The Unwritten Law: Criminal Justice in Victorian Kent

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In the 1870s, a Kentish woman who had been repeatedly beaten by her lover retaliated by blinding him with sulphuric acid. The judge sentenced her to five years in prison. In contrast, a man who put out the eyes of a woman who left him was sentenced to only four months after telling the judge that he `was regularly drove to do it from her aggravation'. Making innovative use of court and police records, Carolyn Conley has written a lively account of criminal justice in Victorian England. She examines the gap between the formal laws and the unwritten law of the community, as well as the ways in which judges, juries, and police officers acted as mediators between the two. The book analyses the treatment of lawbreakers according to class, gender, and community status, and in so doing presents a vivid portrait of standards of propriety and justice at the time.