Final part of Mr Watkinson's article from issue 27 (July 2002)
The Statute of Winchester decreed that parish constables kept
"watch and ward". Ward applied to the daytime but Watch
was probably applicable to the time between Sunset and Sunrise.
Did his presence deter Night Walkers, Rogues and Vagabonds?
Parish Constables, too, had to attend upon Coroners, Judges of Assize and Justice at Quarter and General Sessions. There were remarkably little basic difference in Parish Constable's powers and those I excersized in the course of my Service in respect of Arrest for the commission of offences, on suspicion of havnig committed arrestable offences, for the execution of warrants of arrest and other matters. This says much for the good sound common sence of the people of this country over the Centuries.
But as one of the characters in a TV programme, Z Cars, was wont to say to his superior. "Think on, Charlie Barlow" and anyone reading this should "Think on".
1806 was slapbang in the middle of the Napolionic Wars, threat of invasion had been in the air, Nelson had put paid to that by defeating the French at Trafalgar. Later British goods were blockaded. Napoleon continued to rampage arounf the Continent until he submitted and was sent into Exile from which he returned to be finally defeated at Waterloo. I wonder if the Press Gangs were active on the Humber Waterways? Some prime seamen there! Did the Parish Constable have to assist when Andrew Called? These were difficult times and it to the lasting credit of the Justices, the Parish system of Administration, the Constables and other officers that the Country weathered the storm.
Students of the Law and History should look at the Vagrancy Act, 1824, the Town Police Clauses Act, 1847 and recognise that this Consolidation of many Offences, of the classification of Offenders and the Penalties came about largely to deal with the aftermath of these wars, the Sturdy Beggers, those echibiting War Wounds and Deformaties to gather Arms, crime committed by persons armed and desperate. Three strikes and you're out applied then, first time up to 1 month inmp., second time and the classification moved up to Rogue and Vagabond and 3 mos. Next time, Incorrigible Rogue and "Up the Steps" to Session. Any person could arrest any person for many offences under these two Acts (under which a power of Arrest still obtains!) This is a wonderful textbook, taking me back to my duties on the dark streets of Barton and other Lincolnshire towns, to the exercise of the powers described therein, both on the Streets and in the Courts. Today there are still many valid powers of Arrest and the power to Bind Over to Keep the Peace is a very handy provision, used by myself then a Sub-divisional and Divisional Prosecution officer.
Nowadays I wonder why the Police do not now appear to make their own decisions as to what shall be done to maintain order on the streets. And do it! I had better not go any further along this road.
Thank you to Mr Watkinson for the article.
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