hue and cry

hue and cry

hue and cry, formerly, in English law, pursuit of a criminal immediately after he had committed a felony. Whoever witnessed or discovered the crime was required to raise the hue and cry against the perpetrator (e.g., call out "Stop, thief !") and to begin pursuit; all persons within hearing were under the same obligation, and it was a punishable offense not to join in the chase and capture. The perpetrator was promptly brought into court, and if there was evidence of his having been caught red-handed, he was summarily convicted without being allowed to testify in his own behalf. The hue and cry was abolished in the early 19th cent. Possible modern survivals are the obligation to serve on a sheriff's posse and to assist a police officer in pursuing a suspected culprit.

In common law, a hue and cry (Latin, hutesium et clamor, "a horn and shouting") was a process by which bystanders were summoned to assist in the apprehension of a criminal who had been witnessed in the act of committing a crime.

By the statute of Winchester, 13 Edw. I cc. 1 and 4, (1285) it was provided that anyone, either a constable or a private citizen, who witnessed a crime shall make hue and cry, and that the hue and cry must be kept up against the fleeing criminal from town to town and from county to county, until the felon is apprehended and delivered to the sheriff. All able-bodied men, upon hearing the shouts, were obliged to assist in the pursuit of the criminal, which makes it comparable to the posse comitatus. It was moreover provided that a hundred that failed to give pursuit on the hue and cry would become liable in case of any theft or robbery. Those who raised a hue and cry falsely were themselves guilty of a crime.

In Oliver Twist, Fagin reads a magazine called the Hue and Cry which was a weekly Police Gazette detailing crimes and wanted people.

Metaphor

In contemporary terms, the hue and cry is also used figuratively to describe the behaviour of the news media, seeking a scapegoat for some complex public calamity or instigating moral panics.

See also

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