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"The Liverpool Bobbies"
Serving the Port City in 1911
Photo 2000 Eric Taplin

Part 2: Crime In Liverpool


Another area in which England saw significant changes in the early twentieth century was law enforcement. The societal pressures resulting from the Industrial Revolution led to an increase in violence and subsequently a need for increased law enforcement. The harsh penalties of the Penal Code, containing more than two hundred capital offences, led many to believe since the punishment was the same regardless of the crime committed; there was no real incentive to avoid particularly violent offences. This during a time when cruelty to children was not a crime and corporal punishment was generally an accepted part of life in Liverpool (Brack, 2001).

A bureaucratic police force, something urgently needed during this time, was created in the early part of the nineteenth century. Robert Peel's Metropolitan Police Act was passed in 1829. As a result of this act, the entirety of London's police force was confined to the direction of one authority: Scotland Yard. An additional one thousand officers were recruited and the responsibilities of police were restricted to the detection and prevention of crime. These 'Bobbies', as they were called, controlled crime by regular preventive patrols. The Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 regulated provincial police forces and kept them under the control of a watch committee (Bloy, 2001).

These factors leading to the new police emphasis on prevention rather than detection of crime did not have the effect of tightening control on crime in England as desired. A substantial increase in violence was noted during the mid 1960's. In 1951 Manchester's chief constable reported the highest occurrence of crime ever recorded and by 1961 he warned the rising crime levels constituted "a threat to society which cannot be ignored." The Metropolitan Police Commissioner similarly noted "1964 has proved to be the worst year of the century for crime." In 1965 Robert Mark, Chief Constable of Leicester, explained in a public lecture at a college in Oxford of the four specific changes being made to the criminal law at that time. In an attempt to punish crime and violence England introduced (1) majority verdicts in jury trials, (2) the pre-trial disclosure of defence alibis, (3) abolition of the caution against self-incrimination and (4) a requirement for the accused to enter the witness box. It was hoped the threat of punishment would deter crime more effectively than the previous approach of "preventive strategies" (Loader & Mulcahy, 2001).

HMP Liverpool, Hornby Road, Walton-On-The-Hill, Lancashire, England

"Walton Jail"
Photo 2001 Kenneth Lawrence


By the census of 1961, the population in Liverpool had decreased to 747,000 people from 856,000 in 1931. In spite of this 12 percent reduction in its inhabitants of a 30 year period, crime was on the rise. The people of Liverpool had to solve the crime problem, but how?

On November 9, 1965, the Murder Act suspended the death penalty for murder in the United Kingdom for a period of five years. Hanging those convicted of murder was formerly abolished by parliament in December 1969 and has now been totally abolished for all crimes. The last of the executions was carried out on August 13, 1964, in Walton and Strangways prisons in Liverpool and Manchester. Two men were hung after being convicted of robbing and killing a laundry man. Efforts to have hanging abolished had been going on since the early 1800's, particularly in reducing the number of capital crimes and ending the public executions. In 1933 the minimum age for execution was raised from sixteen to eighteen years old. In 1922, the Infanticide Act made killing a baby under the age of one by its mother no longer a Capital Crime. Like any other culture whether they are of European or American decent, the homeless play an important role in the crime rates of any population. However, their numbers in prisons at the time were small compared to other portions of the population.

In 1965 Liverpool's prison had a typical accommodation of eight hundred thirty but on any given day in that year the numbers swelled up to approximately 1,393 (Glover, 1965). The total number of homeless people in prison at that time was 29, according to the government founded research done by W. McWilliams in Some Male Offender' Problems (McWilliams, 1975). The fact that there was a small number of homeless people in prison was a positive sign however, the problem is that once their jail time was up they are sent back to the streets to reoffend. There was no attempt at providing shelter for these individuals. For the homeless portion of the population in Liverpool, crime became second nature and they ended up back in prison. So this was a failure of the people around them, the government, and the police to tame their criminal lives.

Attitudes in general in Britain were changed by the Second World War. The press stimulated the interest of the public in murder trials. Every word of murder trials used to be reported in the press in the 1940s and 1950s. For the people who were sentenced to prisons in the 1950s and 60s prisons were no longer concerned with harsh punishment and discipline but with the rehabilitation of the offender. This is what our prison system is based on today. Executions had become very unpopular in the prisons in which they took place. They had become a rare event in most prisons. Only Pentonville and Wandsworth in London, Walton in Liverpool, Strangways in Manchester and some other prisons had frequent hangings.

Part 3: Pop Culture and Football

Taming Liverpool's Crime - Part 1: Introduction and HistoryTaming Liverpool's Crime - Part 3: Pop Culture and Football

Submitted on December 4, 2001
2001 The Bootle Group. All rights reserved.

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