One summer afternoon in 1855 there was tragedy when a seven year old boy was killed after falling out with one of his friends, leading to two nine year olds being convicted of manslaughter.
On Sunday 15th July 9 year old Alfred Fitz, 7 year old James Fleeson and 9 year old named John Breen were playing leapfrog in the dock road area when Fitz twice hit Fleeson with a brick after he had complained about an unfair jump. After he had fallen to the floor Fitz then dragged him to the Leeds & Liverpool canal and threw him in, assisted by Breen.
Fleeson's body was found by his own father floating in Stanley Dock the following Thursday morning and after police made enquiries with other children in the vicinity, Fitz was arrested at his home in Saltney Street that evening. Whilst the police inspector made the arrest his father turned violent and threatened to stab him. Breen was traced to the workhouse in Brownlow Hill, where his mother had been trying to secure a passage back to Ireland. At the inquest a boy named James Hawkins told how the incident had occurred and said that Fleeson was alive when he was thrown into the water then sank after a minute or two. The doctor gave the cause of death as drowning and suffocation, although did mention that there had been blows beforehand.
Both boys stood trial for murder in front of Judge Baron Platt on 24th August at the South Lancashire Assizes. Although Breen hadn't hit Fleeson with a brick, his act of helping throw him into the canal whilst he was still alive led to him being charged. They were convicted of manslaughter with a recommendation for mercy. The judge sentenced them to twelve months imprisonment, telling them that he understood they had not intended to kill and he hoped after a period of instruction they would be able to get on with their lives.