JPs did a splendid job – except, apparently, in
Middlesex. It got so bad that in 1780 the great parliamentarian Edmund Burke announced in the House of Commons that the Middlesex Justices were “the scum of the earth... unworthy of any employment and ...so ignorant they could scarcely write their own names”. To put it into context, Middlesex was the crime capital of Britain at that time, rather like Johannesburg is to South Africa today. Law and order was losing the fight against crime, when along came Henry Fielding. Here was an honest man who employed a group of men to catch criminals and he then tried them at Bow Street. Those found guilty were sent to prison or the gallows. There are no statistics about his acquittal rate.
What's an acquittal? Am I allowed to do one?
I must ask my clerk.