12 OCTOBER 1850, Page 11


Tut Frimley murder has awakened people to a sudden sense Of insecurity, and busy panic rakes up the many cases of outrage which have recently occurred. The Times presents a most shunt- ing picture of a:particular 'district.: what, asks the journalist, is the ,etste of England in 1860 in respect of personal safety 'from robbers•?- " Its most 'frequented and fashionable counties are literally overrun with thieves, leas expert,from practice than fearless from impunity. On the bor- ders of Berkshire,-Middlesex, Hampshire, and Surrey, within half an hour's ride of 'Scotland Turd, and in the centre of the district distinguished by the names of Windsor, Richmond, 'Hampton, Eton, Claremont, and Strathfield- sa.ye, bands of dazinprobbers have established themselves, in utter contempt oflawand police. Forst least a twelvemonth past these marauders have levied contributions on the.houses in the neighbourhood, and notably upon those of the magistrates themselves. The Wets were notorious, and the alarm universal,; but nothing was done. Even large and populous towns usually thought secure from this species of danger were plundered with the most insolent audacity. In Reading, burglaries occurred for nights together ; and few persons could retire to rest in the country adjoining with un assurance that they would wake in safety the next morning. At last came the catas- trophe at Frimley, distinguished from the rest rather by the incident of murder than by any general novelty of features. Let the reader consider for a moment'what a state of things is disclosed by the cireimustanees of this lamentable' tragedy. Three men lay their plans for a robbery. They select a house standing in a-village, and within a hundred yards-that istosay, with- in easy call-of half-a-dozen other houses. In this Frimley parsonage those resided a clergyman and his wife, their two sons almost grown up, two maxi.- servants, and a man-servant. With no disguise but a _hit of green beige round their fuss, the thieves walk into this abode of four men' and three women, strike a light, go up-stairs, and proceed to search the rooins. That theinpresenee, under such circumstances, should be discovered, was of course a matter of certainty; but instead of decamping on detection, they endeavour A9,911117, their point by violence, wrestle with the inmates for some minutes together, and at length shoot the master of the house, and make off. Tb4 do not condescend, however, to ran many yartle. Within half a Mile of the ;scene of murdet, they coolly settle down 'again, and regale theniselOes With cokl meat and wine carried off from 'the premiske; leaving the traces of their good cheer to be found in the morning. Life and property couldl hardly he less, secure in Texas or Athena."

This is rather an over-naked account of the facts than an over- stated one. The opinions as to causes and remedies are almo4,,as many as the minds engaged in the discasssion. "A West Country Vicar" ascribes the evil condition to the inefficiency of the common village constable, and his personal intimacy with the friends of thieves ; the Times, to the want of an effective county police, which ought not to be left to the veto of a few ratepayers, but established at the requirement of the central Government ; the Globe, to the want of better secondary punishments ; the Standard, to the want of corn-law " protection." " A Surrey Man," writing to the Times, thinks that the inhabitants of Surrey ought to go armed. -" Public° " thinks that people who traverse the streets of London should carry arms ; and he relates how a Mr. Miller of Long Acre was knocked down in Rose Street at midnight, and nearly throttled -with an instrument like that used to Mr. Cureton, while three men tried to rifle his pockets. Brutes of another class haunt the by- ways of the suburbs and molest women ; and the ruffians who trade on the fears of nervous men by threatening to vamp up fictitious charges grow daring in their approaches. But it is to be observed that these outages are not less audacious within the beat of the Metropolitan Police than they are in the retired districts of the country. The cause, therefore, is something more general than the local want of police.

The Times hits the right nail on the head when it observes that the mischief consists in letting such classes of villains go abroad with freedom and impunity ; but in the touch-and-go commentary, it does not clench the nail. It is quite true that noted and noto- rious ruffians ought not to ravage the country unchecked until some enormous outrage draws the fastidious hand of the police

upon them ; but the supineness of the police co nds with de- fects in the rationale and practice of our law. corresponds the ruf- fians wandering about may be notorious, there is a scruple to touch them on the ground of "constitutional" maxims in favour of "the liberty of the subject." Another defect is, that crime is treated as a fixed wrong, to be expiated by fixed retributive punishment, such as imprisonment for a set term ; instead of taking the crime as the simple sign and symptom of an ill-conditioned mind, and keeping the criminal patient until he shall be sufficientlydisciplined

i for discharge—that is, sufficiently altered in disposition, or cowed by the terrors of imprisonment, to be suffered to go at large with safety for the public. A third defect is, that the Poor-law, which is half-auxiliary half-penal, makes no sufficient distinction between the wilful vagrant and the merely destitute ; which obliges the administrators of the law to make no proportionate distinction be- tween the two classes, but to treat the professional vagrant with the same indulgence that may be shown to the destitute poor. These are prominent among the reasons why hordes of ruffians are permitted to go abroad : and the penalty for combining in our code such mockeries of law—the Charter of Thieves—visits us in the shape of bin-elisions and murderous outrages on respected clergymen, and in general panic. It is quite clear that we cannot theek the evil by extending a police, nor by arming the people, nor by restoring " protection ; since the outrages are repeated in the very centre of a police, Mr. Holiest was armed, and " protection " never put a farthing of wages into the hands of these idle bri- gands. No, you must grasp the evil at its origin, and take hold of that bad class the notorious vagrants and ruffians ; and having them, you must keep them, as you would wild beasts; retaining them until they be tamed and safe—although, in extreme cases, that detention be during life.