Petty sessions, 1867

This criticism of the Winslow magistrates is very unusual for the mid-Victorian Bucks press and probably came from the Express's radical editor Thomas Baker.

Buckingham Express, 5 Jan

  SPECIAL PETTY SESSIONS.- At a special session, held at the Bell Inn, Winslow, P. Dauncey Esq., (in the chair), and E. W. S. Lowndes, Esq., being present, Richard Foster [probably Forster], William Gaskins, Edward Gray, and George Warner, four young men of Winslow, were charged with breaking a window, the property of D. T. Willis, Esq., on the 25th December, about 1 o’clock a.m., and other windows, to a considerable extent.  The prisoners pleaded not guilty.  Frederick [evidently John] Willmore and p.c. Ives proved the case.  After the bench had given the case a patient hearing, the prisoners were fined 50s. each, with 13s 9d. costs; immediate payment, or 2 months’ imprisonment with hard labour.  The amount in each instance was paid.

  BEWARE OF LATE HOURS!- The danger of this was most forcibly illustrated in Winslow in the case of four young men convicted on Saturday last and sentenced to fifty shillings fine and 13s. 9d. costs each.  What was their offence?  Ostensibly it was damaging windows, shutters, and doors in that parish on the 24th of December, 1866.  John Willmore, otherwise Gentleman John, was brought as the only witness for the prosecution (except the police) and after giving his evidence, which was, to say the least, contradictory, he could not and would not say that either of these four threw one stone at any window although he went with a party up street at the time the window was broken.  His evidence was full of contradictions and we cannot understand how on such an amount of evidence they could convict for this; we will say that we never saw a weaker case brought into a court of justice.  In Russia, a stranger is looked upon and considered a rogue until he proves himself an innocent man and on the same principle the Winslow bench seem to act.  If a man be brought on a charge, they seem to consider he must be guilty until he actually proves himself to be innocent.  They seem to act on the belief that to keep a man honest you must treat him as a rogue. Unfortunately this plan of treating men as rogues is awfully expensive and disadvantageous.  The sooner we turn to a more correct opinion of men the better.  However, the case tried on Saturday last brings out this theory that if the guilty cannot be found the innocent must suffer.  The real perpetrators of that most abominable outrage could not be found, so forsooth, these four men or youths properly called, must  “stand Tom” to the tune of £3 3s 9d each. Communicated.

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Copyright 15 June, 2020