Sunday, 11 November 2012

11th November 1812: Government legal advisers give their assessment of the cases for the York Assizes

My Lord

We have very attentively considered the evidence, upon which the several Prisoners have been committed to the Castle of York for Trial: and we have the honour to report your Lordship that there appears to us to be satisfactory evidence against the Men, charged with the Murder of Mr. Horsfall, and probability of conviction: and it is not probable that, by delaying the trial, any new light can be obtained upon this case.

There seems to be probable ground for expecting convictions in the cases of those concerned in robbing Moxon's house, Savage’s house, & of those also from administering unlawful Oaths to McDonald, although this latter case, it is to be observed, is attended with some very singular circumstances.

We are sorry to observe that in most of the other cases, the evidence is extremely slight. In all of them, there is strong ground of suspicion, upon which, in the perturbed state of the County, we do not wonder the Magistrates acted, but few of them furnish any proof, except the testimony of accomplices, unconfirmed by other witnesses.

There is no evidence whatever against the 14 persons charged with the attack made upon Mr Cartwright’s Mill; nor against the 10 persons charged with breaking the Shears of Mr Vickerman & of Mr Hirst, except that of Hall, the accomplice; and therefore it would be impossible even to expect the Grand Jury to find a Bill upon his unsupported testimony: and yet both these offences are of so serious a nature; & naturally excited such alarm in the County of York, that a conviction of the Perpetrators of them would produce the most salutary effect.

We therefore think it advisable to send from London a Gentleman of experience, & well acquainted with criminal business, who might direct enquiries of the Agents, who might be able to give accurate information to Government of the probability of procuring better evidence at a future time, & who might also cause the witnesses to be more accurately & minutely examined.

If no better evidence can be procured (and if it cannot be procured within a month, there is no great probability that it ever will) there seems to be a hardship in keeping these men confined till the General Gaol Delivery in March, if they must then be discharge for want of prosecution: & we are not aware of any other mode of liberating them before that time, but by a Special Commission. If, on the other hand, better evidence can be procured, it is most fitting that they, as well as the others, against whom the evidence is more complete, should be brought, from the peace & security of the County, to immediate trial & punishment.

Under all these circumstances, & taking also into our consideration, the present overloaded state of the Castle of York, it appears to us that a Special Commission should issue.

We have [etc]

Thos. Plumer.
W Garrow
J A Park
Lincolns Inn
11 Nov: 1812.

[To] Lord Viscount Sidmouth
&c &c &c

This letter can be found at HO 42/129.

No comments:

Post a Comment