Assess the significance of individual cases in changing attitudes towards crime and punishment in the years 1830-1965

1722 words 7 pages
Since the 19th century, law enforcement and punishment has developed rapidly into the justice system we rely on today. Obscure laws that had become irrelevant in an industrial and post-industrial era were fast being replaced, and despite its lack of existence at the beginning of the 1800’s, policing standards are, today, high. The necessity for this drastic change in approach to crime has stemmed from the needs of industrial Britain, and the increased awareness of the public, and government, and their perception of crime and punishment. Rather than individual cases having a direct impact on these changes, in general they provide an insight as to the reactions of the public at the time, and along with the myriad of other cases, allow us …show more content…

In the case of Bentley and Craig, in 1953, there was a significant outcry against Bentley’s death sentence, due to a few factors. Bentley was charged for murder, despite the fact that it was his partner, Craig, who committed the offence and shot and killed a police officer. Because Craig was a minor, and could not be executed, they passed the sentence on to Bentley. Another interesting factor was that Bentley had a mental age of 11, which fuelled debate on whether or not he should be held responsible for his crimes due to his mental state. Similarly to the Tolpuddle Martyrs case, there was a public outcry against this case; when it was announced that the hanging had taken place and Bentley was put to death, there were riots outside Wandsworth Prison, staged by members of the public, where the execution took place. However, unlike before, there was significant government attention to this case, and over 200 MP’s signed a petition in favour of the Queen granting clemency. While this wasn’t successful, it highlights the differences between government attitudes towards crime in these 2 periods. What is also significant to note, is that the Homicide Act of 1957 was introduced only 4 years later, and introduced the concept of diminished responsibility, where mental deficiency or retardation is accepted as a plea. The fact that the act was, chronologically,