In my current WIP (Work in Progress), I have spent countless hours in studying the working of the law in 1816 London. The difficulty is there was no Metropolitan Police Force to handle the investigations. The fragmented dealings have created a quagmire of legalities for me to decipher, but I am loving the process.
The Metropolitan Police Act 1829 (10 Geo.4, C.44) was an Act of Parliament introduced by Sir Robert Peel and passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Act established the Metropolitan Police of London (with the exception of the City), replacing the previously disorganized system of parish constables and watchmen. The Act was the enabling legislation for what is often considered to be the first modern police force, the “bobbies” or “peelers” (after Peel), which served as the model for modern urban police departments throughout England. The UK’s first Police Act was the Glasgow Police Act of 30 June 1800 and another eleven Scottish cities and burghs established police forces under individual police Acts of Parliament before Peel’s Metropolitan Police was established. Until the Act, the Statute of Winchester of 1285 was cited as the primary legislation regulating the policing of the country since the Norman Conquest.
It is one of the Metropolitan Police Acts 1829 to 1895.
Section 1 of the Act established a Police Office for the Metropolis, to be under two commissioners who were to be Justices of the Peace.
Section 4, constituted the Metropolitan Police District from the Liberty of Westminster and parts of the counties of Middlesex, Surrey and Kent, and stated that “a sufficient number of fit and able men shall from time to time, by the direction of His Majesty’s Secretaries of State, be appointed as a Police Force for the whole of such district…” The constables were to have power not only within the MPD, but also throughout Middlesex, Surrey, Hertfordshire, Essex and Kent.
Section 6 made it an offence for the owner of a public house to harbour a police officer during his hours of duty.
Section 7 outlined the powers of the new police force. A constable was empowered to apprehend “all loose, idle and disorderly Persons whom he shall find disturbing the public Peace, or whom he shall have just Cause to suspect of any evil Designs, and all Persons whom he shall find between sunset and the Hour of Eight in the Forenoon lying in any Highway, Yard, or other Place, or loitering therein, and not giving a satisfactory Account of themselves…
Section 8 made it an offence to assault or resist a police officer, with the penalty of a fine not exceeding five pounds.
Other sections dealt with arrangements for the handing over of police powers in the various parishes, with existing “watchmen and night police” to continue until the commissioners indicated that the Metropolitan Police were ready to assume responsibility for the area. Overseers in the parishes were to levy a Police Rate on all persons liable to pay the Poor Rate, not to exceed eight pence in the pound.
Section 34 of the Act allowed other parishes to be added to the Metropolitan Police District by Order in Council. Any place in Middlesex, Surrey, Hertfordshire, Essex or Kent within twelve miles of Charing Cross could be added.