Monday, April 15, 2013

RSPCA at the Old Bailey

This post is part of the celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the online database of Old Bailey proceedings 1674-1913 online.

As happens today, most of the inspectors' cases would have been dealt with summarily in the local Magistrates Court, so would not come to the attention of the Crown Courts. This means that the Old Bailey reports would only involve RSPCA (or SPCA) inspectors when animal cruelty had escalated into crimes which were viewed more seriously (such as fraud, assaults on the inspectors themselves, or injuries to valuable animals which would be prosecuted as criminal damage). 

One of the interesting things brought out by the trial reports is the systematic way in which the inspectors give their evidence, explaining who they are, why they were present and what they saw happen. This was presumably due to the training they were given,

Being an RSPCA Inspector could be a dangerous business in the nineteenth century:

JAMES PIPER . I am a constable. I was at the Swan public-house at Hanworth on Easter Monday—I was sent there by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to prevent a cock-fight—when I got there I was assaulted—Dean and King participated in the assault, and Conquest also joined in it.
JOHN LORD. I was at the Swan on Easter Monday—Piper and I were assaulted, and severely hurt—I can point out Dean and Coxen as two of the parties, but cannot identify any of the others.
JOSEPH WILLY. I was down at Hanworth on Easter Monday. There was a riot there, and an assault in the garden—I can swear Allen followed us from the garden outside—he was among the rest who assaulted us—I saw him assault Lord—Allen took his brother away from the fight, after Lord was beaten.
(The prisoners received good characters.)
Of an assault.
Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.0, 15 April 2013), May 1838, trial of JOSEPH DEAN RICHARD COXEN JOHN KING RICHARD CONQUEST JOHN ALLEN (t18380514-1209).

2728. ROBERT HEDGES was indicted for unlawfully, maliciously, and feloniously assaulting James Piper, on the 16th of April, 1838, and cutting and wounding him on his head, with intent to maim and disable him.—2nd COUNT, to do him some grievous bodily harm.
MR. PHILLIPS conducted the Prosecution.
JACOB ROBERTS . I am a constable of Hanworth. I went by direction on the 16th of April, 1838, to prevent a cock-fight—there was a great crowd—Piper, a constable, accompanied me—he is dead since, I understand—I saw the prisoner when we entered a little garden adjoining the cock-pit—he was coming from the house close by, with a stick in his hand, about three feet long—he came up behind Piper in a deliberate manner, and struck him on the back of the head with the stick, and knocked him down with a blow sufficient to knock a bullock down—he made his escape, and was not taken till lately—there were about two hundred people at the cockfight—I and the officers were assaulted by different people—there was myself, the head borough of the parish, and three of the constables of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
HENRY THOMAS . I am secretary to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals—I knew Piper—his christian name was James.
GUILTY of an Assault only. Aged 36.— Confined Three Months.
Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.0, 15 April 2013), October 1839, trial of ROBERT HEDGES (t18391021-2728).

An inspector helps in the apprehension of an armed killer
682. WALTER ALFRED HARGAN (27) was indicted for, and charged on the Coroner's inquisition with, the wilful murder of William Lambert.
LEVER Defended.
GEORGE SUTTON (Policeman J 29) produced and proved plans of the locality in question.

WILLIAM KNIFTON . I am an officer of the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals—I live at 61, Hertford Road—on 30th July I saw the prisoner in the Downham Road, running towards Islington—a crowd was running after him calling, "Stop thief!" and that he had shot somebody down the road—I followed, and got close to him—he pulled a revolver out from his inside breast pocket, and pointed it at me, and said, "I will"—the crowd began to throw stones at him—I walked with him about fifty yards, when we stopped running—I advised him to get into a cab with me or else they would kill him—he said, "All right, I will get one"—at the same time Newman sprang on to his arms—I then caught hold of Newman, and we all three fell to the ground—the three of us got hold of the revolver; Newman got it from him—the crowd began kicking him, and some jumped on him, put a rope round his neck, and all manner—we put him in a cart which was going towards the station, where we stopped.
Cross-examined. He pointed the revolver at me as he went along, not at anyone else—I first saw him about 350 yards from the corner of the Downham Road—I was going to No. 56—I saw the prisoner going towards the Southgate Road, 200 yards from where he was stopped—he turned to the right by the baker's—I was with him five minutes—I went with him to the corner of the Southgate Road, 285 yards further than No. 56, where he was stopped, and very nearly 600 yards from the Hertford Road—No. 56 is near the Culvert Road—he was coming the nearest way from the Wagon and Horses to the Southgate Road.
THOMAS GENTLEMAN . I am a labourer, living in Hertford Road, Kingsland—I searched the prisoner's pockets—I found six loaded cartridges—I handed them to the police.
JOHN COCHRANE (Policeman). At 4.30 on 30th July, in consequence of information, I went to the Hertford Road and the corner of Downham Road by the baker's shop—I saw two men lying upon the pavement dead about twelve yards from the shop—I afterwards formally charged the prisoner at the station with the wilful murder of two men by shooting them with a revolver—I cautioned him in the usual manner that anything he said might be given in evidence against him—he said, "I decline to say anything about it."

JOHN HERD GORDON . I live at 364, Kingsland Road—I am a registered medical practitioner—on the afternoon of 30th July I was fetched by a policeman to Hertford Road—I saw two bodies lying on the pavement—I examined them afterwards at the mortuary—Lambert had a bullet wound on the right side of the head—a bullet had entered to the left of Wheeler's right ear—that was the cause of death in each case—I afterwards made a post-mortem examination.
Cross-examined. Both were physically strong men—there was evidence of alcohol in both cases.
The prisoner received a good character.
GUILTY of Manslaughter. There was another indictment for the wilful murder of John Wheeler, to which he PLEADED GUILTY in the hearing of the JURY, to manslaughter, and they found that verdict. MR. AVORY, for the prosecution, offered no evidence as to murder. Twenty Years' Penal Servitude in each case, the sentences to be concurrent.
 Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.0, 15 April 2013), September 1890, trial of WALTER ALFRED HARGAN (27) (t18900908-682).

Cruelty to a pony resulting in her death
838. THOMAS ALFRED HEMMINGS (17) , Feloniously killing a mare, the goods of Susan Holland.
MR. NOLAN Prosecuted.
SUSAN HOLLAND . I am a widow, and keep a lodging house at 70, Vincent Street, Westminster—before April 15th the prisoner was in my employment—I have a stable at the rear of my house—I had a chestnut mare—I had had her for about fifteen years—she was pensioned off and did no work—the prisoner was with me for about three months—I gave him notice to leave on Tuesday, April 14th, because there were complaints about him from the servants, and he would not do his work—I do not know if I said anything to him about his temper, but he had a very bad one—on
WILLIAM GREEN . I am an inspector in the employment of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals—on April 19th I went to Mrs. Holland's stables—I saw this mare—she was lying down and was in great agony—I examined her and found that she was badly wounded in the region of the anus—while examining her she fell down—in my opinion the injuries may have been caused by a sharp instrument like this fork; there were several hairs on it corresponding to the hairs of the mare, and it was spotted with blood all down—the stable was quite clean; no manure had been passed—next day I saw the prisoner in Rochester Row—I said, "I am an officer in the employment of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and am making inquiries in regard to injuries received by Mrs. Holland's pony"—he said, "She did not see me do it"—I said, "Mrs. Holland says she heard the pony kicking and she came round and saw you leaving the stable with the fork in your hand"'—he said, "That is a lie"—I said, "She said she saw blood under the pony's legs and pointed it out to you"—he said, "That is another of her lies"—I said, "The veterinary surgeon said he asked you if you did it"—he said, "That is another lie"—he said that the injury might have been caused by the crupper.
The prisoner, in his defence, said that when Mrs. Holland asked him about the blood on the straw he said he did not know anything about it; that he was cleaning the stable out; that the door came to: that the pony turned round and then kicked and hit some harness that was there, but that he had not injured it. GUILTY Twenty months' hard labour.
 Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.0, 15 April 2013), October 1903, trial of THOMAS ALFRED HEMMINGS (17) (t19031019-838).

Although the prosecution seem to have chosen the crime of "felonious killing" as one likely to involve heavier penalties than cruelty, this pony doesn't seem to have had a significant money value and was being kept more or less as a pet.

Animals' Friend Society

Finally there's an interesting sighting of Louis Gompertz, co-founder of the RSPCA, during the period after he had left the Society to found the vegan Animals' Friend Society.

Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.0, 15 April 2013), September 1849, trial of JOHN PARRY HENNING HENRY ROBERTS THOMAS CROTON (t18490917-1803).

In this trial Gompertz and Henry Thomas, Secretary of the RSPCA give evidence against a defendant who was fraudulently raising funds in the name of the Animals' Friend Society using a soon to be all too familiar sales pitch:
THOMAS STEVENSON. I am a surgeon, in Upper Gloucester-street. Henning called on me about March—some one had called before, and left this book of the Animals' Friend Society (produced)—Henning gave me a second one, as well as a book of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to compare the merits of the two, and to show how little the Royal Society had done with such large means, and how much he had done with such small means...