Sunday, 13 September 2015

Mother Convicted After Atrocious Cruelty

A woman whose baby died of starvation was sentenced to ten years imprisonment by a judge who told her he wished he could have sentenced her to more.

Early in October 1888 Ann Moss and her husband William, who were both aged 29, took lodgings with a Mrs Needham in Salisbury Street, Everton. The couple had four children whose ages ranged from two months to ten years.

The eldest child Hannah attended school and during the daytime Ann and William, an unemployed painter, went out drinking leaving the baby who was also called Ann, and a two year old boy in the care of their seven year old sister. Baby Ann cried constantly and when her mother was at home,she refused to breastfeed her. William was also heard to threaten to kill his baby daughter if she didn't stop crying.

The only time Ann took the baby out with her was when she went begging. She gained a lot of sympathy and was given baby clothes, but she pawned these to get money for drink. William spent most of his days setting up board games in pubs in return for free beer.

Mrs Needham and other lodgers pleaded with Ann to give her baby better attention, and even helped with bathing and gave her money for bread and milk. However Ann was never seen to buy any although she did attend a dispensary seeking help on 21st October. There, a doctor gave her medicine and weighed the baby, who was only four pounds instead of the usual fourteen or fifteen for a child that age. The doctor made it clear to Ann that if her baby died he would not issue a death certificate and would refer the matter to the Coroner.

Ann still didn't give the medicine and the Liverpool Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children were called in. They took baby Ann and her two year old brother William to the children's shelter in Islington. He was was dirty and covered with vermin and was so underdeveloped he couldn't even crawl. He responded to food and made good progress but his baby sister was not so lucky and died at Mill Road hospital on 26th October. 

Both parents were charged with manslaughter and appeared before Justice Wills at the assizes on 20th December. They were undefended and told the court that death was due to consumption of the bowels, but the medical evidence refuted this. Ann was found guilty of manslaughter and causing grievous bodily harm to young William, but her husband was found guilty only of the grievous bodily harm charge. 

Justice Wills ordered that they be brought back before the court the following day as he needed time to consider the sentence. When he addressed them, he said they had been involved in the 'most atrocious cruelty' and that it was 'scarcely short of crime itself to bring children into the world without having the slightest intention of looking after them.' Expressing regret that the law didn't allow for him to impose the sentence he thought adequate, he imposed a term of five years penal servitude on William and ten years for Ann.

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