8. Appointment and sentencing

This cartoon satirises inactive magistrates  as 'cyphers' - zeroes.  From The British Museum Collection  (Ref: AN182609001).

This cartoon satirises inactive magistrates as ‘cyphers’ – zeroes.
From The British Museum Collection
(Ref: AN182609001).

A surprisingly large proportion of those appointed as magistrates did not actually serve. Having the status of a Justice of the Peace conferred social prestige, and for many that was enough. On the other hand, a few magistrates were exceptionally active. In the early 1660s, for example, half of all the cases in the Surrey Quarter Sessions were presented by just three Justices of the Peace (JPs), all based in Southwark.

The clerical Justice of the Peace was seen as having conflicting roles in society. From The British Museum Collection(Ref: AN177774001).

The clerical Justice of the Peace was seen as having conflicting roles in society. From The British Museum Collection (Ref: AN177774001).

To avoid the temptations of corruption, the Justices Qualification Act of 1744 stipulated that magistrates must be moderately wealthy property owners. As well as the squire, the parson was also a prominent figure in the rural community. From the middle of the century, more Surrey clergymen became JPs, forming more than a quarter of the total by 1800.

The Lingfield lockup was used as a temporary cell until prisoners  could be taken to the county gaol.

The Lingfield lockup was used as a temporary cell until prisoners
could be taken to the county gaol.

The Transportation Act of 1718 enabled magistrates and judges to ship offenders to the colonies, where they became, in effect, temporary slaves. It was not until 1857 that transportation was finally abolished.

Punishing offenders by imprisonment also became more common. This meant the sentence could be extended or shortened according to the seriousness of the offence. It also meant the county prison in Southwark became overcrowded, since previously it had only housed prisoners awaiting trial. A new gaol was built in 1723.

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