Fifty Years Ago

The 1905 criminal statistics recently issued from the Home Office show that while there is a decline in convictions for drunkenness, manslaughter, bigamy, and malicious wounding, there is nevertheless a significant increase in burglaries and crimes against property with violence. Sir John Macdonell says in his summary “The enormous preponderance of crimes against property is remarkable; nearly nine-tenths of the whole fall every year within that category.”

Indictable offences have increased from a yearly average of 51,612 during 1896—1900 to 61,463 in 1905. While, instead of drink being the cause of crime, drunkenness has declined while crime has increased.

(From the “Socialist Standard,” March 1907)


The above figures on the not very large increase is the number of indictable offences between 1896 and 1905 need to be compared with the staggering increase since that date. In an address to the Edinburgh Rotary Club in 1955 Sir Sydney Smith, formerly of the Department of Forensic Medicine at Edinburgh University, had this to say:—

“. . . members of the community showed far too little interest in the serious problem of crime. In 1900. he said, there were 50,000 indictable crimes, compared with 500,000 in 1953. Crimes of violence had risen from 3,500 to 23,000, housebreaking cases from 77,000 to 400,000.” (Report in Manchester Guardian, 18/2/55.)

In the article in March, 1907 the SOCIAIST STANDARD writer related the increase of crime to the “greater distress and unemployment among the people.” While these factors play a part the enormous increase during the post-war years of very low unemployment show that the rest of the pressures, tensions and frustrations of Capitalism at peace and war, have combined to make the 1905 figures almost insignificant.

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