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Witnesses, Lawyers and Juries

Witnesses, Lawyers and Juries

At the Assizes

A person on trial today will have been arrested and charged by the police. Then the public prosecution service will have decided to bring the case to court. The accused will have access to a defence lawyer and legal advice. Life was very different in the 19th century. It was rare for the accused to have a defence lawyer, unless it was a capital case, and prosecutors, judges, and jurors had lots of flexibility in how they interpreted the law. During the trial, neither prosecutor nor defendant were entitled to any form of legal aid. This meant that the average prisoner did not get any legal help, because it cost too much. Whichever plea was entered, ' Guilty' or 'Not Guilty', evidence of the crime was heard and, in direct contrast to what happens today, evidence of previous convictions was heard before sentence was passed.

Further pages
  • JuriesJuries Just like today, the principal means of establishing guilt, in more serious criminal cases, was by...
  • WitnessesWitnesses In the early part of 19th century, the 'victim' of a crime had to pursue any prosecution...
  • The DefendantThe Defendant In the early part of the 19th century, it was presumed that, if defendants were innocent, they...
  • LawyersLawyers Until the mid 19th century, the prosecutor was usually the victim themselves and few had access to...