Police Magistrates had to deal with all sorts of things on a daily basis. As well as often being the first stage in most serious criminal prosecutions police court magistrates had the power to lock up drunks, vagrants, wife beaters and a host of other petty offenders who opted to have their cases dealt with summarily. In addition the magistrate was also assumed to know everything about the law, and so people came to him to ask advice on all manner of issues.
In early July 1898 a man turned up at the North London Police court to ask for Mr D’Eyncourt’s counsel. The man, whose name wasn’t reported by the The Standard newspaper, told the experienced magistrate that he’d only been married for fours months and he’d just discovered that his wife ‘was a wrong ‘un’.
‘In what way?” D’Eyncourt enquired.
‘When we was courting’, the man began, ‘we agreed that she was to get up and boil the kettle and I was to fry the bacon. But she won’t do either’, he complained.
This glimpse in to the mundane provoked laughter in the courtroom.
‘She lies in bed whilst I get my own breakfast, and when I ask her to get up she threatens to do all sorts of things’.
Asked to elaborate the poor young husband continued.
‘The other night she started breaking up the home, and threatened to knife me. She then went to bed with the landlady…last night she went to Sadler’s Wells with a woman, and came home at half-past twelve. I was in bed and asleep, and she and the woman came home and pushed their fists into my face, and swore they would chuck me out’.
Mr D’Eyncourt was sympathetic but also puzzled that the young man had married ‘a woman about who you know very little’. He advised him to move out, take rooms elsewhere and ask his wife to join him (without her friends of course). If she didn’t comply ‘within a reasonable time’, he should have no more to do with her.
The poor lad mumbled ‘she says she don’t want me’.
‘I can tell you know more’ said the justice, dismissing him.
[from The Standard, Monday, July 04, 1898]