South West boasts 'naturally inspiring' crime rates

Joseph Bulmer

Torbay Weekly is always optimistic and highlights the beauty of South Devon.

We are lucky to live in such a 'naturally inspiring' place.

To read some of the more depressing national newspapers, the rest of the country is filled with violence and mayhem.

With the hooliganism at Wembley for the Euro finals, knife crime and murders, are we living through a violent age?

It is never easy to estimate violence throughout history.

Normal behaviour to one generation is violence and abuse to another.

How many people agreed with the proverb 'spare the rod and spoil the child'?

Henry VIII’s treatment of his wives might not be considered 'woke' today.

But we can get some idea of the level of violence throughout history by looking at murder rates.

Even when violence was more acceptable actually killing someone was considered bad form.

Even murder was not always straightforward.

At the time of the Norman King, Henry I (1100- 1135) it was only murder if the victim was a Norman, Frenchman or from overseas. Englishmen didn’t count.

If a foreigner was found dead the Anglo-Saxon locals had a habit of saying 'not me gov, no idea what happened'.

So, the Normans fined the whole village, a fine called the murderum, which is where we get the word murder.

The fine at the time of Henry I was 46 marks of which 40 marks went to the king and six to the deceased family. This seems a little unfair, but it would not be a good idea to complain.

In the 13th century, a panel of Royal Justices called the Eyre travelled around the county to judge homicides.

There are records from the Eyre which give an idea of the level of violence.

The 1278, London Eyre recorded about six homicides a year.

If we assume the population for London to be around 40,000, the homicide rate was about 15 per 100,000.

This probably dropped to ten per 100,000 by 1600 and one per 100,000 in the 20th century.

Research on homicides in Kent from 1560 to 1985 showed a continuous tenfold fall over the 400 years.

The same fall is seen in violent crime as well as murder although this is difficult to measure.

This reduction was not only seen here. Records from Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands show a similar fall.

All ancient records must come with a warning.

We do not know any details of the individual cases or how they defined homicide.

It is likely that it is an underestimate as there were probably many murders not reported. There was no police force.

We also do not know the severity of the injuries.

It is possible that, if the victims could have been treated in a modern hospital they might have survived.

There are figures from 17th century Castile which showed that in 37 per cent of murders the victims died immediately.

It is unlikely these people would have been helped by modern care.

A total of 70 per cent died within 24 hours.

However, we play with the statistics it seems clear that the reduction in violence across the centuries is real.

So why has violence and murder decreased?

For all the arguments about being tough on crime and increasing deterrents it cannot be due to fear of punishment.

Crime rates were much higher in 1800 when there were 220 crimes punishable by death including 'being in the company of gypsies for one month', 'strong evidence of malice in a child aged seven to 14 years of age' and 'blacking the face or using a disguise while committing a crime'.

And these executions were in public.

Even when the number of offences which attracted the death penalty was reduced, offenders were sent to appalling prisons or transported.

The UK has the lowest crime rate in its history and one of the lowest crime rates in the world.

In the South West we have one of the lowest crime rates in the UK. Now that is 'naturally inspiring' news in Torbay Weekly.