The differing standards of the time were demonstrated in 1857 when a man who stabbed his wife's lover to death with a pair of scissors walked free from the dock after receiving a token sentence from the judge.
James Davies, a tailor, lived in Bostock Street with his wife and the couple would occasionally give lodgings to seafarer Robert Renses, a widower who had been married to Davies's sister. However, he soon suspected that Renses and his wife were having an affair and this was admitted by the adulterous couple on the afternoon of 25th May.
At about 7pm that evening Davies went into a pub whilst quite intoxicated and told a man in there that if he returned home he would show him some fun. The man, a baker called Robert Hodgson who knew Davies by sight agreed and when they got to the house, Mrs Davies was in the parlour and was immediately struck by her husband, who then went upstairs looking for Renses.
Rather than find Renses hiding under the bed where he expected, Davies instead found him apparently sleeping in his children's bedroom. He then took a pair of scissors out of his pocket and stabbed Renses several times before threatening the same to Hodgson, who tried to intervene. Davies then fled and Hodgson sent for a doctor.
Renses died almost instantly and Dr Horrocks who examined the body concluded that he had engaged in sexual activity with a female shortly beforehand. Davies was apprehended by a policeman on Scotland Road and was taken to the Bridewell, his request to stop for some beer on the way being refused. The following day at the inquest the Coroner ordered the two children to be taken into care as they should not remain with a woman of 'such abandoned character.'
Davies was charged with murder and appeared at the South Lancashire Assizes on 14th August. That he had killed Renses was not in doubt, the only question was whether he was guilty of murder or manslaughter. In summing up Mr Baron Watson said that if a man found out about an act of adultery then he could only be guilty of manslaughter and even then of the lowest decree.
Given Davies was believed to have found them in bed that afternoon, the jury took no time at all to return a verdict of manslaughter. As Davies's defence counsel Mr Aspinall began to address the judge in mitigation, Baron Watson interrupted him and said 'You dont suppose I'm going to punish him for this Mr Aspinall.' He then passed a sentence of four days imprisonment, meaning Davies could be released immediately as that was the length of time since the Assizes had started.