Friday, 11 January 2013

11th January 1813: The trial of Joseph Brook for burglary

Two cases were heard at the York Special Commission on Monday 11th January 1813. The first was that of Joseph Brook (aged 40), a Tailor from Rastrick, who was accused of committing a burglary on a farmer, Benjamin Strickland, on 5th October 1812. Brook pleaded Not Guilty.

James Alan Park outlined the case for the Crown. He contended that Brook had been present at a conversation with Strickland’s nephew a few days prior to the burglary when the subject of Strickland’s wealth came up.

Park went on to describe the raid, and informed the Jury that Strickland’s niece, Ann Armitage, had also been present and subsequently had identified Brook as being present.

Park also intended to call a waggoner, John Naylor, who had seen men running in the area the following day around the time of dawn and had then seen Brook also running to catch up with the men.

Baron Thomson summed up the case, and the first witness was called – Benjamin Strickland. Strickland related his view of the raid, which followed the familiar pattern of a demand for a gun followed by a robbery. Strickland did not positively identify Brook as being present.

Strickland’s niece, Ann Armitage, gave evidence next. Her identification of Brook that the Crown asked the Jury to believe was based upon a momentary spark from a sword as it was struck against the stone floor in front of her – this split second of light apparently afforded her the ability to positively identify Brook over a week later before the magistrate Joseph Radcliffe, along with the sound of his voice.

Next, the waggoner John Naylor related his encounter with the men near Kirkheaton at 4.00 a.m. on the 5th October. Naylor was reluctant, even at this late stage, to swear that the man he saw that morning was the man he later saw in front of Joseph Radcliffe, i.e. Joseph Brook.

Strickland’s nephew, William Armitage, was also called to give evidence about his meeting with Brook.

Brook contended that he was not at Strickland’s and had never met the witnesses before. He called three witnesses for his defence.

John Kaye, an engineer from Littletown, was courting Brook’s daughter at the time, and stated that he was at Brook’s house in the evening of the 4th October, and then stayed the night there, leaving at 6.00 a.m. having stayed up part of the night with Brook. A Neighbour, Jonathan Barber, corroborated Kaye’s evidence, as far as he had also visited Brook’s home that evening. He also gave a tribute to his character.

Brook’s daughter, Hannah, also gave evidence in support of her father and the evidence of Kaye and Barber.

The Judges summed up the case, and the Jury retired at 2.45 p.m. They returned 5 minutes later and found Joseph Brook Not Guilty. They afterwards stated that they did not believe his alibi.

This is from Howell (1823, pp.1124-1137).

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