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By J. M. Beattie

This pioneering learn examines the massive alterations that happened within the legal justice approach within the century after the recovery. the writer finds how and why another technique of facing crime emerged within the policing of London, within the practices and systems of prosecution, and within the institution of recent sorts of punishment.

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Picking pockets was regarded as more of a petty offence by the late seventeenth century and was almost certainly more common than the few accused who appeared in court charged with such an offence might suggest. Magistrates were in many cases reluctant to send those accused of this offence to the Old Bailey to face trial for their lives, since so often those caught were women or young boys. 55 There were no doubt skilled pickpockets at work in the London crowds: it was always said that they did particularly well at hangings, and the dangers of pickpockets was one reason the authorities gave for discouraging crowds.

The case for including the magistrates who had taken the Middlesex depositions and examinations was overwhelming. But much more important and decisive than narrow legal and procedural arguments were the social realities and assumptions at work. 33 They were not likely to mix readily with magistrates they regarded as their social inferiors and who, rightly or wrongly, were reputed to be corrupt and money-grubbing. Nor, it seems certain, would their ladies. Among other things, the sessions of gaol delivery at the Old Bailey were social occasions in the City, as were the assizes and quarter sessions in the counties.

But this court dealt with few cases; criminal matters arising in Southwark, and in its neighbouring populous parishes, came within the jurisdiction of the county of Surrey. See Beattie, Crime and the Courts, –. 28 They differed from those courts in one important respect, however: the London sessions of the peace did not deal with many charges of theft. Even petty larceny, the theft of goods under a shilling in value, and a misdemeanour rather than a felony—and thus a non-capital offence unlike most other offences against property—was only rarely prosecuted at the City sessions, or at those held for the county of Middlesex or Westminster.

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