As mentioned in quite a few previous blogs, drunkenness was a huge problem in Victorian London and in the East End in particular, and one of the most common offences for which people appeared in court was that of being drunk and disorderly
However, it wasn’t just the population at large that could succumb to the temptations of the “demon drink”.
Indeed, as the following article from The Edinburgh Evening News, on Wednesday 23rd December 1874, shows, those whose job it was to enforce the law could, from time to time, find themselves on the wrong side of it:-
A DRUNKEN POLICEMAN
A police-constable named Cox was charged at Worship Street Police Court, on Monday, with violation of duty by getting drunk on his beat.
The circumstances of the case are ratter peculiar.
Cox was placed on duty in Albion Square, Dalston, at ten o’clock on the night of the 17th inst. He was then sober.
THE SERGEANT PAYS A VISIT
At ten minutes to eleven he was visited by a police sergeant going about his rounds and at that time he was still sober.
At half-past one the sergeant paid him another visit on his beat, and the change that had come over Cox in this short period was perfectly appalling. Instead of exhibiting any signs of temperance, he was lying fast asleep on the steps of the Albion Hall.
The sergeant – being either unable or unwilling to awaken Cox from his state of happy forgetfulness, sent for a stretcher, and on this couch the “slumbering guardian” of the night was carefully and tenderly conveyed by his comrades to the station.
HE MIGHT BE ILL
On the journey thither a happy thought struck the sergeant. Cox might possibly be ill; no one had yet “smelt spirits” and there still remained a faint hope that apoplexy, not intoxication, was the cause of Cox’s unconsciousness.
A halt was accordingly made at the house of the divisional surgeon, who, having made a careful examination of poor Cox, pronounced him decidedly drunk.
The sad cavalcade therefore renewed its march, and, lifting the stretcher again with its precious burden, bore Cox away to captivity.
THIS WAS THE SECOND TIME
In answer to the charge, Cox pleaded guilty. The night, he said, was cold. and he “took a little,” and it overcame him.
He had, it seems, been in a like manner overcome a little on the previous night, and he had just been fined ten shillings for this act of weakness.
The magistrate sent him to prison for seven days with hard labour, at the same time pointing out that the spectacle of a drunken constable being carried on a stretcher through the streets was one that was likely to bring discredit the force.