealing horses or sheep </li></ul><ul><li>destroying turnpike roads </li></ul><ul><li>cutting down trees </li></ul><ul><li>pick pocketing goods worth more than one shilling </li></ul><ul><li>being out at night with a blackened face </li></ul><ul><li>unmarried mother concealing a stillborn child </li></ul><ul><li>arson </li></ul><ul><li>forgery </li></ul><ul><li>stealing from a rabbit warren </li></ul><ul><li>rape </li></ul><ul><li>murder </li></ul>
  14. 15. &quot;being in the company of Gypsies for one month&quot; &quot;strong evidence of malice in a child aged 7–14 years of age&quot; &quot;blacking the face or using a disguise whilst committing a crime&quot; Plus…
  15. 16. WHY? <ul><li>the attitudes of the wealthy men who made the law were unsympathetic. They felt that people who committed crimes were sinful, lazy or greedy and deserved little mercy. </li></ul>Lord Chief Justice 1802-18 Edward Law
  16. 17. WHY? <ul><li>since the rich made the laws they made laws that protected their interests. Any act which threatened their wealth, property or sense of law and order was criminalised and made punishable by death. </li></ul>Lord Chief Justice 1756-88 William Murray
  17. 18. WHY? <ul><li>the law was harsh to act as a deterrent. It was thought that people might not commit crimes if they knew that they could be sentenced to death. </li></ul>
  18. 19. Was it effective? Death sentences and executions, London 1701-1825 It is no coincidence that during the period 1776-1800 the English ruling class were fearing a revolution like in France….
  19. 20. The End of the Bloody Code <ul><li>Sir Samuel Romilly speaking to the House of Commons on capital punishment in 1810, declared that </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;..[there is] no country on the face of the earth in which there [have] been so many different offences according to law to be punished with death as in England.&quot; </li></ul>
  20. 21. Whilst executions for murder, burglary and robbery were common, the death sentences of minor offenders were often not carried out. In 1808 Romilly had the death penalty removed from pick- pocketing and other trivial offences and started reform that continued over the next 50 years.
  21. 22. Gibbeting (the public display of executed corpses) was abolished in 1832 and hanging in chains was abolished in 1834.
  22. 23. <ul><li>In 1861, the Criminal Law Consolidation Act further reduced the number of capital crimes to four: </li></ul><ul><li>murder </li></ul><ul><li>treason </li></ul><ul><li>arson in royal dockyards </li></ul><ul><li>piracy with violence </li></ul>
  23. 24. Public executions were abolished in 1868 From 1868 onwards, all hangings in Britain took place inside prison, on gallows like this one at HMP Wandsworth.