A case of mistaken identity leads to a heavy fine


Smithfield in 1852 (from Thomas Miller, Picturesque Sketches of London Past and Present, 1852

A drover (a man who brought cattle and sheep into market such as Smithfield) was summoned before the magistrate at Lambeth Police Court by a gentleman named Robert Percival.

Mr. Percival told the court that one evening in early December the drover (William Martin) whom he had never met before, came up to him in the street and started to berate and abuse him. Using the ‘most scurrilous language, [he] charged him with robbing him of a horse, and out his fist in his face several times’.

Percival explained that at the time he had been carrying an injury and had his arm in a sling as he had been thrown from his ‘gig’ [a small cart drawn by a single horse] some days before. If had not been so disabled he would ‘punished the defendant as he deserved for his scandalous and unmanly attack’.

Martin admitted his error, and said he had mistaken Percival for someone else entirely and begged his pardon. Whether his apology was accepted or not is not state din the report but the magistrate fined the drover 30s and expenses or threatened him with 30 days in gaol.

[from The Morning Post, Saturday, December 07, 1850]

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