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This trial is briefly mentioned in the book, Sir William Garrow: His Life, Times and Fight for Justice, but merits fuller treatment since it brings together in one case the issues of corroboration of accomplice evidence, pious perjury by juries and an example of a jury changing a verdict which had already been handed down.
The 1740s saw an effort made to exclude the evidence of an accomplice of the accused who was endeavouring to save his own life by testifying against his partner in crime. In the first five months of that decade there were four well-reported cases in which uncorroborated accomplice testimony appears to have been sufficient to convict. Then, in December 1744 there were three acquittals in which the only ground mentioned for the verdicts was lack of corroboration.
Garrow’s London was a vast cosmopolitan city with a small central area that was alive with criminal activity. Despite the wealth concentrated in the West End of London the artisans and the poor of the city generally lived in insalubrious and crime-ridden areas so graphically described later by Dickens. Most of them were law-abiding but there were criminal districts where schools of particular crimes were concentrated including shoplifting, coining and horse stealing. At the time many goods which are mass produced and cheap today were made by hand and were expensive to buy. These included handkerchiefs, clothing, pots and pans, goods made of wood or cast iron, rope and spoons and forks all of which were frequently stolen and easily sold.