It is interesting to consider how William Garrow has returned to prominence – much of this to do with the success of the prime-time BBC 1 series of 2010 (and now Series Two). The mystery about why he was airbrushed from the general accounts of the development of English law is something of a whodunnit in itself. Maybe Garrow’s face didn’t fit, he was from the wrong side of the tracks socially speaking, or was it his later defection to the Establishment and relative failure as a politician compared to his early success as a radical lawyer? Maybe there is a lesson or moral here – stick to what you are good at.
This is a case where two women were charged with theft but had no counsel to cross-examine the prosecution witnesses. Garrow volunteered to do so without fee even though on the face of it the case against the prisoners seemed clear cut. He is seen vigorously questioning another thief-taker. The case also reveals Garrow challenging hearsay evidence. At the time hearsay evidence was often allowed by the judges and it was the insistence by Garrow and other barristers that it be excluded that led to the introduction of the rule of evidence that forbade it. Continue reading “Trial of Sarah Slade and Mary Wood for Theft”