Thames Police: History - Kentish Independent Court Report
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Table of Contents > 1858 Court Report

This case was heard at the Old Bailey in London and adds interestings insights into the Thames Police the the punishment book which now resides at the Wapping museum.

Kentish Independent Court Report - Saturday May 15th 1858 (Before Mr Baron Martin and Mr Justice Crowder.)

William Sellers, aged 12 and John Henry Hambrook, who surrendered to take their trial, were charged with the man-slaughter of John Thomas Bolton, at Greenwich.

Mr Tindal Atkinson conducted the prosecution; Mr Horry defended Sellers; and Mr Sleigh appeared for the other prisoner (Mr Hambrook).

The circumstances of this case, which have already appeared in the KENTISH INDEPENDENT, were of a very painful and peculiar character. On the 17th of April the boy Sellers quarrelled with the deceased, who was a boy about his own age, upon some trifling matter and this led to a fight. They had several rounds, during which both the boys were knocked down. They were at length parted by a bigger lad; but very soon afterwards they renewed the fight, and, according to the evidence of three witnesses, the other prisoner, who had been for 25 years attached to the police, and who at the time in question fitted the position of inspector, and bore a high character for good conduct and integrity, who was standing by watching the fight, told the prisoner to hit the other boy right and left, and to hit him under the ear, and at the same time said that if he did so, he would not want to fight ant more. The boy Sellers, upon this struck the other boy under the ear, and he fell down and screamed, rolling himself up and became insensible. He was taken to a shop of a medical man close by, but died very soon afterwards. Mr Simpson, the medical gentleman who made the post mortem examination, stated that the base of the brain had been damaged; and in answer to questions put by the learned counsel for the prisoners, he said that the injury was not likely to have been occasioned by a blow behind the ear and that he observed no appearance of any such blow having been inflicted, and that the rupture might have been occasioned by a fall.

The witnesses who were examined on behalf of the prosecution made out the above facts; and although an endeavour was made by the counsel for the prisoner Hambrook, to show that the expression referred to was made by some other man, they persisted in stating that he was the person who incited the boy Sellers to strike the other boy under the ear. The constable who took Sellers into custody, however, stated that Hambrook was not the man who told him to hit Bolton under the ear, and that it was another man who told him to do so.

Mr Horry in his address to the jury on behalf of the boy Sellers, urged that it was clear he had no idea of destroying his companion, with whom he had previously been on the best of terms; and he said that he hoped the jury would consider the distress of mind that he had suffered on account of this unfortunate affair as a sufficient punishment, and that if they could see any ground for doing so, they would acquit him of the present charge.

Mr Sleigh, on behalf of the other prisoner, also urged that it was evident from all the facts that he had no idea of causing the death of the unhappy lad, and he remarked upon the probability that, in the confusion that existed while the fight was going on, the witnesses might have been mistaken in supposing that he was the man who had made use of the expression that had been referred to. He said that the prisoner had been a member of the police for 25 years, and at the time of this unfortunate occurrence he had been, or was about to be, pensioned for services.

A number of highly respectable witnesses were then examined, who gave the prisoner Hambrook a high character for general good conduct, and also for humanity and kindness.

Mr Baron Martin then briefly summed up the evidence, and having explained the law relating to the offence of manslaughter, said that if they should be of opinion that the death of the deceased was attributable to any act of the younger prisoner, and that he was incited to commit that act by the other prisoner, it would be their duty to find them both guilty.

The jury after a short deliberation, returned a verdict of Guilty against both prisoners, but at the same time strongly recommended them to mercy.

The learned judge, in passing sentence, said that he quite concurred in the verdicts, and he should have been very much dissatisfied if the jury had returned any other, as he thought that verdicts ought always to be given according to the truth and to the evidence laid before jury, and upon no other grounds. With regard to the boy Sellers, there was no doubt that he only engaged in the affray as any other boy would have done, and that he had no intention of taking away the life of the deceased and the jury no doubt upon that ground had strongly recommended him to mercy. He did not think there would be any good keeping him in prison, and he should therefore only sentence him to the nominal punishment of one day’s imprisonment, and he hoped that what had taken place would be a warning to him for the rest of his life. With regard to the other prisoner the case was very different. He did not of course believe that he had the slightest intention that the boy should kill his opponent; if he did he should pass a very different sentence to the one he was about to pronounce. He was, however a grown up man, in the position of an officer of police, and, instead of interfering to put a stop to the breach of the law that was taking place, he had incited the boy Sellers to continue the contest, and there was no doubt that, owing to the suggestion, the fatal result had taken place.

The prisoner Hambrook here asserted that he did not make use of the expression that had been spoken of by the witnesses.

Mr Baron Martin said that three witnesses had spoken positively to the fact, and he saw no reason to doubt the correctness of their testimony. The jury had strongly recommended him to mercy, and the impossible to pass over such an offence with out punishment. He then ordered the plaintiff to be kept to hard labour for three months.

The prisoner entreated his lordship not to sentence him to hard labour. He said he was suffering from a disease of the heart, and it was impossible for him to perform hard labour.

Mr Baron Martin said he could not alter the sentence.

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