Statute of Winchester | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Policing

The Statute of Winchester, also known as the Statute of 1285, is a historical law in England that played an important role in shaping the criminal justice system.

It was passed during the reign of King Edward I, and it is considered to be one of the earliest statutes related to law enforcement.

The Statute of Winchester was enacted in response to rising crime rates in medieval England. The law established a system of local law enforcement that required each county to appoint a group of officials known as the “hue and cry” to pursue and apprehend criminals. The hue and cry consisted of ordinary citizens who were required to respond to the call for assistance by raising an alarm and chasing down the criminal.

In addition to the hue and cry, the Statute of Winchester introduced other important provisions to improve law and order. It required every man to own and maintain arms, such as a longbow or a crossbow, in order to assist with law enforcement efforts. It also established a system of watch and ward, which required every town and village to have a group of citizens who would keep watch and protect the community from criminals.

Another significant aspect of the Statute of Winchester was the requirement for coroners to investigate suspicious deaths and report them to the authorities. This provision helped to establish a system of inquiry into crimes and provided a mechanism for identifying and punishing offenders.

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Last Modified: 03/14/2023


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