Eighteenth century England had what appeared to Europeans a just and lenient judicial system. Prisoners could not be compelled to plead against themselves in court. If they refused to speak when charged, they couldn’t be tried.
That didn’t mean what it seemed. For back to prison the person went. Laid on the bare ground, his arms and legs were “stretched with cords” and fastened tight. Covered by a cloth over his privates, the prisoner then had “irons and stone” placed on his body. The next day a slight meal of barley bread, with no drink, was served. The next day, drink with no bread. And so on till he died. To hasten his demise, friends could lie on the stones to suffocate him.
One benefit accrued to any prisoner suffering this punishment. Since he hadn’t been found guilty, his children could still claim his estate and belongings.
Point of fact, however. Even this horrible torture to death was considered better than transportation to the colonies or to the West Indies. That was considered a fate “worse than death.” 1700, pp. 313-314