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It would have been highly likely that the victim, the suspect and their respective families and friends would have been well known to each other, and their relative social standing would likely influence the outcome of the trial: ‘In making their calculations, judges and jurors were influenced not simply by the abstract character of the various offences. What all this meant was that simple disagreements between the poor would probably have been settled in private.

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Sladden Wells made a similar apology in 1765: Whereas I, Sladden Wells, of Margate.

Have lately unadvisedly said many things (which I now declare to be false) reflecting on the character of Basil Brown, Esq, of Updown, near Margate: I do hereby in this public manner ask his pardon for the same, and promise never to give him any offence for the future.

And I do also return him thanks for stopping the proceedings at law, which he had commenced against me, and which might have ended to the hurt of my family.

In the eighteenth century ‘not only assaults but virtually all thefts and even some murders were left to the general public. As late as the mid 19th century no public official was responsible for ensuring that even the most serious offences were prosecuted’.

Until the nineteenth century it was the victim who had to initiate any criminal prosecution.

Last modified 30-Jan-2016 11:29