Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Hue and Cry Definition:

A community fugitive-containment strategy of medieval England where a yell went up denouncing a crime, and all within earshot took up the chase.

A community fugitive containment strategy of medieval England where any person observing a crime was to shout out the name of the offender, to denounce the offender, and all within earshot were required to take up the chase until the felon was taken.

The following case, re Harman and Davis, is taken from an old English case book in reference to proceedings which occurred in London on 8th July, 1724, and demonstrates the invaluable assistance the hue and cry brought to the pursuit of fugitives in an eras without electricity or motorized vehicles:

"James Harman and John Davis , of St. Brian's Barnet, were indicted for assaulting John Nicol (and)  Richard Reed.

"Mr. Nicol deposed that as he was coming to London, in his Chair, two men came up to him, beyond Muzzle Hill (editor's note: near present-day Buckinghamshire, Northwest of London), and bid him stop, held Pistols to him, and demanded his Money, whereupon he gave them a Guinea and 17 s..

"They bid him give them his watch, but he told them he had none. Then one of them bid him give him his pocket book, to which he replied he had none. Then he bid him pull out his pocket and he did taking out some Papers which he said were of no value to the person that took them, desiring him to let them alone; but he would have them.

"And having robbed him..., they rode away, and left him to prosecute his journey. Meeting with Captains Parsons,  they acquainted him with what had befallen them, and described the men and horses, and he rode after them ....

"He did not swear to their faces, because they had masks on, but the papers that were taken from him, and also from Davis, when he was apprehended, were produced in Court, and he swore to them.

"Afterwards, (he) saw the horses on which they were taken, and they were the horses that those that robbed him, rid on. Reed deposed that as he was coming from Cony Hatch, he also was met by two men on horseback who drew their pistols, told him they wanted money, and he gave them a Guinea, a Moidore, and a broad piece. They then rode off, and were pursued by Captain Parsons. By his and Mr. Nicol’s description of their persons, clothes and horses, he not being able to swear to their faces, they being masked.

"Captain Parsons deposed that he, meeting with the prosecutors on the road, and they telling him they had been robbed by two men on bay horses, one of them being a little man and the other wearing a rug coat, he pursued them and calling by the way, desired another to accompany him, and riding after them, heard of them from place to place, as at Hornsey....

"At last (he) pursued them to Hackney, where they had just been drinking a pint of wine, at the Meremaid Tavern and mounted again, and were just gone, but were overtaken, brought back, and apprehended.

"William Newson deposed that Captain Parsons calling at the Green Man, at Muzzle Hill, and desiring assistance, he got a horse, rode after him, and overtook him about Hornsey church. They pursued the prisoners, hearing of them from place to place, and at Turnpikes, till they came to Hackney.

"They first got intelligence of them in the Green Lane, at the Turnpike, where they were informed they were in haste, threw the man a Shilling, and asked the way to Epping. They pursued them to Southgate, to Bore's Farm, and till they came to Edmonton, and afterwards got Notice of them at the Turnpike at Stanford, and so pursued them to and fro for a journey of near 20 miles, till they came to Hackney, where they heard at the Meremaid Tavern, they had been there, changed their coats, and were just gone, and that there being a man that was there, that had led their horses, he lent him his horse. He, taking a broomstick, rode after, overtook and stopped them, and they were afterwards apprehended, he catching hold of Harman's bridle; but as Davis was riding away, his horse threw him, and he was also apprehended.

"Robert Billington deposed that he being at work at Hackney, the former (witnesses) coming with a hue and cry, he mounted one of their horses, rode after them with a stick in his hand; and coming up to them, stopped them, threatening, that if they offered to put their hands to their pockets, he would knock them down.

"There were several others (witnesses) that deposed that at searching them, they found a mask, and pair of pistols in Harman's pocket, that another mask was found thrown in the chimney in the room where Davis was, and a pair of pistols hid behind the door. They had changed their coats at the Meremaid Tavern and that Mr. Nichols' papers were taken out of Davis's pocket at Justice Holworthy's. Also a purse of money was found on them that had such pieces of gold in it, as the prosecutors had lost.

"The Prisoners stiffly denied the fact, and Harman being asked what he did with the mask that was taken out of his pocket, he replied, that he was going to a masquerade; but gave no account where was the rest of his masquerading equipage. The fact being plainly proved, the jury found them both guilty of both indictments. Death."

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