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Victorian Crime and Punishment
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Glossary

  • Peck:
    A unit of dry measure by volume, equal to about 2 gallons (a large watering can) or 9 litres - a quarter of a bushel.
  • Penal Servitude:
    Introduced by the Penal Servitude Act, 1853. It was a term of imprisonment that usually included hard labour and was served in this country. Ranging from 3 years to life, it was for those who would have been transported for less than 14 years. It could also be used as an alternative sentence for those liable to transportation of 14 years or more. Sentences of 7 years transportation or less were substituted by penal servitude for 4 years; 7 to 10 years transportation by 4 to 10 years; 10 to 15 years by 6 to 8 years' penal servitude; over 15 years' transportation by 6 to 10 years' penal servitude; transportation for life by penal servitude for life. Therefore records tended to put transportation and penal servitude together. Penal servitude was treated as a term of hard labour. This clumsy system of converting transportation to penal servitude equivalents was theoretically ended by the Penal Servitude Act of 1857 which abolished transportation as a sentence; subsequently prisoners were sentenced directly to penal servitude if found guilty of offences that formerly warranted transportation. However, in practice, convicts were still being transported as late as 1867 so there continued to be a hazy overlap between the sentencing of transportation and penal servitude for many years. Only by tracing what happened to individuals is it possible to determine what their final sentence actually was.
  • Perjury:
    The offence of lying or giving false evidence by a witness under oath in a court of law.
  • Petty Session:
    A summary court dealing with minor offences.
  • Prosecute:
    To bring a criminal action against a person for some offence, nowadays usually undertaken by the Crown (the state).