Friday, May 24, 2013

Joseph Woodward sentence

Here is a newspaper article I have transcribed from the Leicester Journal, Friday 23 March 1832
detailing Joseph Woodward's appeal at Nottingham assizes.

The business of these Assizes commenced on Monday the 12th instant, in the Crown Court, before Mr. Baron Bayley.

Joseph Woodward, who was convicted at the late Special Assize, of wilfully setting fire to a  bean stack, the property of Mr Norman Cole of Normanton-on-the-Wolds, was then placed at the bar, to hear the decision of the Judges on the point reserved for their opinion, upon the objection taken to the indictment by Mr Hill, Counsel for the prisoner.

His Lordship said, it turned out upon the evidence, that there was no such place as the parish of Normanton-on-the-Wolds, as described in the indictment. Normanton was a hamlet belonging the parish of Plumtree, and the objection has been raised upon this point. The question therefore, was, whether conviction ought to be sustained? In considering that question, the Judges, (thirteen of them having met for the purpose) were unanimous in their opinion, that the conviction might be sustained under the third count of the indictment. This count charges with setting fire to a stack of beans, which were moveable. The indictment merely states, that the prisoner unlawfully, maliciously, and feloniously did set fire to a certain stack of beans and upon this the Judges were all of opinion, that the proof of the place where the offence was committed being in the county was sufficient. But if the prisoner's defence had been good, he would not have escaped, as he would have been indicted in novo. The Judges also took into consideration, whether they were bound to consider a stack of beans a stack of pulse. Under the 7th and 8th of Geo. IV. cap 30, sec 17, they were unanimously of the opinion, that beans came under the denomination of grain, or pulse. The words of the statute were grain, corn and pulse. It does not speak of wheat, barley, and oats, and yet the Judges were bound to consider these as corn, and that beans were also grain, or pulse. The Judges were all unanimously of the opinion, that the prisoner was liable to be found guilty, and that he was properly convicted upon the third count in the indictment.


Tuesday, March 13

Joseph Woodward was then placed at the bar, when Mr Baron Bayley, having placed the black cap on his head, addressed him to the following effect:- "Joseph Woodward, you have been convicted on evidence that was perfectly satisfactory to the Jury who tried you, and to the Learned Judge before whom you were tried, and having read over his notes of the evidence, I am fully satisfied of your guilt; it therefore becomes my painful duty to pass upon you that sentence which the law awards. The offence of which have been convicted is that of setting fire to a stack of beans, the property of Mr Cole, of Normanton, situated in a yard in which you were servant, being servant to mr Hickson. There had been a fire on the premises shortly before that of which you have been convicted, and in the interval between the two, you intimated that you should have no objection to see the residue also on fire. On the night on which you committed this offence, you acted with a considerable degree of artfulness; it was your duty to pass through the yard, in which the stack was situated, with a lighted candle in the lantern, you communicated a light to the rick, by which it was consumed. This is a great and serious offence; it is the duty of a servant to endeavor to protect the property of his master, and to interfere to prevent it from being destroyed, instead of being the cause of its destruction. This is a crime which it is very easy to commit, and exceedingly difficult of detection. What could be your motive for it? It is impossible for me to tell; you appear to have had no feeling of malevolence against the prosecutor; in your confession, you state that you did it from a spirit of wanton mischief. It could do you no good to deprive this property of its value. How can a farmer pay his labourers and maintain his family, if the produce of his industry is destroyed in this manner? You stand in the predicament of a servant who has betrayed his duty. This offence is not difficult of perpetration and it is much more easy for a servant to effect than any othrs; it is, therefore, the more necessary that the law should have its full course. In this case there could not be the ordinary precaution against the incendiary, for if there is a dog upon the premises, the dog knows the tread of the servant and gives no alarm; but if a stranger comes, then the dog gives the alarm. Servants feel no apprehension when they see one whom they know; but the appearance of a strangers would put them on their guard. The case of a servant, therefore, is abundantly worse than that of any other person. This is a crime very difficult of detection; many crimes are brought to light by the providence of God, though there have been no witnesses of their perpetration; the providence of God so worked in you, that you were unable to confine your secret in your breast, and could not refrain from disclosing the crime which you had committed. Let me not detract from the merit of that confession - it is of benefit to society; but I cannot help thinking that it was not contrition - it was not repentance, which operated upon you - but you felt an incapability of retaining your secret. This is one of the ways in which Providence acts to bring to light the hidden works of darkness. The Learned Judge by whom this case was tried, detailed the particulars to me, and left it in charge for me to pass upon you the sentence of the law. He did that which a Judge of his humanity might be expected to do - he authorised me to enquire into circumstances which might be in your favour. Let it not be though that a Judge can dispense arbitrarily with the penalty of the law; the awful responsibility attached to him as to whom he shall recommend as fit objects for his Majesty's mercy. If the like is again committed, at whose door does the guilt lie? At his door who improperly recommended the accused to mercy. I cannot in the circumstances of this case, see any thing which should induce me to recommend you to mercy at the foot of the throne. You are young, but I am sorry to observe with your youth a degree of craft in the commission of this crime, and it is an offence of which youth is equally as capable as a person of maturer age. A considerable interval has elapsed since the period of conviction; the Judges had to consider an important point of law in connection with your case; and now they have done so, no one of them entertains the least degree of doubt as to the propriety of your conviction. the delay has created in you an anxious hope and expectation that your life would be spared; if the Judge before whom you were tried had passed then the sentence of the law, it would in all probability have been carried into effect ere now, and you would no longer have been in the land of the living. The circumstance that weighs most powerfully on my mind in your case, is, that the example should speedily follow the conviction; the end of capital punishment is for the example it affords, and the prevention of future crime. In this place much good has been done by the recent example which was made, and I shall be satisfied if that example has been sufficient. I cannot properly hold out to you any expectation of mercy being extended to you; I therefore exhort you to make peace with Him who is full of compassion and mercy, and who, if he finds you truly repentant, will blot out your offences. It is my painful duty to inform you, that the sentence awarded to you is, that you, Joseph Woodward , be taken hence to the place of execution, and that you there be hanged by the neck until you are dead - and may God have mercy on your soul." During the passing of the sentence, the unhappy youth wept bitterly.

No comments:

Post a Comment