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Some Historical Facts


The police play the most important part in keeping public order and protecting persons and property. To do their work properly the police need necessary powers. They have the power to intervene to prevent a crime. If their orders are not obeyed, they may arrest the people who have broken the law and bring them before the courts.

Centuries before the formation of any official police force passed when attempts were made to provide some means of ‘community policing’. In England keeping law and order was the special responsibility of Justices of the Peace (JPs).

Despite the cruel penalties inflicted upon criminals the state of lawlessness in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was appalling. By the second half of the eighteenth century the general population lived with a terrifying sense of insecurity. Gangs of criminals roamed the towns. Any form of transport was risky.

Justices of the Peace had to employ thief-takers to catch criminals. Thief-takers were often no better than the criminals themselves. Sometimes they were criminals who knew the criminal underworld well.

The most notorious thief-taker of all was Jonathan Wild who operated in the early part of the eighteenth century. He began his career in a small way informing on criminals who were suspected of crime. Eventually he built up a criminal empire of his own. His speciality was the organization of robberies and burglaries. He was then paid rewards by the victims for securing the return of their property.

In 1719 as a direct result of activities of this kind Parliament passed the Second Transportation Act which laid down that anyone taking a reward for receiving stolen goods, who did not also help to arrest the thief and give evidence against him, was guilty of a 'felony' (serious crime which could result in sentence of death). Eventually, Wild was himself caught and prosecuted.

The first police force to become an organized body of men wearing uniforms and given special powers was named the Metropolitan Police Force ('The Met'), because it policed the metropolis of London. This force was created by the Metropolitan Police Act 1829. At that time Sir Robert Peel was the Home Secretary, and policemen were therefore known as 'Peelers' or 'Bobbies'. The new police force first went out on duty on 29 September 1829.The force made a poor start. By the end of the year the most of men had been dismissed because of being drunk on duty.

It is hardly surprising that in the early days of the force public opinion was very much against it. Newspapers complained bitterly that the police behaved with brutality in their enthusiasm to make arrests. At the same time the police were blamed for failing to clear up crime.

Nevertheless, the value of an organized police force soon became apparent. The first plain-clothes detectives were used to gather information on the activities of gangs of criminals.

The Metropolitan Police force was well organized and disciplined and after initial period of public skepticism became the model for other police forces in Great Britain and this police system had been adopted throughout the world.


4. Выразите согласие/несогласие со следующими утверждениями по содержанию текста.


1. There is no difference between thieves and thief-takers.

2. Jonathan Wild investigated burglaries and robberies.

3. People had to pay Jonathan Wild for securing the return of their stolen property.

4. Parliament passed the Second Transportation Act to reduce crime.

5. The Metropolitan police was organized by Sir Robert Peel.


Ответьте на вопросы по тексту.

1. Why did Justices of the Peace have to employ thief-takers?

2. What did Jonathan Wild specialize in?

3. What did the Second Ttransportation Act lay down?

4. Why was public opinion against the first police force?

5. Why did the British police system become the model for police forces in other countries?



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