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Vocapedia > UK > Police, Justice, Law > Trial > Jury > Acquittal > Not guilty




jury > not guilty












be cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter





be cleared of murder








be cleared of N
















be acquitted













open verdict










Jury returns

in torture murder trial


2 December 2003

Press Association


A jury in the trial of three teenagers accused of murdering a schoolboy who was savagely beaten before he was strangled and his body chopped into pieces is to continue considering its verdicts.

Adam Morrell, 14, was left with more than 280 injuries to his body as a gang of friends tortured him for up to three hours until he was almost unrecognisable.

His body was then hacked up with a saw in the bathroom of the house where he was staying in Loughborough, Leicestershire, and dumped in and around a canal in an effort to hide the evidence.

    Headline and first §§, PA, 2.12.2003.






Magna Carta

Sells for $21.3M in New York


December 19, 2007
Filed at 6:57 a.m. ET
The New York Times


NEW YORK (AP) -- A 710-year-old copy of the declaration of human rights known as the Magna Carta -- the version that became part of English law -- was auctioned for $21.3 million, a Sotheby's spokeswoman said.

The document, which had been expected to draw bids of $30 million or higher, was bought Tuesday by David Rubenstein of The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, the spokeswoman said.

Sotheby's vice chairman David Redden called the old but durable parchment ''the most important document in the world, the birth certificate of freedom.''

The document was owned by the Perot Foundation, created by Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot, since the early 1980s. It had been on exhibit at the auction house for the past 11 days.

Bearing the seal of King Edward I and dated 1297, it is one of 17 known copies of the historic tract that defined human rights as the foundation for liberty and democracy as it is known today. It is one of two that exist outside Britain; the other is in Australia.

The Perot Foundation bought its copy from a British family for $1.5 million. From 1988 until earlier this year it was on loan to the National Archives in Washington, sharing space with the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, two documents that drew on its principles.

''Over those years,'' Redden said, ''it may have been seen by 40 to 50 million people, certainly the most viewed version of the Magna Carta anywhere.''

The Magna Carta came into existence when a group of English barons demanded that King John affix his seal to a list of protections at Runnymede in 1215. Those edicts were not fulfilled, but subsequent versions of the document followed for the next 80 years, until 1297, when it was codified into law.

Tuesday's sale price included the auction house's commission.

    Magna Carta Sells for $21.3M in New York, NYT, 19.12.2007,






'Madame Cyn' strains court-room calm


12 February 1987


From The Guardian archive


The severe calm of an English court was sorely tried by the "Madame Cyn" case. But the law proved as unshakable in its stays as the nobly constrained form of Mrs Cynthia Payne herself.

The Inner London Crown Court, where Mrs Payne was cleared yesterday of controlling prostitutes, took it all: accounts of Mrs Payne's style of home entertaining in Ambleside Avenue, Streatham, and the tumultu ous scenes when a police raid brought the party to an end – a great final fling of bedroom doors, revealing prodigies of corsetry and of sexual energy among the elderly infirm.

Judge Brian Pryor, who conducted the trial, sat in his wig and calf-length gown as a constable described his party-time encounter with a gent in curly grey wig and evening frock who introduced himself as Amanda. During a lesbian floor show, of course. Cynthia Payne has always thrown that sort of party.

Day one (January 22) opened with colourful events at No 32 and the denouement as the police crashed in. One man was in Mrs Payne's bathroom sitting on the rim of the bath, with a woman at his knee. When the police burst in she sprang to her feet. The gent toppled backwards into the tub, legs in the air and trousers around his ankles. Mrs Payne could hardly be blamed for his predicament. A sign on the door asked visitors not to fornicate in the bathroom "by order".

Day four: Inspector Colin White described an exchange with Mrs Payne – who said that she used to be a prostitute "until I got someone else to do the work... I prefer to enjoy the parties these days. Anyway, the hostess can't keep disappearing all night."

Day five: Items taken from the house were displayed in court, including a large, green luncheon vouchers sign, contraceptive pills, and a wooden bead necklace. Judge Pryor: "It is notorious that judges have always led sheltered lives but I cannot, for the moment, see the significance of the bead necklace."

February 3: Mrs Payne, with some dignity, explained from the witness box that she never indulged in sex at her parties. "I know it does make people happy, but to me it is just like having a cup of tea," she said.

February 9: Mr Spens, defending, sympathised with the jury who must be feeling "punch drunk" after hearing from a policeman who infiltrated three parties. His version of events amounted to "a sort of sexual marathon not even a Mars bar a day could possibly sustain". Judge Pryor, summing up, warned that the case was a criminal trial, not a form of entertainment.

    'Madame Cyn' strains court-room calm, G, 12 February 1987,
    republished 12.2.2009, p. 34,






On This Day - May 28, 1980


From The Times Archive


The inquest into the death of Blair Peach was one of the longest in legal history, with 84 witnesses going before the court. During the hearing it emerged that there had been an internal investigation into the death by the Complaints Investigation Bureau. The jury heard how items such as crowbars, sledgehammers and coshes were found in the lockers of members of the Special Patrol Group


BLAIR PEACH, aged 33, the teacher from New Zealand, who was fatally injured during the demonstration against the National Front at Southall, London, in April last year, died by misadventure, the jury at the inquest at Hammersmith into his death decided unanimously yesterday.

The jury, of five men and four women, which retired for four hours and 40 minutes to consider its verdict, added riders calling for more control of the special patrol group by its officers and for more liaison between the group and ordinary police. It also recommended that “no unauthorised weapons or implements should be available in police stations and that regular inspections should be carried out”.

The verdict was welcomed by the Police Federation as a proper one. It said the jury had taken “a very sensible view of the case”. The verdict was bitterly attacked, however, by Mrs Celia Stubbs, the woman with whom Mr Peach lived, and by the Anti-Nazi League, which organised the demonstration.

Sir David McNee, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said the police had already taken action on a number of points raised in the riders, after the inquiry into the functions of the SPG by Mr Patrick Kavanagh, the deputy commissioner. “The remainder will receive careful consideration”, he added.

Sir David said he wished to point out that all the facts known to the police were put before the inquest. His statement added: “The Commissioner hopes that the community and the police in Southall will now work together to re-establish a peaceful, harmonious, and law-abiding society.”

Mr Paul Holborrow, of the Anti-Nazi League, said that the verdict established beyond reasonable doubt that a policeman killed Blair Peach, but with the riders it indicated “that the SPG is an uncontrolled private army and that the police at the moment have a licence to kill”.

From The Times Archive > On This Day -
May 28, 1980, The Times, 28.5.2005,






August 12, 1889


The idleness of long legal holidays


From the Guardian archive


Monday August 12, 1889


Tomorrow the lawyers enter upon the Long Vacation. From August 13 to October 24 - that is, ten weeks and two days - is in these busy and bustling days a goodly holiday.

Since idleness brings its own punishment in most cases, no one probably would be very much concerned with the liberal views which the legal profession take of the "refreshers" which in one form or another their colossal labours deserve.

But, unfortunately the lawyers make holiday in more ways than one at the expense of the public. The "close time" which is so jealously preserved does not by any means relieve litigants from the enormous expense that still attends any form of legal proceedings.

Apart altogether from the mere delay and suspense which are occasioned by the recurrence of this annual period of stagnation - and these are in themselves a serious hardship - the fact that an action must be hung up for such a long time involves a by no means inconsiderable addition to the bill of costs.

"Applications" and "steps" innumerable turn out to be necessary in consequence of the Long Vacation, and these do nothing to expedite a settlement of the matter in dispute.

It seems as if, notwithstanding the boasted reform of our legal system, the lawyers had purposely arranged not only for a holiday of enormous length, but that they should draw their expenses from the pockets of their luckless clients.

It is, then, not to be wondered at that every year the cry for a drastic change should make itself heard.

Of course it is only natural that the lawyers have hitherto succeeded in maintaining the Long Vacation in spite of the long outcry for its abolition. In 1875 it was cut down by a few weeks, and it has since been again curtailed [from] the old three months and more.

But the question which is once more being asked is whether there is any real necessity for any wholesale legal holiday at all. Why should all the judges go away at the same time?

If they were granted a month or two's leave of absence in rotation, they could recruit themselves as other people have to do, and without seriously interfering with the progress of legal business.

To the rank and file of the bar the Long Vacation is a melancholy interval of enforced idleness which exists for the protection of the more fortunate members of the profession.

    From the Guardian archive > August 12, 1889 >
    The idleness of long legal holidays, G, Republished 12.8.2006,






February 1, 1873


Law reform and how to get it


From the Guardian archive


On this day in 1873 campaigners
were demanding an overhaul of the law.

Saturday February 1, 1873
A Barrister


An Oxford Fellow used to say that a college would be a paradise if only it contained no undergraduates. The Inns of Court some years ago nearly fulfilled his ideal. The Temple and Lincoln's Inn are law colleges where the Fellows, termed "benchers" for centuries, eat good dinners and possess emoluments, whilst they did nothing for the undergraduates, but compelled them to eat a number of very bad dinners and pay a number of heavy fees. The Inns of Court were, in short, and for most practical purposes still are, places of education which educate nobody.

Of course such a splendid abuse as this could not flourish on absolutely untouched. At last the benchers, terrified by the thought that Lord Selborne was coming into power, have made up their minds to do something which shall at any rate look vigorous.

They have made it necessary for every man in future called to go through some sort of examination. The most conservative members of the most conservative profession have admitted the necessity for a revolution.

The true objects of reform are twofold. By far the most important is to get systematic legal instruction. The law has been a science which could be picked up by practice but which could not be learnt, for the very simple reason that there was nobody to teach it. Now of this "practical instruction in chambers" I would always speak in the very highest terms. It is absolutely essential as one element, and a main element, in legal training; but it cannot be, from its very nature, a substitute for the methodical instruction which would be given by any teacher or professor of law, who really understood his business.

The experience in chambers has been more than half wasted since it is impossible to understand what a practitioner does unless some one will explain to you why he does it; to study in chambers whilst receiving no teaching is like walking the hospital without getting any instruction in medicine. If ever there is to be a legal university, out of the Inns of Court and their funds this must be formed. We have overhauled the church, the universities, there is no reason why we should show any special deference to the Inns. We need an Inns of Court reform bill, like the Oxford or Cambridge University reform bill. We need a commission empowered not to report, but to act.

· This is from one of a series

of long Condition of England articles the Guardian

carried in the 1870s, often in the guise of letters to the editor

    Law reform and how to get it, original article Saturday February 1, 1873,
    G, 1.2.2006,






January 25, 1864


Draper's bell tolls for a bed tick thief


From the Guardian archive


January 25 1864
The Manchester Guardian


Novel thief catching. John Paul was charged at the Salford Town Hall yesterday with having stolen a bed tick [mattress case] from the shop door of Mr. Henry Boardman, draper, Chapel-street. The prosecutor displays some of his goods on strings, and fastens a bell to them to give an alarm in case they are disturbed. On the 18th, he heard the bell ring, and on going to the door he discovered the prisoner running away with a bed tick. He followed him, and took him into custody. It was stated that the bell had been the means of apprehending several other thieves. The prisoner was summarily committed for three months.

Theft of tea. Yesterday, at the City Police Court, Joseph Eastwood, and Sarah Ann Redfern were charged with attempting to steal a chest of tea worth £4.10s. from the shop of Mr. John Brady, Julia-street, Strangeways. Mrs. Brady said that on Monday evening Redfern came into the shop and asked for a halfpenny-worth of toffy [sic], and while attending to her she saw Eastwood removing a chest of tea from behind the door. Seeing he was observed, Eastwood ran away, leaving the chest in the shop. She then charged the girl with being an accomplice, and gave her into custody. At the station Redfern said that Eastwood and a man named Turner took the chest. A boy named Robert Baird, who informed Mrs. Brady of the attempted robbery, said he saw Eastwood and another standing at the door. The prisoners were remanded to Friday.

Five years for stealing cheese. A boy, 15-years-old, named Martin Judson, was charged at the City Police Court, yesterday, with stealing several pounds of cheese from the shop of Mr. John Markendale, Berkeley-street, Strangeways. The prosecutor's wife heard a noise in the shop on Monday night, and on going to see what was the cause, she saw the prisoner running from the house, and at the same time she missed the stolen cheese; which the prisoner threw at a girl who spoke to him as he was passing. He was shortly afterwards apprehended. The boy's father, who stated that he was a working optician, said his son had of late been led into bad company.

He begged the magistrates to dismiss the case, and promised he would answer for his good behaviour in future. Mr. Boss (the presiding magistrate) said the prisoner had already been convicted of attempting to pick pockets and the offence could not be overlooked. He ordered that he be sent to prison for a month and afterwards to a reformatory for five years.

    Draper's bell tolls for a bed tick thief, G, January 25 1864,
    Republished Wednesday January 25, 2006,






May 18, 1857


Why is only the murderer's life

held sacred?


From the Guardian archive


On this day in 1857 the Manchester Guardian
discussed a parliamentary debate
on capital punishment.

Monday May 18, 1857

We hear a good deal said of the improved feeling of the present generation in regard to the sacredness of human life. We are accustomed to commend ourselves as being " far better than our fathers" who hanged men for stealing half a guinea, and sent boys and girls to the gallows by scores for taking part in anti-catholic riots.

Those who consider themselves to hold the foremost place among the philanthropists and reformers of the day are agitating, declaiming, and writing vehemently in favour of the total and immediate abolition of capital punishment, as unworthy of a civilised age and a Christian country. But when we come to look below the surface of things,- to turn from our statute book to the police reports of the newspapers, and from the smooth humanity-mongers of philanthropic meetings to our streets and our towns, we shall be inclined to think this boasted advancement,this self-laudatory humanity, virtues extremely perverted in their application.

We shall find that, while Mr. Ewart [the reforming liberal MP William Ewart] is labouring to prove to the House of Commons that it is an abomination and a crime to hang a scoundrel for murdering his friend, a servant for poisoning her master and mistress, an infanticide for strangling her helpless child, that some three or four innocent persons have been butchered by the wretches whom Mr. Ewart is so anxious to protect, and whom his conduct serves to encourage.

In one column of a provincial journal may be read a long report of the discourse of the county member.The next [column]contains an account of atrocious murder committed the same evening, within a few hundred yards of the platform on which the orator held forth. The lives of assassins only are to be held sacred,while those of old men and helpless women and children are to be ruthlessly sacrificed to the false morality, the weak,if not wicked sentimentality which shrinks from the idea of hanging those who have not shrunk from murdering their fellow-creatures.

The extreme reluctance displayed by juries to find a verdict of guilty on a capital charge; the equally foolish and far more criminal lenity of the Home Office, which appears as if actuated by a desire to effect, by gradual steps, the complete disuse of capital punishment, - so far from being proofs of an enlightened humanity and an intense respect for the sanctity of life, are really indications of gross and obstinate short-sightedness. We are inclined to believe that excessive tenderness for murderers has had the effect of rendering criminals far more reckless of shedding blood than would otherwise be the case.

    From the Guardian archive > May 18, 1857 >
    Why is only the murderer's life held sacred?, G,
    Republished 18.5.2006,






July 13, 1850


A lad's life of prison and whippings


From the Guardian archive


Saturday July 13, 1850


On Wednesday, a little lad named John Johnson, stated to be 13 years of age, though he did not appear to be more than ten, was brought before Mr. Hodgson, at the Borough Court, charged with stealing two pies from the window of a small pie shop in Jersey-street, Ancoats, kept by a man named Edward Hayes.

On the previous afternoon, he was seen by a neighbour looking in at the window, and immediately afterwards he passed her house door with two pies. It was subsequently ascertained that the window had been opened, and two pies stolen out.

The prisoner, in answer to the charge, protested several times that he found the pies on the ground, and did not take them out of the window.

Inspector Livingston, in reply to a question put by Mr. Hodgson, said the prisoner had been in prison several times. He then read the following list of his convictions: - One month, three months and whipped, one month and whipped, three months and whipped, two months and whipped, six months.

When asked how long he had been out of prison, the prisoner replied since last week but one. He again said he did not take the pies out of the window, and urged that no one saw him.

Mr. Hodgson said that if any one had seen him, he (Mr. Hodgson) would have committed him to the sessions, and the probability was that he would then have been got rid of [deported]; as it was, he should summarily commit him for three months.

Plucking Flowers: - On Saturday afternoon, a man named James McCorquodale was caught plucking flowers in Queen's Park. The park keeper asked him if he could read, as there are boards in the park, warning visitors not to touch flowers and shrubs, and he replied that he could.

On Monday the prisoner was brought up at the Borough Court, before Mr. John Sharp, the sitting magistrate. Councillor Ashmore, one of the members of the park committee, said that the committee were desirous that an example should be made of the prisoner.

Persons who had been found plucking flowers had been brought before the park committee and reprimanded, but that appeared to have no effect.

They had provided a board on which to publish the names of persons offending, and how they were delt [sic] with, a plan similar to that adopted in Kensington Gardens, London.

The prisoner admitted plucking the flowers, but expressed his sorrow. He was ordered to pay the value of the flowers, and 4s. 6d. costs, or be committed to hard labour for 14 days.

    From the Guardian archive > July 13, 1850 >
    A lad's life of prison and whippings, G,
    Republished 13.7.2006,






April 12, 1843


Life and death inside:

a prison chaplain reports


From the Guardian archive


Wednesday April 12, 1843
Richard Appleton

In consequence of the unusual influx of prisoners, occasioned by the late unfortunate riots in the manufacturing districts, I have been obliged to read prayers twice every morning in the chapel. With respect to the conduct of the prisoners in the chapel, I may certainly once more speak in terms of the highest praise.

It is melancholy to reflect on the alarming increase in the number of delinquents throughout the country, and their apparent indifference to the system of good discipline, as exhibited by their repeated returns to prison. I confess that it does appear to me that much improvement might be adopted with regard to the punishment of young offenders, and that it is well worthy of consideration whether it would not be better, in many instances, to flog them soundly and discharge them at once, or to give them a few days' solitary confinement, than, as at present, to keep them for months in one another's infectious society, and giving them as much food as the strongest adult in the building.

Total number in school from October 20th, 1841, to October 20th, 1842, 301. Could not tell their letters when admitted, 57; could spell only, 78; could read imperfectly, 75; could read, 28; could read and write, 63; 301. For trial at assizes, 20; for trial at the sessions, 56; various convictions, 224; for bail, I; total, 301. Age of the youngest boy, 9; the eldest, 22; the average age, 14. Of 1,538 prisoners, there were 200 under 15 years of age.

The last year has been painfully marked by the first execution that has taken place during my chaplaincy - that of Francis Bradley, for the deliberate murder of his wife in Manchester by repeated doses of arsenic. He persisted in denying his guilt to the last day, when he acknowledged the justice of his sentence. Persons executed at Lancaster Castle, commencing in 1804: 171.

I look forward to the time when the exertions now directed at the scriptural education of this too long neglected class have effected moral reformation; and then may we reasonably hope that we shall cease to deplore, year after year, the steady increase of crime in our calendars and hail with delight the gradual disappearance of those demoralising habits which are at present so great a national curse, and to which is most certainly attributable no inconsiderable part of that distress which has prevailed throughout the country.

The gaol has been remarkably healthy during the whole year, and only eight deaths have occurred during that period.

    From the Guardian archive >
    Life and death inside: a prison chaplain reports, G, Wednesday April 12, 1843,
    Republished 12.4.2006,






January 16, 1824


The execution of an officer and gentleman


From the Guardian archive


From the archive:
On this day in 1824 the Guardian
reported on the execution of 30-year-old John Thurtell.
Friday January 16, 1824
The Guardian


John Thurtell stepped up with a peculiarly solemn but resolutely firm and manly step. He advanced, with a most deliberate pace, and gave his hand to the undersheriff, who was at the extreme end of the drop.

The executioner, now placing him on the spot assigned for him, proceeded to take off his hat and white neckcloth. At this moment he looked at the crowd, and made a slight inclination to a bow - a motion that had not been uncommon with him in court. Instantly every head was uncovered, and many among the crowd muttered: "What a gentleman!" His appearance at this moment was affecting beyond the power of description.

The executioner next produced a very thin nightcap, with which he covered his head; but it evidently did not obstruct his view. The undersheriff, the gaoler and the turnkey shook him by the hand. There seemed to be great affection in his manner of parting with them. Indeed, the feeling seemed to be reciprocal. In the course of his defence on Wednesday, Mr Wilson shed tears, and the turnkey, "albeit unused to the melting mood", sobbed and blubbered like a child.

After the executioner had fastened the rope round his neck, and while he was fastening it to the beam, Thurtell turned towards him more than once. He was understood to say: "There's hardly any fall." The executioner appeared to explain to him that it was quite sufficient. He then resumed his position, and stood unmoved as a rock till the tedious process of adjusting the rope was finished. The scene was such as deeply affected every heart, and evidently unmanned many. The executioner now left the drop, and went to his post below.

Mr Wilson, who was the only one now left with him, took him by the hand, and Thurtell was heard distinctly, and in the most cordial manner, to say: "God Almighty, bless you!"

At five minutes past twelve the drop fell, and the person of John Thurtell dropped beneath the platform: a suppressed groan was heard from the multitude. The executioner having immediately caught him by the legs, there appeared no other movement. It was quite manifest that Thurtell's spirit continued unshaken, till it left its earthly mansion for ever.

Thus terminated the life of John Thurtell, at the early age of thirty; a man with great talents and who had enjoyed the education of a gentleman.

In one of the first cases intensively covered by newspapers, Thurtell, a former naval officer, was jointly convicted of murdering a gambling associate. He attracted wide public sympathy.

    From The Guardian archive > Friday January 16, 1824 >
    The execution of an officer and gentleman, G, 16.1.2006,






May 7 1822


Master's right to correct his servant


From The Guardian archive


May 7 1822
The Guardian


Mr. John Thackeray, a respectable cotton spinner in this town, was indicted for having on the 29th March severely flogged with a large birch rod a boy between 12 and 13 years of age, named Michael Donovan, who was in his employ.

Mr. Ashworth contended to the jury that Mr Thackeray had been guilty of a flagrant breach of the law. He admitted the right of a master reasonably to correct his servant, but maintained that the chastisement inflicted on the boy was by no means of that moderate nature which the law authorises.

From the testimony for the prosecution, it appeared Mr. Thackeray took the boy into his counting house and gave him twenty or thirty stripes with a birch-rod; that the boy had been severely beaten, that his flesh was marked with black and red stripes to a width of about four inches, and that next morning he was so unwell that it was with difficulty he was induced to get out of bed, and go to his work.

On cross-examination, the prosecutor admitted various acts of misbehaviour towards some of the girls employed in Mr. Thackeray's factory, and it also came out, that the beating he had received was not so severe as to break his skin in the slightest degree.

Mr. Coltman, for the defendants, insisted that the conduct of Mr. Thackeray was clearly according to law, and cited various authorities to prove that a master was justified in administering reasonable and proper correction to a servant under age. There was no more proper instrument than a rod with which to inflict it. It was said, indeed, "he who spares the rod spoils the child".

Witnesses for the defence proved that the boy had knocked them down, struck them with a large whip [and] behaved with indecency. One girl had been so hurt in the leg that she had to be carried to bed for three weeks.

The Chairman, in summing up, held that the evidence had fully justified the conduct of Mr. Thackeray. Verdict of Not Guilty.

(Owing to a pressure of important parliamentary debates and of advertisements we are compelled to omit several interesting trials. )

The following prisoners, have received sentence, in addition to those mentioned in our last:

Transported Fourteen Years. John Saul, 33, for receiving two pieces of velvet, knowing them to be stolen. James Smith, 17, for stealing the same, imprisoned two years. Transported Seven Years. Daniel Herbert, 20, for stealing blankets, etc.

From The Guardian archive > May 7 1822 >
Master's right to correct his servant,
G, republished 7.5.2007, p. 26,










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justice, law, prison > UK



justice, prison, law, death penalty,

U.S. Constitution, U.S. Supreme Court > USA



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miscarriage of justice > UK / USA






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