Key dates

1718
Transportation Act authorises judges to sentence criminals to transportation to the American colonies

1774
Gaols Acts aims to improve conditions in gaols

1779
Penitentiary Act authorises plans to construct two model prisons based on John Howard's ideas

1785
Act for building a new gaol at Gloucester, the first of a long series of measures to build county prisons

1800
Act of Parliament enables Glasgow to establish its own police force, the first professional force in Britain

1823
Gaols Act standardises regulations for the administration of prisons and for their control by the Home Office

1829
Metropolitan Police Act establishes a full-time police force for the greater London area

1835
Prisons Act extends Home Office's powers of supervision of prisons

1839
Rural Constabulary Act enables county areas to establish police forces, but only if they wish

1853
Penal Servitude Act abolishes the transportation of criminals

1856
County and Borough Police Act makes policing compulsory throughout England and Wales

1857
General Police Act (Scotland) establishes separate police authorities in Scotland

1861
Offences against the Person Act limits the death penalty, which from 1837 had applied to 15 offences, to murder alone

1877
Prisons Act completes the transfer of control over prisons from local authorities to the Home Office

1908
Prevention of Crime Act establishes a national system of borstals for offenders under 21

1946
Police Act begins the process of merging local forces to cover larger geographical areas

1952
The Prison Act 1952 made changes to the way prisons were managed.

1964
Police Act reduces the number of police forces in the UK to 47 in England and 20 in Scotland

1984
The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 codified police powers and gave suspects new rights.

1994
The Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994 made important changes to the relationship between the Home Secretary, police forces and police authorities, for example giving the Home Secretary powers set national performance targets for police forces.

2002
The Police Reform Act 2002 gave the Home Secretary new powers to intervene in the management of police forces, and introduced police community support officers.  It also reformed the police complaints system.

 

Page last updated December 2013