Hue and cry

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This article is about the common law precept. For Ealing Studios' first comedy, see Hue and Cry (film). For the Scottish band, see Hue and Cry.

In common law, a hue and cry is a process by which bystanders are summoned to assist in the apprehension of a criminal who has been witnessed in the act of committing a crime.

By the Statute of Winchester of 1285, 13 Edw. I cc. 1 and 4, 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 "the whole hundred … shall be answerable" for any theft or robbery, in effect a form of collective punishment. Those who raised a hue and cry falsely were themselves guilty of a crime.[1]

In Oliver Twist, Fagin reads the Hue and Cry, an early name for the weekly Police Gazette, which gave details of crimes and wanted people.


It is possible that it is an Anglicization via Anglo-French of the Latin hutesium et clamor, meaning "a horn and shouting".[2] Other sources indicate that it has always been a somewhat redundant phrase meaning an outcry and cry. "Hue" appears to come from the Old French huer, which means "to shout", and Old French crier, which means "to cry".[3][4][5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Adams, George Burton and Henry Morse Stephens (ed.). Statute of Winchester. Retrieved 2011-11-08. 
  2. ^ "What does Hue and Cry Mean?". Retrieved 2011-11-05. 
  3. ^ "Hue and Cry". Retrieved 2011-11-05. 
  4. ^ "Compiled Definition and Etymology of Hue and Cry". Retrieved 2011-11-05. 
  5. ^ Soukhanov, Anne H., ed. (1992), American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, p. 879 

Further reading[edit]

  • Sagui, Samantha (2014). "The hue and cry in medieval English towns". Historical Research 87: 179–93. doi:10.1111/1468-2281.12030.