Monday, 11 January 2016

Detained Man's Protests From Dock

A man who was considered unfit to plead and detained at His Majesty's Pleasure objected to the decision and shouted abuse at the prison doctor from the dock.

On the afternoon of 14th May 1940 Joyce Moss, a 22 year old telephonist with the fire service, visited a man she had recently become friendly with named Leonard Staples, who lived with his mother at 312 Kensington. This property was known locally as the Kensington Foot Hospital and Leonard, a shoe salesman, had his own quarters in the basement.

Kensington in 1906 (
After having some tea in the garden, Leonard and Joyce went to his room but after hearing some arguing, his mother came to see if everything was alright. Leonard told her to go away but Joyce said that she was worried by his behaviour. Soon afterwards screams were heard and Mrs Staples ran to investigate, banging on the door which was locked and pleading for Leonard to open it. He didn't do so and she then heard the sound of two gunshots.

Mrs Staples went to the garden and looked into Leonard's room through the window, from where she saw Joyce lying in the bath, blood pouring out of her neck. Leonard came out and told his mum not to worry, then sat on the garden wall until two passing policemen who had been alerted arrived. When they did so he threatened to shoot but the officers bravely approached him and snatched the gun before taking him to the Prescot Street bridewell.

The following day Leonard appeared at the police court where it was heard that he had purchased a double barrelled shotgun two weeks earlier. This was shortly after he had been discharged from Smithdown Road hospital, where he had been having his mental state assessed, into the care of his father who agreed to take responsibility for him. As he was remanded in custody he said that the court first needed to ask his father about this, as he was meant to be taking care of him.

On 28th May Leonard was back at the police court for his committal to the assizes. Mrs Staples told the court that he had spoken of feeling under a hypnotic spell from Joyce's mother, and he believed he had seen her floating across the room towards him. Asked if he wished to say anything, Leonard replied that he didn't and would reserve his defence until the trial.

When Leonard appeared before Justice Wrottesley on 10th June the only witness called was Dr Harvey Snell from Walton gaol. He said that having observed Leonard since 15th May, he was of the opinion that he was 'insane and suffering from delusions, and unable to give proper directions to legal advisers for his defence.' This led to an angry reaction from Leonard, who shouted across the courtroom 'That is not true at all because if anybody knows this case I know it, I am the only person who understands thoroughly this case and what has happened and everything that led to this trouble.'

The judge then directed the jury to find that Leonard was unfit to plead to the indictment and he received this verdict in silence. Justice Wrottesley then ordered that he be detained until His majesty's pleasure be known.

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