Some Criminal Statistics, 1840s–1850s

Saturday, 25 July 1840

Criminal Tables for England and Wales
The Criminal Tables for the year 1839 . . .
The capital convictions amount to fifty-four only, a number considerably less than the average of executions ten years previously. They were, for — . . .
Sodomy .... 5
. . . Of these fifty-six capital convicts eleven were executed – ten for murder, and one for an attempt to murder his wife by poisoning. . . .
          The Acts of the 1st. Victoria have also had a very beneficial effect upon the result of prosecutions; Juries being in all cases less unwilling to convict when they know that capital punishment will not follow. By these Acts, capital punishments were abolished in the crimes enumerated below, for which at that time executions were not unusual: and the greater proportion of convictions in these crimes, which has resulted from the recent alteration in the law is very remarkable.
[However, the report does not mention sodomy in the three-year comparison of convictions and executions.]) (The Northern Liberator and Champion)

Saturday, 15 March 1845

County of Suffolk. – Eastern Division.
Summary of all Offences committed, or alleged to have been committed during the year ending the 28th of February, 1845:–
For Sodomy, Unnatural Offences:
Beeccles Division: 2 Offences committed, No cases dismissed, Total 2; Woodbridge Division: 1 Offence committed, No cases dismissed, Total 1; Ipswich Division: 1 Offence committed, 1 case dismissed, Total 0; Total: 4 Offences committed, 1 case dismissed, Total 3.
(Ipswich Journal)

Saturday, 30 June 1849

Statistics of Crime in England and Wales
The criminal tables for the yeaar 1848, lately published in the shape of a blue [report], contain much interesting information. An increase is exhibited in the number of committments in 1846, 1847, and 1848; during which years there were 84,289 commitments, against 80,436 in the triennial period from 1843 to 1845. The increase was at first 3.3 per cent.; it rose in 1847 to 14.8 per cent. and declined last year to 5.2 per cent. . . . As regards the nature of the offences, the increase is equally general [i.e. not related to geographical area]. In such crimes as murder, maiming, &c., there is an increase of 8 per cent.; in unnatural crimes, one of 16 per cent.; in rape and attempts upon female chastity, one of 14 per cent. . . . 640 capital sentences have been pronounced during the last 10 years – from 1839 to 1848 (both inclusive). The offences were murder, maliciously wounding, rape, sodomy, burglary, robbery, arson, riot, and felony, returning from transportation and high treason (3). Of the 60 persons sentenced to death in 1848, only 12 were executed – 10 males and 2 females. The offence was, in every cases, murder of the most atrocious kind; the motives being principally revenge and jealosy. . . . (Bristol Mercury)

Thursday, 2 May 1850

. . . I shall conclude my present letter with the annexed table of the crimes committed by sailors during the last ten years. This table has been made out from the metropolitan police returns, and shows the number of sailors taken into custody for different offences in the years below cited. The last column but one gives the total number of offences committed from 1839 to 1848; and the last column of all shows the yearly average of the different kinds of offences committed by seamen in the Port of London.
Sodomy: 1840 nil; 1841 nil; 1842, 1; 1843, 1; 1844, 3, 1845 nil; 1846 nil; 1847, 1; 1848 nil; 1849, 4; Total for 10 years, 10; Average per year, 1.0.
Assaults with intent to commit sodomy: 1840 nil, 1841 nil, 1842, 1; 1843 nil; 1844, 1; 1845 nil, 1846n nil, 1847, 1; 1848 nil, 1849, 1; Total for 10 years, 4; Average per year, 0.4.
Extorting money under threats, &c. [i.e. threatening to charge a victim with sodomy]: 1840 nil, 1841, 2; 1842, 2; 1843 nil; 1844 nil; 1845 nil; 1846 nil; 1847 nil; 1848 nil, 1849, 1; Total for 10 years, 5; Average per year, 0.5.
(Morning Chronicle)

Wednesday, 4 February 1857

A blue-book, issued on Tuesday, gives tables showing the number of criminal offencers in the year 1855. . . . Of these 19,971 convicts 50 were sentenced to death, . . . Eleven persons were condemned to the scaffold for murder, 10 for attempts to murder, 20 for the crime of sodomy, two for burglary with violence, five for robbery and wounding, and two for arson of dwelling-houses. Only seven out of the 50 were consigned to the hands of Jack Ketch, and all of these were murderers. The maximum number of executions of late years has not exceeded 15 (in 1849), and the minimum has been 5 (in 1854). The operation of the new sentences to "penal servitude" (which is never commuted), exemplifies the fact that a statutory reduction of any of the higher terms of punishment is followed by a reduction, in practice, of the whole scale of punishments. . . . (Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Some Criminal Statistics, 1840s-1850s", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 3 March 2018 <>.

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