Changing Prosecution Practices and Their Impact on Crime Figures, 1857-1940
Keele University - Department of Criminology
The British Journal of Criminology, Vol. 48, Issue 2, pp. 171-189, 2008
This article examines the changes in prosecution practices and policies that shaped crime trends between the mid-nineteenth and the mid-twentieth centuries. It concentrates on two processes which took place over this period: the disappearance of the victim as an active participant in the prosecution process; and the increasing dominance of both public and privatized agencies over the prosecution process. Victims were active participants in the prosecution process until the end of the nineteenth century. If it were not for the persistence of complainants in securing the offender and pressing their cases in court, rates of recorded crime would be much lower. However, by 1880, the police had in many cases assumed the role of prosecutor. The first part of this article questions how this change affected recorded rates of violent crime. The second part of the article explores the rise of private prosecutors of regulatory style offences (which constituted over half the business of local magistrates courts from 1880 to 1940). It concludes that from 1880, crime rates were increasingly subject to the policies and practices of the police and other appointed officials, and that the role of the victim as active prosecutor had become almost redundant by the First World War.
Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: August 11, 2009
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