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Heavy hand of the law

Posted by Lewis on May 08, 2006

In Reply to: Heavy hand of the law Posted by Clark on May 08, 2006

: what does, "heavy hand of the law" mean specifically?

: thanks

traditionally, it refers to the act of being arrested for wrongdoing - the heavy hand of a policeman on your collar or shoulder. it was tradtional for arrests to be made by the officer placing a hand upon the shoulder of the subject and stating the reason for the arrest. later, it became a requirement that the person was 'cautioned' as to their right not to incriminate themselves and so the officer would usually recite the caution with the hand on the shoulder of the suspect.
if a suspect was struggling or trying to flee, the policeman would often hang on to the person by their shirt-collar and so to arrest somebody was also nicknamed 'to collar' a suspect.

it was not the law that the hand had to be laid on the arrested person, but it became commonplace as it also made it clear which person was being arrested.

the policeman's hand of arrest felt 'heavy' even if not forcefully applied.