Hue and cry

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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 statute 2. capitulum 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 the theft or robbery committed, in effect a form of collective punishment. Those who raised a hue and cry falsely were themselves guilty of a crime.[1]

The oath of office for constables in Tennessee, USA specifically mentions that it is the duty of the constable to sound the hue and cry.[note 1]


It is possible that the term 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, though such "redundancy" is a feature of the legal doublet. "Hue" appears to come from the Old French huer, which means "to shout", and "cry" from Old French crier ("to cry").[3][4][5]

Cultural references[edit]

  • From the late 18th century until 1839, Hue and Cry was a principal or variant title for the weekly newspaper, containing details of crimes and wanted people, that afterwards became better known as the Police Gazette.
  • Hue and Cry: a newspaper advertisement that offered rewards for the recapture of slaves who had escaped their masters.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ T.C.A. 8-10-108(b): ...according to the 1960 federal census or any subsequent federal census, and in Fentress County and Hamblen County, every constable shall take an oath that the constable will well and truly serve the state in the office of constable; that the constable will cause the peace of the state to be kept, to the best of the constable's power; that the constable will arrest all such persons as go in the constable's sight armed offensively, or who commit any riot, affray, or other breach of the peace, or will use the constable's best endeavor, on complaint made, to apprehend all felons, rioters, or persons riotously assembled; and that, if such persons flee or make resistance, the constable will pursue, and make hue and cry, according to law; that the constable will faithfully, and without delay, execute and return all lawful process directed to the constable; and that the constable will well and truly, according to the constable's power and ability, do and execute all other duties of the office of constable.


  1. ^ Adams, George Burton & Henry Morse Stephens, eds. (1901). 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. ISBN 978-0-395-44895-3.

Further reading[edit]

  • Sagui, Samantha (2014). "The hue and cry in medieval English towns". Historical Research. 87 (236): 179–93. doi:10.1111/1468-2281.12030.
  • Duggan, Kenneth F. (2017). "The Hue and Cry in Thirteenth-Century England". Thirteenth Century England. 16: 153–72. doi:10.1017/9781787441439.010. ISBN 9781787441439.
  • Duggan, Kenneth F. (2020) "The Limits of Strong Government: Attempts to Control Criminality in Thirteenth-Century England", in Historical Research 93:261 (2020), pp. 399–419