A man who took up another's challenge to a fight ended up on a manslaughter charge but was found not guilty due to the provocation he had received.
35 year old George Smith spent the evening of 13th September 1847 drinking with his brother and some other friends at the George the Fourth pub in Hood Street. One of them, sailmaker John Towers got into an argument with him but all was settled and the drinking carried on until after midnight.
Later when they left the pub Smith and Towers started arguing again, with the latter making plenty of threats that his friends dissuaded him from. The men were persuaded to shake hands but Towers used this as an opportunity to wrestle Smith to to the ground. On getting up Towers took his coat off and demanded a fight, leading to Smith being told by his brother to strike him once then leave. Smith did just that, causing Towers to fall and bang his head.
Towers was helped to his feet but was in an insensible state. His friends took him to his Wood Street home but at 330am his wife was so worried about his condition that she sent for a doctor, who attended to him until he died at 8am. A post mortem concluded that the cause of death was a ruptured blood vessel on the brain and it would not have been caused if it was a simple drunken fall.
An inquest on 15th September returned a verdict of manslaughter against Smith and bail was refused by the coroner. He was tried on 16th December and the prosecution case was so weak that the defence counsel didn't even make a speech. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty and he was discharged from the dock.