Thursday, 11 August 2016

11th August 1816: The solicitor, Jeffery Lockett, informs the Home Office of the outcome of Leicester Assizes

Leicester August 11th 1816

Sir

I have the honour to inform you, that, after a trial which began yesterday morning at seven 'clock, and lasted till half past nine at night, James Towle was convicted of shooting at John Asher, during outrage at Messrs Heathcoat & Bodens factory at Loughbro in June last, and Samuel Slater was acquitted. The counsel for the Crown did not think it adviseable to put Benjamin Badder on his defence.

An objection was made to the indictment and the learned Judge, tho’ he gave a strong opinion against it, said, that he would give it further consideration. In the opinion of the counsel for the Crown, it is of no weight, and it is anxiously hoped that it will neither prevent, nor delay the execution of the convict. I have stated the point, in a letter which I have addressed to Mr Hobhouse, who prepared the [indictment].

You have probably heard of an intended attack of Mr Justice Graham, Mr Clarke the barrister, and the Jury, at Nottingham, if the persons who were tried there for framebreaking, had been convicted.—The trial was protracted till two 'clock in the morning.—The court was filled with Luddites, and very inadequate preparation was made for the preservation of the peace.—The outrage was plotted whilst the Judge was summing up, and observing upon the evidence, and information from various sources, warrants the belief, that if a conviction had taken place, an attempt would have been made to assassinate his Lordship.—The horrid noise which was made in court, so intimidated the Jury, that they acquitted the prisoners against the summing up of the Judge, and the conviction of their own [understandings]. Here the best possible preparation was made by Mr Mansfield, the Mayor, for the protection of the court—The town has been literally filled with Nottingham people of the worst description, since Wednesday night, but not the least disturbance has happened—I [should] have been happy, if I could have added, that the attempts of the prisoners’ confederates to intimidate the Jury had been unsuccessful.—The prisoner Slater owes his acquittal to the intimidation of the Jury.

The prisoners gave in a list of fifty six witnesses to be examined in their defence.—They attempted to impeach the [credit] of the prosecutors witnesses by proving declarations made by them, in contradiction of their evidence given at the Bar;—and to shew, that they were at other places at the time of the outrage.—This part of their conspiracy is brought to a most alarming state of preparation;—for tho’ there was not one of the witnesses who were called, who was not prepared from the beginning to the end of his evidence, they resisted cross examination most successfully, and their evidence must have prevailed, but for the accounts given by the prisoners themselves in the course of their examination before the magistrates previous to their commitments.

The reward of 500gs offered in the Gazette will certainly be claimed.—The loss of Messrs Heathcoat and Boden from this outrage, cannot be less than £10,000;—further value of the demolished frames is at least £6000;—they have wages to pay to nearly one hundred men under contracts;—and they will lose six months profit from a valuable trade.—They will therefore consider their legal liability to pay their reward,—and the strict right of the claimants to demand it from them.—Considering that this is the first capital conviction of a Luddite,—that Towle has been a leader of the conspiracy from its first formation,—that much useful information has been acquired,—and that men have been found bold and honest enough to give information, & evidence which has led to the detection & conviction of the principal offender;—it may be hoped that Government will not suffer this disposition to be checked, but will pay the reward in consideration of Messrs Heathcoat & Boden. Upon this subject I must request the favor of an early communication from you;—and [illegible] also be pleased to inform me; whether any thing further is to be done towards the apprehension of the persons, concerned in the outrage. Many of them are known, but they have not been taken into custody, because we have had no evidence to convict them—but the conviction of Towle will probably lead to further discoveries.

I have to apologize for the hasty manner in which I have been obliged to address you on this occasion.

I am [etc]
Mr Jeffery Lockett

[To: J. Beckett Esqr]

This letter can be found at HO 42/152.

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