Wednesday, 22 June 2016

22nd June 1816: Prisoners receive their sentences at the final day of the Ely Special Commission

The Bury & Norwich Post's concluded their coverage of the Ely Special Commission (from the 26th June edition of the newspaper):

SATURDAY, June 22.

This morning, at nine o'clock, the Court re-assembled, when judgments of death was passed on the 24 prisoners capitally convicted.—Mr. Justice Abbott addressed them to the following effect:—"Prisoners at the bar, You stand here, 24 persons in number, a melancholy example to all who are here present, and to all your country, of the sad effects of indulging in those brutal and violent passions by which you all appear to have been actuated in the commission of the crimes of which you have been convicted. You seem to have thought, that by your own strength and your own threats, you should not only be able to oppress and intimidate your peaceable neighbours, but even to resist the strong arm of the law itself.—How vain that thought, your present situation shows. It was suggested abroad, that you had been induced to perpetrate these violent outrages by hard necessity and want; but after attending closely and strictly to the whole tenor of the evidence, which has occupied the attention of the Court for several days, there has not appeared in the condition, circumstances, or behaviour of any one of you, any reason to suppose that you were instigated by distress. By what motive, or under what mistaken advice or disposition, you began to act in the way that you did, is best and perhaps only known to God and your own consciences. The preservation not only of the good order and peace of society, the preservation of life itself, imperiously calls upon the Court to declare, that many of you must expect to undergo the full sentence of law. It is some consolation to the Court to be able to say, that in attending to and distinguishing the cases of each particular individual, we are found in many of them circumstances which will warrants us in giving to many of you a hope that your lives will be saved. The gentlemen of the jury have pointed out some of you to our attention, and in doing so they have acted with that merciful disposition and accurate discrimination which they have shown throughout the whole of your trials.—Such of you whose lives may, perhaps, be saved by the Crown (that power alone on earth who can save them) must not expect that you shall be dismissed from your offences without undergoing some severe punishment. Many of you must expect to be sent away for a greater or less portion of time, and a few even for the whole period of their lives, from that country whose peace they have thus disturbed, and which they have thus disgraced. Human justice, however it may be administered, as it always is in this country with mercy, requires that some of you should undergo the full sentence, in order that others may be deterred from following the example of your crimes. You William Beamiss, the elder, you George Crow, you John Dennis, you Isaac Harley, you Thomas South, the younger; that me exhort you to prepare for that sentence: let me entreat you to apply yourselves, during the short remainder of the time which can be allowed to you in this world, by prayer and penitence, to appease that Almighty power whom you have offended: address yourselves seriously and fervently to that Throne of Grace from which hereafter you may expect to find that mercy which cannot be extended to you here.—You William Beamiss, the elder, are a person whose condition in life ought to have taught you to restrain any unruly and turbulent disposition in your less enlightened neighbours, instead of becoming one of the most forward in the perpetration of those offences which placed your town for several days in a state of trepidation and alarm. You boasted, however, of your situation, and took with you your own son to be the partner of your crimes. Considering his youth, and the influence which your evil example may be supposed to have had upon him, he is placed among those who are recommended to the mercy of the Throne.—You George Crow were one of the number who, at a late hour of the night, broke into the dwelling-house of two peaceable individuals against whom you had no cause of offence. One of them, whose age and infirmities were entitled to protection and respect, was subjected to your violence and plunder: the other had the good fortune to escape fully by flying from you. Your offence, therefore, is not merely that of which you had been convicted; you came there, not with that intention alone, but to destroy the life of one person.—You John Dennis are also a person whose condition life might have taught you to restrain the wicked passions of others. You endeavoured, on your first appearance in this place, to represent to the Court, that you had been compelled by force to leave the place of your dwelling, and give your assistance in plundering the inhabitants of this city. The jury to whom this misrepresentation was referred, did even, on that occasion, repudiate the evidence: two other trials followed, and you were found standing forward as the leader of that lawless band which entered this city for the purpose of plunder and violence, and armed with a more dangerous weapon than the rest of your associates.—You Isaac Harley were the first person who assaulted the Reverend Minister of your parish at his own door: you stood first of that wicked assembly and demanded money of him; and having refused that moderate sum he offered, you enforced from him the delivery of his money by your own bodily strength, forced your way into his dwelling, and compelled him and his family to fly at that late hour for their lives.—You Thos. South, the younger, appear to have been one of the most active in those wicked transactions which took place in your town: you took from one of your neighbours the savings, perhaps, of many years; and then proceeded to another, and forced him to part with such sums as you and your lawless companions demanded. With a deadly weapon in your hand, you afterwards went to the house of an aged woman, and shook it over her head. In addition to these outrages, there are no less than four other cases in which the grand jury of your country have found bills of indictment against you.—You, then, the five whom I have addressed, let me again exhort you to apply yourselves by penitence and prayer, to obtain from Heaven the pardon of your crimes.—It now remains for me to pronounce on each and every one of you the awful sentence of death: and that sentence is, that you and each of you be taken from hence that the place from whence you came, and from thence to some place of execution, where you are to be hanged by the neck until you are dead. And as to you William Beamiss the elder, George Crow, John Dennis, Isaac Harley, and Thomas South the younger, apply to the God of mercy that he would have mercy on you."

During the whole of this awful sentence, the prisoners were deeply affected, and were taken from the bar in an agony of grief.

Joseph Lavender, who had been convicted of stealing some silver spoons, the property of the Rev. John Vachell, was then brought up, and prayed the benefit of Clergy, according to the statue.

Mr. Justice Abbott addressed the prisoner. He told him that he had been found guilty of stealing a part, altho’ a very small part, of the property of the Rev. John Vachell, which was carried away by a most violent and outrageous assembly. It had not appeared, however, that he was one of those who first broke into the house. Had that fact, or any thing leading to that conclusion, been proved against him, the Court would have been called upon to pronounce a sentence as severe as the case required. Considering, therefore, all that had been brought against him, and drawing a favourable conclusion, they sentenced him to be imprisoned in the gaol of Ely for 12 calendar months.

The prisoners who were allowed on Friday to enter into recognizances for their good behaviour, were then brought up and discharged.

The remainder of the prisoners being put to the bar, Mr. Gurney stated, that he was instructed on the part of the Crown not to prefer any prosecution against them. They were, therefore, immediately discharged by Proclamation. The Court then rose, and the Special Commission concluded.

Of the 24 prisoners capitally convicted, 5 were left for execution, viz.—Thomas South, jun. for stealing in the dwelling-houses of J. Dewey and R. Speechly; John Dennis, for stealing from the persons of Wm. Cooper, R. Edwards, and G. Stephens; Isaac Harley, jun. for stealing from the person of the Rev. John Vachell; Wm. Beamiss, sen. for stealing from the persons of H. Tansley and R. Cheeswright; and George Crow, for stealing in the dwelling-house of Rebecca Waddelow and Henry Martin.—They are to suffer at Littleport on Friday next, the 28th inst.

19 Reprieved; sentences mitigated as follow:

5 to be transported for life, viz.—Joseph Easy, for stealing in the dwelling-house of J. Dewey; A. Chevell, for the same offence, and also stealing from the person of Henry Tansley; Richard Jessop, for stealing in the dwelling-house of J. Dewey, and also from the person of W. Cooper; John Jefferson, for stealing from the persons of Wm. Cooper and Robt. Edwards; and James Newell, for stealing from the person of the Rev. John Vachell.

1 to be transported for 14 years, viz.—Richard Rutter, for stealing from the person of R. Edwards.

3 to be transported for 7 years, viz.—Mark Benton, for stealing in the dwelling-house of J. Dewey; John Easy and John Walker, for stealing from the dwelling-house of Rebecca Waddelow and H. Martin.

10 to be imprisoned 12 months in Ely Gaol, viz.—Wm. Dann and Robert Crabb, for stealing in the dwelling-house of R. Speechly; Aaron Layton, W. Atkins, Sarah Hobbs, John Pricke, John Cooper, Wm. Beamiss, jun. and Jas. Cammell, for stealing from the persons of H. R. Evans, Esq. W.Cooper, G. Stevens, and R. Cheesewright; and R. Butcher, for stealing from the dwelling-house of Rebecca Waddelow and Henry Martin.

The under- mentioned abstract is taken from the Calendar signed by the Judges, and left in the hands of the Chief Bailiff of the Isle of Ely:

24 Condemned, 5 of whom left for Execution, and the sentences of 19 mitigated, as above stated.
1 Convicted of Larceny. 
5 Acquitted.
10 Discharged by Proclamation.
36 On Bail for good behaviour.

Total 76.

It is a remarkable circumstance, that every bill sent to the Grand Jury was returned true.

Fifty of the principal inhabitants of Ely regularly attended the Judges as an escort during their stay there, and accompanied them a short distance out of town on Saturday afternoon.

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