For those incensed over the waywardness of justice these days, where ‘human rights’ trump human wrongs, it’s worth thinking about the way things were. On one evening in April a visiting judge arrived with a fanfare and civic reception to work his way through the prisoners gathered before him at the Spring Assize. The town was Taunton, Somerset; the year was 1855. By Saturday morning (yes, judges worked Saturdays in those days) in quick succession he had sentenced two men and one woman for three murders they attempted. (separated only by hearings on a mad sailor who set fire to himself, a forger and an oak thief). His honour gave one laddish murderer just four days’ jail time, the next very troubled woman who tried and failed to drown her infant son in a cess pit, transportation for life and another jack the lad with a blade who stabbed his mate to death, 15 months.
Unfair? Read the cases and you decide whether justice was blind – or whether it was a case of, as my old mum used to say: “there’s none so blind as those who will not see.”