History GCSE: The Bloody Code
The Waltham Black Act in 1723 established the system known as the Bloody Code which imposed the death penalty for over two hundred, often petty, offences.
Its aim was deterrence.
Those in court faced with this system were expected to defend themselves with only the assistance of the judge.
Many juries practised ‘pious perjury’, often finding people not guilty or reducing the amount stolen to avoid the crime being a capital offence.
An example of this is given with the case of Mary Behn at the Old Bailey.
This short film is from the BBC series, The Strange Case of the Law.
Students could identify key words while watching this short film.
They could debate why and when ‘pious perjury’ might be justified.
This short film will be relevant for teaching GCSE history and social studies. This topic appears in OCR, AQA, Edexcel, WJEC KS4/GCSE in England and Wales, CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland and SQA National 4/5 in Scotland.