My last post got me thinking on how criminals were dealt with in the past, particularly as I recently bought Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. I’ve been meaning to read this for such a long time as I’m interested in the psychology behind his writing. I’m all for justice being dispensed but I think one British executioner in particular, William Calcraft, enjoyed his work a bit too much and his victims often met their fate because of very minor offenses.
The criminal justice system of 19th century Britain is often referred to as the “Bloody Code”. At its height, the law included some 220 different offences that were punishable by death, including “being in the company of Gypsies for one month”, “strong evidence of malice in a child aged 7–14 years of age” and “blacking the face or using a disguise whilst committing a crime”.
After reading about William Calcraft, who hanged 450 people over a 45 year period, I am of the opinion that the man may have been a psychopath. You can read more about him, courtesy of Alex Cox, at the link below – if you don’t mind the gruesome descriptions of his work methods.