View Full Version : 19th century London police procedure

05-28-2016, 12:02 AM
Yeah, I realize I'm looking for something pretty obscure and specific.

Anyone happen to know some stuff on police procedure in late 19th century London? I've got a handful of questions. For example, if you're arrested, how long can they hold you without an indictment? If you escape, but they never indict you for anything, what does that make you in the eyes of the law? How do you get your possessions back in that case?

My questions are period specific. Things worked very differently than they do now.

05-28-2016, 12:33 AM
Have you seen this?


05-28-2016, 12:35 AM
This also looks useful.


05-28-2016, 12:37 AM
If you can get a copy of this book, it would help too, judging from the front page


The link is on this page: https://www.quora.com/How-did-the-police-carry-out-investigations-in-the-late-19th-century

05-28-2016, 12:55 AM
I am very familiar with the first website.

I'm not familiar with the second, although in skimming it I don't think it has what I need. (But I'll get more into it later)

I've downloaded the chapter and will take a look later. From the title, however, I suspect it's not what I'm looking for at the moment, although it might be helpful later.

05-28-2016, 01:06 AM
You're welcome.

CL Polk
05-28-2016, 01:16 AM
These are great resources, mirandashell! I wasn't the one looking for them but I have bookmarked them to go with my other detective story pages. Thank you!

05-28-2016, 01:21 AM
You really are welcome!

05-28-2016, 01:54 AM
You might want to read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Train_Robbery_%28novel%29. The novel is about a real robbery, and the author did a good job of researching. It's set around 1860.

An indictment isn't what you're concerned with. What your question is about is when does a police officer have to bring a defendant before a judge to set bail. The reason we have time limits now is because the cops screwed around with this so much that controls needed to be established. Basically, as long as the police were questioning the defendant, they didn't bring the defendant in front of a judge. Questioning frequently lasted until the defendant confessed (maybe after a rubber hose or something similar was applied) or the police decided that this defendant would die before he confessed. But a week or more was not unknown.

Legal remedy for this was that an attorney would file a writ of habeas corpus asking the court to order the police to produce the defendant in front of the judge. This required that the defendant have enough money to hire an attorney and someone who knew that the defendant had been arrested and was willing to go find an attorney. I don't remember if in England this was a barrister or a solicitor. Probably a barrister.

If you escaped, you could be charged with escape, but there wasn't any good mechanism for catching escapees. You'd still have to deal with the original charges. Fingerprinting wasn't used in England until 1901, I believe. If you escaped, your personal property wasn't likely to be seen by you again, as you wouldn't want to show up to claim it.

Jim Clark-Dawe

05-28-2016, 05:14 AM
These are great resources, mirandashell! I wasn't the one looking for them but I have bookmarked them to go with my other detective story pages. Thank you!

Likewise! I've been busily bookmarking.

There is also the site for the Old Bailey records:

One thing that I find frustrating about most of these links is that they deal with working people. I suspect that the son of Duke might not be treated the same way as a laborer. And it's also frustrating researching sentences for bigamy, since they can range from a month in jail to 14 years transportation. The Bedford link above, for example, has a wide range of sentences.

I did like the one man arrested for bigamy whose information included his marital status: "Married." (Who'd've thought it.)

05-28-2016, 06:27 AM
Thanks for those links, mirandashell. I don't write crime in Victorian London, but the information about transportation is fascinating.

ETA: And it'll distract me from reading the Newgate Calendar.