Catching the Criminal
Early Policemen known as 'Peelers'
Most prosecutions were not carried out by the police, but by private individuals, normally the victims of the crime. Anyone who was thought to have committed a crime, was taken to the parish constable or magistrate by the person who caught them. Even in places where there was a proper police force, most prosecutions were still started by private citizens.
In 1885, the legal historian F.W. Maitland wrote, 'To speak of the English system as one of PRIVATE prosecutions is misleading. It is we who have PUBLIC prosecutions, for any one of the public may prosecute; abroad they have STATE prosecutions or OFFICIAL prosecutions.'