Describe law and order in London in the late nineteenth century

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Gary Cummins                                      Candidate no. 1036                      Centre no. 61121

Describe law and order in London in the late nineteenth century

The nineteenth century saw the creation and extension of many new police forces within London. In 1800 there were two main police forces in Britain. The bow street runners had been operating since 1749, and the Thames River police had been set up in 1788. In 1829 Victorian London saw the founding of the Metropolitan police force. Before the creation of the Metropolitan police the towns of Britain were looked after by watchmen and parish constables. Little is known about these men. Special constables were also appointed in Victorian Britain. They were not very affective as they could not deal with big disturbance or riots, which happened frequently in Britain.

The founder of the new Metropolitan police force, Sir Robert Peel, was the British home secretary and his police force still exists in modern day London. Robert Peel also gave officers there more informal names ‘Bobbies’ as we call them now, or ‘Peelers’. The Metropolitan police headquarters remains till this day at 4 Whitehall Place. Once the land of Scottish kings the headquarters was suitably name ‘Scotland Yard’.

The Metropolitan police force was destined to fail with its minute force compared to the 1.5 million population of London. Before the Metropolitan police the only forces which successfully kept the streets of London under-control to an extent were under-cover spies, informers and the British army. London needed saving with slight rises in homicide and major rises in robbery and theft. London was getting more and more plagued by crime then ever before. Compared to the other forces guarding London the Metropolitan police were minute.

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The founding of the new police force was said to have made English Common Law more humane and efficient. More than two-hundred crimes that carried the death penalty were removed from the legal list. In 1861, the number was reduced to just four, those being, murder, treason, piracy and destruction of arsenals.

An event which happened 1780 shows how common riots were. The Gordon riots, led by Sir Gordon broke open Newgate prison and attacked the Bank of England. These riots were over proposals for Catholic emancipation. Many of the rioter were hanged, however Sir Gordon was found not guilty ...

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