Crime in Its Relations to Social Progress

By Arthur Cleveland Hall | Go to book overview

APPENDIX II
STATISTICS OF ENGLAND AND WALES.

THE statistics of indictable offences from 1853 to 1860 present a strange phénomenon. The totals mount from 29,359 in 1854, to an average of more than 53,000 in 1857- 61, for the same classes of offenders. Does this great vault in the statistics really mean that the actual amount of these old crimes in England was multiplied suddenly in a like degree? The evidence does not warrant this conclusion. The great recorded increase falls wholly under the head of simple larceny, and was due to the enforcement of the Criminal Justice Act of 1855, which relates only to such offences.1 Undoubtedly, social repression for acts of petty theft greatly increased at this time, but it seems impossible to believe that such conduct had not been truly criminal for many years previous. When death or transportation were the only legal penalties for a larceny of forty shillings, or even five shillings, such conduct may not have been crime, because society would not often inflict such punishments; but this was at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century, and since then social pressure has been growing steadily stronger, as the following table reveals. It is most probable, therefore, that the great increase in the statistics for indictable offences in 1857 does not mean a corresponding growth in the actual amount of such crime among the people. The increase of delinquency came earlier, when various kinds of petty larceny and other offences were re-criminalized by society, after the introduction of milder penalties.

____________________
1
See Judicial Statistics, 1857. Introduction, p. xiii.

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