Thursday, 30 April 2015

An A - Z of Victorian Crime and Culture - U is for...



This is one of the harder A - Z as very little relates under the 'U' heading... however, I have come up with one that most other sites have missed...

U is for - Uttering... The act of passing or being in possession of counterfeit coins of the realm. This was a major opportunity for minor and major criminals alike, with everything from poor quality, low value coins, through to gold sovereigns...

So serious was it that a legislation past in 1741 'The Counterfeiting Coin Act' remained throughout the Victorian period, with an odd amendment, and the penalties were significant to try and deter persistent offenders...

Section 1 made it high treason to "wash, gild or colour any of the lawful silver coin called a shilling or a sixpence, or counterfeit or false shilling or sixpence," or alter such a coin to make it look like a "lawful gold coin called a guinea" or half-guinea, or to file, alter, wash or colour "any of the brass monies called halfpennies or farthings, or to make those coins look like a shilling or sixpence. The last part of this section was amended by the Counterfeiting Coin Act 1797 to extend it to all copper coins ordered by royal proclamation to be current in the realm, not just halfpennies and farthings.
Following the words quoted above, section 2 continued to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 6 months' imprisonment for uttering a false coin, knowing it to be false. On release the offender then had to provide sureties to be of good behaviour for another 6 months. For a second offence, the punishment was 2 years' imprisonment followed by another 2 years of good behaviour under surety. A third offence was a felony, punishable with death by hanging.

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