In March 1860 Francis Barrett was arrested in the City of London by a policeman named Robert Meredith. PC Meredith brought Barrett, to the Mansion House police court to prosecute him for a felony . There he was committed for trial and ordered to be remanded in custody.
As Meredith led him down the steps to the court’s cells the young man turned around and aimed a punch at the officer. Meredith fell backwards and struck his head against the dock. He ‘was picked up in fainting state, and a surgeon was called for’. The prisoner was now charged with assault and later convicted at Old Bailey and sentenced to three months in gaol.
Meanwhile the policeman had failed to recover from his injuries and the matter was brought to the attention of the Lord Mayor at the police court in August. A City Police Inspector appeared to state that Meredith’s health was growing worse and he feared he would not survive. The best hope for him was to ‘go into the country and have some fresh air’, and he asked his lordship if the court could help provide funds for this.
PC Meredith had served the City for ten years and had a good record of duty. The Lord Mayor agreed to help and instructed the clerk of the court to give the policeman two sovereigns towards his costs. He added that if ‘unhappily’ Meredith were to die of his injuries (‘as was anticipated’) Barrett would be liable to a charge of manslaughter.
Today the Police Dependants’ Trust provide support for officers and the families of officers injured or killed whilst on duty in the UK, no such organization existed in the 1860s.
[from The Morning Chronicle, Thursday, August 23, 1860]