"It should be noted that in practice, there were only about 17 offences for which a death sentence was generally carried out in the 18th and early 19th centuries. These included murder, attempted murder, arson, rape, sodomy, forgery, uttering (passing forged or counterfeit monies or bills) coining, robbery, highway robbery (in many cases, this was the offence of street robbery, that we would now call mugging), housebreaking, robbery in a dwelling house, returning from transportation, cutting and maiming (grievous bodily harm) and horse, cattle or sheep stealing. For all the other offences, transportation to America or Australia was normally substituted for execution. From the 1820’s, imprisonment began to replace transportation for the more minor offences.
By 1861, the number of capital crimes had been reduced to just 4 (high treason, murder, piracy and arson in Royal Dockyards) by the Criminal Law Consolidation Act of that year."
Dickens was against public hangings, although he was in favour of them being carried out privately for the crime of murder.
"Some concluding words for my readers: as noted above, Dickens had become more conservative on Capital Punishment, and changed his stand from demanding total abolition (1846) to advocating private executions (1849). He maintained that more achievable and more realistic position for the rest of his life, when he gave the matter any thought at all. In a private letter to his closest friend, he commented on yet another widely famed murderer—Thomas Smethurst, a surgeon and poisoner—and wrote (25 Aug 1859): “I would hang any Home Secretary (Whig, Tory, Radical, or otherwise) who should step in between that black scoundrel and the gallows” [Pilgrim 9:111]. To a Quaker schoolmaster, he wrote (21 Jan 1864): “Distinguish, if you please, in quoting me, between Public Executions and Capital Punishment. I should be glad to abolish both, if I knew what to do with the Savages of civilization. As I do not, I would rid Society of them, when they shed blood, in a very solemn manner but would bar out the present audience.”"