Saturday, 12 January 2013

12th January 1813: The prosecution moves to rapidly conclude the York Special Commission

By 12.30 p.m. on Tuesday 12th January 1812, the prosecution had finally sated it's appetite for Luddite convictions. The 5 trials that remained were rapidly dispensed with.

David Moorhouse (a 26 year-old stonemason) and John Smith (33, a Butcher) were charged with a burglary at the house of William Savage of Kirkburton on 11th June 1812.

James Alan Park for the prosecution addressed the Court saying it was not necessary to read the indictment as the Crown did not intend to give any evidence. He explained this was because that although there was a strong suspicion that the two men were guilty, that conviction was only probable.

Sir Simon Le Blanc directed the Jury to find the men Not Guilty, which they duly did.

Next, James Starkey (a 22 year-old carpet-weaver) was charged with a misdemeanour for inciting 2 men (both undercover agents) to blow up Rawfolds Mill on 5th September 1812. His case was traversed to the next Assizes, and he was discharged on bail in the meantime.

James Alan Park then addressed the Judges about the remaining cases:
My lords; There are still remaining in your calendar 17 prisoners, who stand capitally indicted for different offences. Upon looking through a list of their cases with all the accuracy in my power, assisted by my learned friends, I discover that three of the ringleaders in all those offences have already suffered the penalty of the law; and two others of those who were involved in some of these indictments, have also been capitally convicted; I will not state their names, because I wish to create no prejudice. I further observe, that two others of those persons were acquitted upon a former trial on Saturday night, but I do not think that the circumstance ought to influence my judgment upon the present occasion, so as to render it my duty to put them upon their trial again. But, inasmuch as I consider that those whose cases remain, including the two were acquitted on Saturday, have been, to a considerable degree, the dupes of designing persons, and have been led on by the five persons to whom I have alluded, I am in hopes that I shall not be doing wrong in permitting them to be discharged on giving bail to appear at any time when called upon by the Crown. And I do assure your Lordships, that if they will conduct themselves as honest and industrious subjects, they never shall be called upon. I trust that we shall very materially benefit this country by the course we have taken, and that this lenity and forbearance on the part of the Crown (for so the prisoners must consider it) will have a powerful effect on the minds.
Baron Thomson agreed to the suggestion, providing certain formalities were dealt with. The last 3 cases were rapidly read out, in order to acquit the defendants, as Park had requested.

The third case concerned the breaking of John Hirst's shearing frames at Linley on 23rd February 1812, and also those of James Balderstone at Linthwaite on the same night. Samuel Booth (33 years-old), George Brook (of Dalton, aged 45) George Lodge (48), and Joshua Schofield (22), all croppers, were indicted for the attack on Hirst, along with George Mellor, Thomas Smith, William Thorpe, and Jonathan Dean, and John Walker, who had already been convicted. All of these 9, except Samuel Booth, were also indicted for the attack on Balderstone.

The fourth cases concerned the burglary of the house of William Newton at Foolstone on 18th May 1812, stealing three guns and a bayonet. James Varley (aged 35), Joseph Thornton (19), George Brook (of Lockwood, 18), George Beaumont (42), Abraham Armitage (30), Samuel Haigh (34), Benjamin Hinchliffe (24), John Taylor (26), and Robert Fitton (44) were indicted. Varley & Thornton were croppers, Fitton was a weaver, and the rest were labourers. The already executed George Mellor was also indicted.

The fifth and final case concerned a burglary at the house of Joshua Brook at Wooldale on 1st May 1812, where a gun and pistol were stolen. Charles Thornton (aged 19, a cropper) as well as the aforementioned James Varley and George Brook (of Lockwood), and James Brook & John Brook - who were acquitted at the Rawfolds trial - were indicted.

All 17 remaining prisoners were brought to the bar, and were entered into recognizances, along with 2 sureties each, to appear again if the Special Commission was recalled, and in the meantime keep the peace and be of good behaviour.

All that was left was for Baron Thomson to sentence the already convicted prisoners.

This is from Howell (1823, pp.1159-1161)

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