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Describe law and order in London in the late nineteenth century

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Introduction

JAMES TOOKMAN: GCSE HISTORY COURSEWORK JACK THE RIPPER QUESTION 1: Describe law and order in London in the late nineteenth century [15] The specific idea of a police force was invented in 1829. Up until this point, law and order was the responsibility of the local justice of the peace helped by watchmen and parish constables as well as the occasional special constable. This was a fairly effective system however the job was part time and there was no rigidity to the force, which meant it had trouble dealing with crimes beyond ' small disturbances'. In 1829 the Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel, set up the Metropolitan police. It was set up to carry out the functions of the watchmen and special constables by patrolling the streets keeping order and deterring crime. They also dealt with major disturbances such as riots, previously the job of the unpopular army who always made things worse. In fact, the metropolitan police grew to appear as far detached from the army as possible. The army wore red so the police wore blue tailcoats, a top hat and as few badges and decorations as possible. Nicknamed 'bobbies' the Met was housed in Scotland Yard. They were armed with truncheons, constables with cutlasses, and from the 1840'sinspectors began to carry revolvers. In1839 a two major innovations took place. The City Police was set up responsible to the Corporation of the City of London and the Rural Constabulary Act was set up allowing magistrates to decide whether or not to set up police forces in each county, which by 1856 was a reality. Although all counties had police forces, they would not necessarily be the same so the police acted differently in different parts of the country. A problem of rivalry developed especially between the Met and the City Police. A major problem was that the Met answered to the home secretary and the City Police to the mayor spawning competition as the forces worked separately. ...read more.

Middle

Martha Tabrum, the first victim had thirty-nine stab wounds; Annie Chapman had her guts removed; Mary Kelly, the last victim was unrecognisable. It was simply disgusting. The thing that connected the murders was their eerily similar nature; the murders in general progressed in the extent of mutilation, the cause of death was decided to always be strangling with a cut to the throat, and basically, the victims femininity was taken away. This meant that there was a serial killer, the first serial killer, as well as the fact that no killer had seemed to be so random and motiveless. Interest was adopted as people guessed the murderers reasons. No answer ever seemed to fit. The number of crimes the ripper committed is another interest factor. The murders ended as suddenly as they began. Why as many as six? Why as little as six? It was a lack of evidence that caused this intense mystery. Such mystery was emphasised and blown out of all proportions by the press. Media attention was bound to catch on to the Whitechapel murders and this happened in a sensationalist manner when the second victim, Polly Nicholls was murdered. The press played their usual role as almost a stereotyped member of the public, trying to piece together the mystery, attempting to do the work the police couldn't. Due to the lack of evidence that the police find, the press is forced to speculate. This was also a result of the police not co-operating with the press. Press speculation made things worse not to mention the fact that the press always exaggerates things anyway. The time of the Ripper stories occurring in newspapers is another important factor as it was the same time that the penny dreadfuls were being printed. The media significantly picked up on certain aspects of the murders. A key example of this was the way the press paid particular attention to anti-Semitic evidence noticeably in the Elizabeth Stride coverage where a suspect was named as Lipski. ...read more.

Conclusion

Neither the press nor the police had any ideas because of the nature of the murderer. Serial killers are by nature difficult to catch. This killer like many others was motiveless. Materially he apparently had nothing to gain from the victim's deaths. There is no doubt that the Ripper was a psychopath. Jack the Ripper was the first of this kind so the press didn't understand him. He left little evidence, none that the police used. Jack the Ripper has it too easy. Take away the problems of the police and you have an area, which is just perfect to escape even the best of detectives in the modern world. In conclusion the police were unable to catch the Jack the Ripper but the murders acted as a learning curve for the force. This may sound a bit distasteful however it has to be considered. The police were gradually improving from the moment the force was born in 1829. The investigation into the Whitechapel murders boosted the ideas of the police, as after all, they were so bad at the beginning, they could only be better by the end. But there was no real end to the Ripper investigations. The questions didn't suddenly stop after the three months of terror. The police continued to improve long after Mary Kelley's murder on 9th November 1888 even though they obviously got nowhere. Serial killers are by nature very difficult to catch and in the 1880's the police were by nature rather stupid. They were never going to catch the Ripper unless Jack had stumbled over a sleeping bobby on the beat, although this wouldn't be fool-proof as a policeman - qualified on the grounds of stature and basic literacy- slept yards away from Catherine Eddowes whilst she was being murdered. But perhaps comfort can lie in the assumption that the police wouldn't be what they are today without the improvements spurned by the autumn of 1888. ...read more.

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