Criminal Trial Case Study

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Although society will always have rules surrounding deviant behaviour, resulting in the creation of criminal bodies, the way in which these behaviours are defined greatly fluctuate over time. To a large extent, this is due to the specific contexts of the respective time periods , as it is the ideas, values, beliefs, morals and attitudes that shape the concept of the normal and hence also the abnormal. These concepts additionally shape the penal structures surrounding the identified crimes, meaning that in order to understand the criminal proceedings, one must understand that penal issues are drawn from their political and cultural contexts. To support this argument, this essay will analyse two case studies of criminal trial proceedings, one …show more content…
The first case in 1779 was against James Major (the Major trial) , where he was suspected of sending a letter threatening murder. The second case, just over 50 years later, in 1833 was against John William Harrie (the Harrie trial) , where he too was suspected of the same crime. The differences however can be seen in the transcripts of the trials and their outcome, as the Harrie trial is almost triple in length and further resulted in a verdict of not guilty, whereas Major was charged with death, however with recommendation for mercy. Until 1799, there were only 4 records of this type of crime being tried at the Old Baily, two of which were sentenced to death . From 1800 till 1899, however, there are 116 records, of which none are sentenced to death, with the most common punishment being imprisonment . Thus the trials that were selected are rather particularly chosen, as it is these similarities and differences that illustrate the influence of social and cultural contexts on crime and …show more content…
Concepts surrounding crime and justice became more rationalised, as reformers reflected on the failings of the current penal methodology. The frequency of these spectacles of terror undermined their symbolism, and instead began to evoke the ‘empathetic experience of pain’ . Smith draws from specific writings at the time, such as Fieldings, who discussed how the excessive used of pardons began robing the criminal law of its capacity to deter crime, serving as a mercy without justice . Instead criminal activity became known to arise from habit, meaning human behaviour is malleable and that in order to prevent crime, situations that seduce individuals into criminal activity needed to be slim. This is heightened Garlands reference to Beccaria , who explained that punishment should not acts of violence, but rather be proportioned to the crime, swiftly delivered, and in the spirit of correction. It is these values of rationality, proportionality, and the rule of the law that are reflected in the punishment of this period. For during the 19th century, 64% of guilty verdicts for threatening behaviour were punished through imprisonment , illustrating how the rule of the government moved from one of terror and fear mongering, to moral education and enforcement. Thus, although both periods aim for

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