Bite-Size – A timeline of capital punishment in Britain

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1671 – The Coventry Act. Lying in wait with the intention of disfiguring someone’s nose became a capital offence

1699 – The Shoplifting Act. Theft of goods worth more than five shillings from a shop became a capital offence. James Appleton was hanged in 1722 for the theft of three wigs, and Benjamin Beckonfield was hanged in 1750 for stealing a hat

1723 – The Waltham Blacks Act. Designed to combat a rise in poaching, this Act increased the number of capital offences from 30 to 150

1782 – A fourteen year old girl was hanged. Her crime? Being found in the company of gypsies

1810 – Britain now had 222 capital crimes, including “adopting a disguise”

1816 – Four boys of between nine and thirteen years old were hanged for begging

1835 – The offences of sacrilege, stealing letters and early return from transportation were downgraded from capital offences

1861 – The Criminal Law Consolidation Act. This Act reduced the number of capital offences to just four, namely treason, mutiny, piracy and murder

1868 – Public executions are replaced with ones inside prisons. The last public hanging was of Michael Barrett on 26 May that year

1875 – The ‘long drop’ is introduced by William Marwood

1908 – Only those over the age of sixteen can be executed

1931 – Pregnant women cannot be hanged

1948 – The House of Commons approves a five year ban on capital punishment but this is overturned by the House of Lords

1955 – Ruth Ellis is the last woman to be hanged in Britain

1957 – The Homicide Act. Capital murder now has five categories – murder during a theft, murder by shooting or explosives, murder in the course of resisting arrest, murder of a prison officer or policeman, and two murders not committed at the same time

1964 – Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans are the last people to be hanged in Britain, for murder in the course of theft

1965 – The Abolition of the Death Penalty Bill Act. Capital punishment is suspended for a five year trial period

1969 – all capital punishment is abolished

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