Friday, 1 May 2015

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

V is for - Vagrancy Act... In 1824 The government of the UK passed this legislation to deal with the repercussions of the Napoleonic Wars, and the high numbers of wounded, traumatised or displaced ex-miltsry who took to sleeping rough, begging and committing a range of nuisance offences through to crimes against property and people.

The act was still in force when I joined the police in 1976 and was used throughout my service. It contained the infamous or notorious 'Sus' powers so maligned in the seventies and beyond, but many offences remained as valid in my service as they had been intended in 1824.

The act contained some wonderful wordings and offences...

Every person committing any of the offences herein-before mentioned, after having been convicted as an idle and disorderly person; [F2every person pretending or professing to tell fortunes, or using any subtle craft, means, or device, by palmistry or otherwise, to deceive and impose on any of his Majesty’s subjects;] every person wandering abroad and lodging in any barn or outhouse, or in any deserted or unoccupied building, or in the open air, or under a tent, or in any cart or waggon, [F3not having any visible means of subsistence] and not giving a good account of himself or herself; [F4every person wilfully exposing to view, in any street, road, highway, or public place, any obscene print, picture, or other indecent exhibition]; every person wilfully openly, lewdly, and obscenely exposing his person [F5in any street, road, or public highway, or in the view thereof, or in any place of public resort,] with intent to insult any female; every person wandering abroad, and endeavouring by the exposure of wounds or deformities to obtain or gather alms; every person going about as a gatherer or collector of alms, or endeavouring to procure charitable contributions of any nature or kind, under any false or fraudulent pretence . . . F6 . . . F7every person being found in or upon any dwelling house, warehouse, coach-house, stable, or outhouse, or in any inclosed yard, garden, or area, for any unlawful purpose; [F8every suspected person or reputed thief, frequenting any river, canal, or navigable stream, dock, or basin, or any quay, wharf, or warehouse near or adjoining thereto, or any street, highway, or avenue leading thereto, or any place of public resort, or any avenue leading thereto, or any street, [F9or any highway or any place adjacent to a street or highway;] with intent to commit [F10an arrestable offence]]; and every person apprehended as an idle and disorderly person, and violently resisting any constable, or other peace officer so apprehending him or her, and being subsequently convicted of the offence for which he or she shall have been so apprehended; shall be deemed a rogue and vagabond, within the true intent and meaning of this Act;and [F11, subject to section 70 of The Criminal Justice Act 1982,] it shall be lawful for any justice of the peace to commit such offender (being thereof convicted before him by the confession of such offender, or by the evidence on oath of one or more credible witness or witnesses,) to the house of correction, . . . F12 for any time not exceeding three calendar months; . . . F13, and . . . F14]

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