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Crimes, Constables, and Courts

Crimes, Constables, and Courts: Order and Transgression in a Canadian City, 1816-1970

Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Crimes, Constables, and Courts
    Book Description:

    Using Hamilton, Ontario, as his model, Weaver makes extensive use of newspaper accounts and police, court, and jail records in a revealing exploration of individual crime cases and overall trends in crime. Tracing the origin and evolution of courts, juries, police, and punishments, Weaver takes into account various social and cultural issues. For example, he shows how increasing centralization and professionalization of the criminal justice system and police have deprived communities of input, and how the legal system continues to be male dominated and biased against newcomers, strangers, and marginalized social groups. Often critical of the "state," Weaver paints a sympathetic view of police constables, who play an ambiguous role in the community while being saddled with an expanding array of onerous duties.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6522-7
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Illustrations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-22)

    It is a rainy day in November 1992. The entrance to the glazed-brick building on King William Street leads directly into a spacious reception hall, where a pair of women at a long counter answer public inquiries. Behind them stand about twenty desks, each with a computer terminal. A radio plays; the lyrics of ‘Heart of Gold’ are barely audible above the hum of a pin printer. Women staffing the area wear casual attire. Cheerful and busy, chatting and at ease, commenting on the weather, they give the impression that the office belongs to a modern firm with a pleasantly...

  7. 1 Criminal Justice and the Waning of the Old Regime
    (pp. 23-63)

    In the afternoon of a pleasant September day in 1828, a ten year-old lad perched on the shoulders of an adult gazed across the heads of the men, women, and children; he could see through the cordon of cavalry drawn up in a semi-circle before Hamilton’s frame courthouse. His eyes fixed on a platform that extended out from a wall of hewed logs. The hanging he was about to witness would be the first and last public execution to take place on the original court square. Eight men convicted of high treason at the Ancaster ‘Bloody Assize’ during the War...

  8. 2 Expeditious Courts and Muscular Mercenaries
    (pp. 64-107)

    ‘Poor McConnell, poor McConnell. He deserved better.’ So lamented Michael McConnell on the morning of 14 March 1876. Indeed, his predicament could not have been worse. Flanked by constables, a black-hooded hangman following close behind, the convicted murderer walked out of the county jail, into a sunlit yard, and towards the gallows. With hats doffed, the press and prison officials walked solemnly at the rear of a small procession. The stairs to the noose had been painted black. Executions in full public view had ceased in Canada, but a number of people had been issued passes and many more clamoured...

  9. 3 Human Agents of Civic Order
    (pp. 108-146)

    The Toronto newspapers could scarcely contain their glee, for they had stumbled onto a story certain to wound the pride of boosters in the neighbouring ‘ambitious city’. In early January 1895, ‘a man known well in athletic circles’ checked into the Grand Union Hotel on Simcoe Street in Toronto and requested a suite. The room he obtained opened onto a parlour. So did the adjacent one occupied by two ladies ‘of most attractive appearance’ who had accompanied him. The party of three were registered as H.B. Collins, Miss Maude Collins, and Miss Ella Collins, all from New Haven, Connecticut. For...

  10. 4 Forced Liberalization and Technological Enthusiasms
    (pp. 147-187)

    On 7 March 1947 a substantial crowd braved late-winter winds and collected around the courthouse, a Second Empire structure completed in 1879 – the third incarnation for a Wentworth County courthouse. The curious had come to hear the verdict in a new trial ordered by the Ontario Court of Appeal. The trials of Evelyn Dick – the original, the appeal hearing, and the new trial – comprised a three-act drama and the most sensational criminal case ever witnessed in Hamilton. Arguably, it was the most sensational Canadian trial of the mid-century. Reporters arrived from across Canada and the United States.

    The contrast between...

  11. 5 The Meaning of Trends in Crime Rates
    (pp. 188-224)

    The local news for Christmas weekend 1920 mocked the season’s message of peace and goodwill. On the night of 23 December, four young Hamilton men had stolen a Gray Dort automobile in the city and roared along county roads to the crossroads village of Binbrook, planning to rob a general store. Several of them entered the store at around 11:30 p.m. The manager, a veterinary surgeon, Dr T.J. Whitworth, surprised one of the robbers, Wilfred Meharg, and tried to prevent him from grabbing forty dollars out of the cash register. Meharg pulled a revolver and fired twice; Whitworth would die...

  12. 6 The Enduring Circumstances of Violence and Theft
    (pp. 225-262)

    Shortly after midnight on 13 March 1954, a radio call instructed two constables on patrol in a police cruiser to respond to a telephone call for help that had just come into the station: a husband had stumbled home in a drunken stupor and struck his wife. The police arrived at the scene a few minutes later. They advised the woman to see the morality officer at the central station and then to lay an information of assault before the justice of the peace at the family court. The report concluded: ‘We had answered a call to these premises for...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 263-276)

    History confirms facts and renders accounts. Occasionally, however, history involves more than these already taxing objectives by discussing issues in the light of current affairs. As if this is not challenging enough, it is necessary for historians in certain areas to learn from other disciplines. Historians of crime and criminal justice, for example, cannot ignore contemporary issues, criminology, and commentaries on the law. As a result, they often perceive past and present as inseparable. By look ing for patterns in events and then proposing explanations for these patterns, histories of criminal justice in the modern era distinguish their craft from...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 277-316)
  15. Index
    (pp. 317-323)