Although the metropolitan Police Courts mostly dealt with petty crime and disorderly behaviour this was also the place where a lot of more serious crime first came before the criminal justice system. Magistrates acted as a filter to the justice system, holding pre-trial hearings and determining whether there was a case for sending defendants for trial before a jury.
Early one morning on 8 October 1870 Inspector George Silverton (of N Division, Metropolitan Police) was out on patrol with two of his officers in the Kingsland Road, Dalston. They may well have been acting on information because they were after two well-known thieves, George Wool and John Thompson.
At about 5am Silverton spotted the two men and attempted to follow them. He lost them close to a stable yard attached to a pub, the De Beauvoir Arms*. The inspector now decided that the suspected thieves could only be in one of a handful of buildings nearby so he had his men surround them and waited.
Soon enough they saw a door in one of the properties, a shop belonging to Simon Drickkes, open slightly before it shut again immediately. Silverton alerted his men and when the door opened again they rushed it, gaining access and overpowering the occupants.
Inside they found Wool and Thompson with several sacks of goods they had stolen and were preparing to carry away. The men were arrested and taken back to Kingsland Road Police Station. In the morning they were taken before the magistrate at Clerkenwell. There they were charged with ‘burglariously breaking and entering’ Mr Drickkes property and attempting to take away the following haul:
‘eight timepieces, two watches, three meerschaum pipes, 700 cigars, twelve meerschaum cigar-holders, and a quantity of other valuable property’.
Inspector Silverton also explained that the police had found a skeleton key in the building that had fitted the shop’s lock, suggesting that the burglars had carefully planned their operation. The two accused men declined to comment, preferring to reserve their defence for a judge and jury at the Middlesex Sessions.
[from The Illustrated Police News etc, Saturday, October 22, 1870]
*a pub with that name still exists on Southgate Road, only a short walk from where Inspector Silverton says he lost sight of the pair.