Sunday, 18 March 2012

18th March 1812: The trials of Benjamin Hancock, Gervas Marshall & George Green at Nottingham Lent Assizes

The Nottingham Review of 20th March 1812 recorded how on Wednesday 18th March 1812, some of the remaining prisoners accused of frame-breaking took their trials at the Nottingham Lent Assizes:
Benjamin Hancock, aged 21, charged with frame breaking at Sutton-in-Ashfield, on the 13th of November, 1811, was next brought to the bar.

Sarah Betts was the first witness called. She deposed that on the day above stated, she saw about a thousand persons, 11 on abreast, some armed with guns, assembled in Sutton; that she bolted her door for safety; but that the hammer-men advanced and broke the pannels in pieces.

George Jefferies, a boy of about 12 or 13 years of age was next examined. He stated, that he was at Mr. Betts’s when the frames were broken, but did not see the prisoner there; saw him at Kirkby, when he had a gun in his hand, but did not hear him say any thing to the mob; though he we went to a house and demanded a gun, which he gave to Wm. Fell.

Robert Hodges, also very young, was next brought forward as a witness; said he saw a large mob at Sutton, on the day alluded to in the indictment; but when he was asked if he saw the prisoner there, he began to weep most bitterly. After his passion had a little subsided, he said, he saw the prisoner there with a light coloured hat on and a gun in his hand.

_____ Hayes, another boy remembered Betts’s frames being broken, and saw the prisoner in the mob with a gun in his hand; saw him at Kirkby with two guns; saw the mob throw frames out of Betts’s window was, in Sutton; saw Robert the Scotchman there, but did not see the prisoner do any thing, nor was he well acquainted with him.

William Richards was working for Mr. Betts on the 13th of November; saw the prisoner in the front of the mob with a gun in his hand. In a conversation, which he said, took place between him and the prisoner, he stated, that the latter said, that the mob consisted of two thousand men; that they had one man shot at Bulwell, and another wounded in the hand. A man came and told the prisoner that they had broken all the frames before them, at which he swore bitterly, charged peace among the mob, and swore he had a mind to shoot any of his men who had broken a narrow frame. He then called for a pilot to lead them from Mr. Betts's new building to his old one.

Francis Betts being sworn, said, he should remember the 13th of November to the latest hour of his life, for that he had property destroyed that day worth £400.

A number of respectable persons spoke to the character of Hancock; but the Judge in his address to the Jury, assured them, as he had done on the preceding cases under the charge of frame-breaking, that character ought not, in the smallest degree, to sway them in their consideration. “For,” said he, “this crime has not that degree of moral turpitude attached to it as other crimes have, which, in the eye of the law, call for a similar punishment. With the worst of crimes, which merit a like punishment, it is equally dangerous to the well-being of society, yet it bears no proportion to them, in moral guilt.”—“Frame breaking,” continued his Lordship, “is not a breach the Ten Commandments, though it breaks down the barriers of peace and felicity, and as such, must be punished with the utmost rigour of the law.”

The Jury found Hancock Guilty, and his Lordship sentenced him to Fourteen Years Transportation.

Gervas Marshall, aged 17, and George Green, the two next prisoners that were tried, received excellent characters; but as they were both found Guilty of being concerned in the Sutton-in-Ashfield business, it is unnecessary to detail their trials, as the riots in that town have been already sufficiently dwelt upon.—They were each sentenced to Seven Years Transportation.

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