A Battle of Forensic Giants
William Garrow and Thomas Erskine were good friends. They were also two of the greatest barristers this country has ever seen. Garrow as champion of the poor and disadvantaged in the Old Bailey and Erskine as a freedom fighter in the shockingly biased State Trials that stained English criminal law at the end of the eighteenth century. But the two of them overlapped.
Sometimes they appeared on opposite sides in a trial and sometimes they worked together. One of the trials where they were opponents was that known as “Mrs Day’s Baby”. It is reported in the book “Sir William Garrow: His Life Times, and Fight for Justice” on pages 66 and 67. However, there is an aspect of it not mentioned in the book. The case was heard at the Huntingdon Assizes before Mr Justice Heath in 1797. It caused an enormous amount of gossip and large crowds attended the hearing. The issue before the court was whether the defendant, who was heir to a large estate, had in reality been a child purchased from a poor woman in a workhouse.
Continue reading “Garrow v. Erskine”
Sir William Garrow was born in Middlesex in 1760 and was called to the Bar in 1783. He was the dominant figure at the Old Bailey from 1783 to 1793, later becoming an MP, Solicitor-General, Attorney-General and finally a Judge. His claim to fame, however, rests on that 10-year practice at the Old Bailey.
Continue reading “Who was William Garrow?”
The Garrow Society was formed to advance discussion about 18th and 19th century English lawyer William Garrow. Society members include researchers, authors, legal experts, direct descendants of Garrow, lawyers, and those with a general interest.
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A biographical sketch on Garrow at the time of Garrow’s retirement states:
“Of his skill in the art of cross-examination, many remarkable instances might be mentioned; but the attempt would be vain, by description, to convey any idea of the extent of his powers when called forth by such occasions as demanded their full exercise…”
Continue reading “Discussion of trials Garrow was involved in”
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