A reward for bravery under fire

There has recently been some concern that there are not enough policemen and women putting themselves forward for firearms training. The concern is supposedly about the repercussions of discharging a weapon and the investigation that follows, and this led senior police figures to warn that it puts the public and the ordinary unarmed officer at greater risk. It is worth remembering amidst all the fallout from Hillsborough that most police officers do their best to protect society and help the public;  ‘bad apples’ there are, but perhaps not as many as there were.


The police (and their predecessors – the night watch) have always had to put their lives on the line for others and in May 1874 this was recognized by an award at Bow Street police court.

PC Thomas Kerrison (28 VR) was presented with a cheque for £10 (around £450 today) as a reward for his brave conduct in the arrest of a burglar in Kingston. The court was told that Kerrison had pursued the criminal and had been shot and wounded by him. Despite being injured he caught the man who then beat him over the head with the butt of the revolver before he was subdued.

The award was a high one (higher indeed than was normal the justice declared) but well merited and the publicity the case had received had garnered a tremendous public response. A subscription had raised the funds and this had shown the public appreciated that the constable, still ‘very pale, and not fully recovered’,  fully deserved his reward.

The Victorians were very concerned about burglary, which had been a capital offence until the 1820s, and burglars (like Bill Sikes) became the nineteenth-century’s archetypal criminal, just as the highwayman had been the villain of choice for the eighteenth.

[from The Morning Post , Monday, May 18, 1874]

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