Punishment Britain 18th century style

justice hammer smashed.jpgWith the examination of our benefits system in a recent channel 4 documentary causing all sorts of debate, would a similar probe into our justice system have similar effect?

The principal means of punishment during the 18th century was transportation, prison or hanging.  Hanging was the most severe punishment with the number of offences punishable by hanging in the region of 200. These ranged from serious crimes, such as murder to much more petty crimes, such as pick pocketing or theft of food.

Public concern about the harshness of the penalties led to a gradual reduction in the number of people sentenced to be hanged. However, even after 1823 when the number of capital offences punishable by death was reduced, there were still about 100 offences on the statute books for which you could be hanged and of course many people were.

Interesting and odd get-out pleas were also raised including for example for women who were sentenced to death.  If in their case they “pleaded their belly“, that is said that they were pregnant and if having been examined by a jury of matrons that was found to be the case, then their punishment was postponed until after the baby was born.

Whilst in principle it could then be carried out, in practice the mother was often pardoned.

Another interesting get out for those sentenced to die was what is known as “Benefit of Clergy“. This was where many defendants found guilty of offences punishable by death were spared and given a lesser punishment instead.

The idea went back to the middle ages and was a right accorded to the Church so that it could punish its own members itself.  In this instance somebody claiming Benefit of Clergy would be handed over to the Church Authorities to be dealt with.

In time, however, any convict who claimed Benefit of Clergy and who were then able to read a passage from the Bible could obtain a lesser punishment.  In an age of general illiteracy this was not easy but usually verses were chosen from the 51st psalm which was known as “The Neck Verse” as if correctly read it could save many people from being hanged.

Basically, if Benefit of Clergy was claimed, the judge would indicate the passages to be read – as I mentioned usually from the 51st psalm – and provided they were read satisfactorily a lesser punishment might be imposed.

It is said, possibly with some justification, that many if not most people being illiterate, there were those who learned the psalm by heart as a form of insurance so as to be able to recite it before a judge should the need arise!

There is little doubt that the public feel a review of modern day punishments is required, 18th century comparison may seem a little harsh, however reoffending rates would certainly reduce, you only get sentenced to death once after all! 😉


The fuel and fire of a new author

comfort_zone5.jpg-purpleThis post is for those who had a bad day, those who think it can’t be possible, those who are about to give up, or those who need to get back up.

I once had doubt in my mind: doubt that I would ever find the time alongside the day job to dedicate to my passion, doubt that there would be any point. Why would anyone want to read what I had written? Doubt that my writing would be any different from all the thousands of people, who have reached a point in their life where they have succeeded in their career, yet still held onto a fanciful dream.

Over the last 30 years I have been compelled to write at various times.  For some reason I find myself inspired to write.  A story wells up inside me and I then have to begin putting it down on paper.  Each such occasion lasted for a while and then died but over the years what has happened is that I have lived with a number of stories which have slowly developed and have occasionally bubbled up to the surface again.

So in the words of Susan Jeffers, I felt the fear and did it anyway! I’m not telling you all to run out and book a skydive but maybe just ask yourself:  what’s stopping you? Is it fear?

The reason I wanted to write was just that…because I wanted to, why was I worrying about its success? There was a slow realisation, that the only person standing between me and my daydream was ME.

So here I am.

I plan to depict my experiences of being a new author and how feeling the fear works out.

I have written 2 books so far: The Retainer – An intriguing tale of blackmail, betrayal and lust in the 1970’s, and A Hero of Our Times – A romp through law and polo with plenty of lust along the way.

I hope you like them.