The magistrates of Victorian London had to content with a wide variety of humanity appearing before them on all manner of charges.
However, by far the largest number of court appearances in the Victorian police courts were for being drunk.
In previous blogs I have mention the likes of Tottie Fay and William “Spring” Onions in previous articles, both of whom were Victorian celebrities for their drunken courtroom antics.
DRUNKENESS A COMMON CHARGE
However, many people came before the magistrates whose stories were considered amusing enough to make a brief article in the newspapers of the day.
One such article appeared in The South Wales Echo on Monday the 23rd of December 1895:-
“THERE ARE MOMENTS” – AN AMUSING CASE”
At the Worship-street Police Court on Saturday, Charles McKay, a tall, gentlemanly man, sixty years of age, and residing at Highbury-grove, Islington, was charged with being drunk at Brick-lane. Spitalfields, at midnight on Friday.
The usual question put to persons who are similarly accused is, “Do you admit being drunk?” The prisoner, with much dignity, answered with the words, “Perfectly sober.”
THE CONSTABLE’S TESTIMONY
A constable in plain clothes entered the witness-box, and said that he found the prisoner drunk in the street.
Another constable in plain clothes also said that the prisoner was drunk when charged.
A COURT EXCHANGE
The Prisoner:- “May I be permitted to say a word?”
Mr Bushby:- “Yes, I am waiting for your defence.”
The Prisoner:- “Sir, there are moments which come upon an individual – moments of “excitation” – when a man who suffers from an overcharged brain and an excess of imagination finds himself, possibly without warning, almost, almost…
Mr Bushby:- “But about being drunk?”
The Prisoner:- “I am telling you. This morning I am as you are, as I hope all are here this morning, perfectly rational, reasonable and genial, and all (Here the prisoner broke into a laugh).
Mr Bushby:- “I am afraid I don’t understand the drift of this?”
The Prisoner:- “I shall be happy to say it all over again for you, if you wish.”
A TEMPORARY ABERRATION
Inspector Shepherd (on duty in the Court):- “This gentleman has been out on bail, sir, and I am afraid is not quite sober.”
The Prisoner:- “I am subject to a temporary aberration – as many who work hard with their brains are – an “excitation” which comes upon one suddenly. What these people (the police) may say I do not know (shuddering).”
NO WITNESSES SO A FINE
Mr Bushby:- “Have you any witness to show that you are subject to these “aberrations””
The Prisoner:- “No.”
Mr Bushby:- “Then I am afraid you must be fined half-a-crown.”
The prisoner bowed and left the dock.