Monday, 7 January 2013

7th January 1813: Henry Hobhouse updates the Home Office on the Special Commission & the plans for the execution of Mellor, Thorpe & Smith


Jan. 7. [1813]

Dear Sir,

The Judges having conferred with Mr. Park respecting the Place of Execution of the Murderers who were convicted yesterday, have determined that under all the Circumstances it appears to them better that they should be executed here than at Huddersfield, offering at the same time to respite them until Tuesday to afford an opportunity for Lord Sidmouth exercising his Judgement on the subject of Mr. Park & myself wished such Respite to take Place. The main consideration which led to this Determination has been that they could not be executed at Huddersfield without a Respite, and that any Respite might be misconstrued into a Doubt of the Propriety of the Conviction, which Doubt not existing in the least degree, it would be highly inexpedient to raise such an Idea. The same Reason operated with greater Force in leading Mr. Park & me to decline their Lordships Offer; & I the rather concurred in this opinion, because as the Publicity of the Execution among the Prisoner’s Confederates was the Object to be obtained by their Removal, I conceived that the great Influx of those Persons into York within these four Days would probably afford an ample Supply of Spectators to convey the Intelligence to Huddersfield. It therefore stands fixed that the Execution Convicts shall be executed tomorrow morning.

Another day has been spent in a single Trial, namely that of John Schofield for shooting at John Hinchliffe, in which a great deal of time has been wasted by a legal Objection taken to the Indictment & overruled, & by an Alibi supported by several Witnesses. Mr. Baron Thomson is now summing up.

We have preferred all the Indictments which we intend to present, & the Grand Jury will probably be discharged this Evening.

The Jury have acquitted Schofield, & although I have not myself the least Doubt of his Guilt, I can not complain of the Verdict, for the Prosecutor's denial in the first Instance of his Knowledge of the Prisoner, to whose Voice & Person he afterwards swore, might well cause such a reasonable Doubt in the Jury has would justify the Acquittal. They were out above half an Hour.

The Grand Jury have finished their Business, but they are not discharged by the Court, but permitted to go home, the Judges thinking that they Discharge might have an ill Effect. When they informed the Court that they had gone through all the Bills before them, Mr. Park took an Opportunity of saying openly in Court that after convicting the greatest offenders he saw the Counsel for the Crown could not use a more sound Discretion than by forbearing to press hard on those who were probably misled, & who it might be hoped would return to a better course of Life, if not through Gratitude for the Mercy extended to them, at least through fear of the Punishment which still would hang over their Heads for the Crimes already committed; & he therefore should prefer no more Bills. The Effect of this step is to release about 6 Prisoners without Prosecution, against whom the Evidence was next to nothing. And it is further in Contemplation in those Cases, where Bills have been found on the unconfirmed Testimony of Accomplices, & there is therefore little Prospect of Conviction, to extend the same Principle by offering the Prisoners the Boon of being discharged out of Custody upon giving Bail for appearing & answering when required. This Offer, if adroitly made (as I have no doubt it will be by Mr. Park), will probably be accepted; and I hope Lord Sidmouth will think that the Tendency of this Measure, combined with the Convictions already obtained of those further ones which I hope to report on Saturday, will be likely to produce as salutary an Effect as could possibly be expected from this Commission.

I am Dr Sr Yrs faithfully
H. Hobhouse

[To] J Beckett Esq

This letter can be found at HO 42/132.

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