In early Victorian times the punishments were often severe and one can imagine what would happen if a gang of people assaulted a rich local magistrate and his friends on a public footpath. The police would be quickly involved and the miscreants would find themselves in the dock at the next magistrates court - and they could well find themselves in prison for a long stay.
However on the 23rd July 1846 a group of local people were walking along a public footpath between Walkern and Ardeley minding their own business when they were set on by Sir Robert Murray, J.P., and two of Sir Robert's staff.
Were the police involved - of course not.They were unlikely to arrest a powerful local magistrate and parade him before the criminal court. However the events were not forgotten by the victims and led to a number of cases appearing in the civil courts.
|Start of exceptionally detailed report published in the Herts Mercury on 17th July, 1847|
When the case appeared in court it was not held before a normal jury but instead a Special Jury of rich Hertfordshire gentlemen was called. After all you couldn't have a baronet and magistrate appearing before a common jury as it was important that such an important person should be judged by his "equals." In the above case the jury heard the evidence - and as the evidence for the assault was very clear they really had no option but to find for the victim. To prove that they were acting "fairly" to both sides they then awarded damages of one farthing (then the smallest coin and equal to 1/960th of £1) against Sir Robert Murray.
Originally I had planned a detail write-up of this case and I discovered my outline notes while preparing my web site for eventual archiving. While I do not have time to write a detail report I have added outline details from my draft on the web page for Sir Robert's House -