Prosecution: The Runners in Court, 1765–1792

J. M. Beattie

in The First English Detectives

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199695164
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738746 | DOI:
Prosecution: The Runners in Court, 1765–1792

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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The subject is the process of prosecution and the role of the runners as witnesses at the commitment hearing before magistrates – the link between victims of crimes and the trial before judge and jury. The chapter begins with Fielding’s innovations at Bow Street – the public character of sessions, his invention of a re-examination process to strengthen prosecution evidence, and his use of the press to publicize his work. The principal subject is an analysis of the runners as witnesses for the prosecution at Old Bailey trials, and the way they fared against the cross-examining techniques of lawyers just then beginning to act in defence of prisoners. I take the fact that their credibility was not often questioned by the more aggressive of the defence counsel to suggest that by the end of the eighteenth century the runners had established a reputation for honesty and integrity.

Keywords: Fielding; re-examination; prosecution; runners; trial; defence counsel; reputation

Chapter.  27982 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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