On Friday I recounted the story of a man who was clearly very unhappy at being brought before a magistrate and locked up, particularly because he’d had nothing to eat or drink that morning. John Betts disturbed the court proceedings and smashed up his cell before he finally accepted his lot.
By contrast Eliza Hastings was unhappy because the magistrate refused to lock her up for longer.
The ‘wild looking and wretchedly clad’ woman was stood in the dock at Westminster to face Mr D’Eyncourt, a well established Police Court justice in the late 1800s. Eliza was charged with being drunk and disorderly and it wasn’t the first time she’d been up before the ‘beak’.
The court was told that she had ‘been repeatedly locked up’ and that ‘prison was the only home she has besides the streets’. She was homeless and presumably preferred not to enter the casual wards of London’s several workhouses.
No less than 30 conviction could be proven against the woman and the last of these had been on the 31 March, Mr D’Enycourt was told, when she was sent to prison for a month.
‘You keep on giving me a wretched month, that’s no good to me‘ Eliza grumbled from the dock, ‘give me a long time in prison‘ she pleaded.
However, Mr D’Eyncourt gave her another month and Eliza lost it. She raged at the magistrate and his court, ‘I won’t have a month, you must give me more’ before tearing off one of her boots and throwing it ‘with violence’ at the bench.
She was then led out of the court by the officers, screaming at the injustice of it all.
The magistrate might have wanted to give her longer but rules were rules and the guidelines he worked to suggested 30 days was the appropriate sentence for the offence she’d committed. She’d not used violence, or resisted arrest, or stolen anything. She was a drunk, a vagrant and quite possibly suffering from mental illness. I suspect that today she’d be a case for probation or social services and helped rather than locked up.
[from Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, Sunday, May 6, 1888]
For other cases heard by Mr D’Eyncourt see: