Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Police Officer Cleared Over Mans Death

A police officer charged with murder after a man he arrested for being drunk died was later cleared of any wrongdoing in connection to the death.

In the early hours of 25th January 1864 John Houlsham was found lying on the pavement in Great Crosshall Street and taken to the Bridewell by four policemen, where he was booked in for being drunk and for his own safety. The following morning he was discharged by the magistrate and said nothing of any ill treatment by police officers.

Two days later Houlsham admitted himself to the Toxteth Park workhouse, saying that the bruising on his arms and bloodshot eye had been a result of ill treatment by the police. He also claimed that two sovereigns had been taken from his pocket at the time of his arrest. Houlsham died the following Monday, leading to an inquest taking place at the Woodcroft Inn on 4th February before the coroner Mr Driffield.

Dr Wall, visiting surgeon at the workhouse, told of the postmortem that he carried out on Houlsham's body. In addition to the bruising he also found effusion on the brain, as a result of a blow to the head. He could not say however whether the head injury was as a result of a blow or a fall, but did conclude the arms were bruised as a result of violence. 

Houlsham's brother James said that when he saw John at the workhouse, he was asked to find out which policeman had assaulted him. Mary Newport, a soapboilers wife in Great Crosshall Street, told the coroner that the police officer concerned, who she knew as 'Little John', had kneed Houlsham in the back, hit him on the arm with a weapon and then pulled him up by the neckerchief. She then claimed that there was blood where Houlsham had been lying, which was backed up by a woman named Sarah Canning.

Newport and Canning's evidence was contradicted by Bernard Sands, a cab driver who was in Great Crosshall Street at the time.  He said that Houlsham struck a police officer and no violence was used against him, a statement that was backed up by two constables. The bridewell keeper also said that Houlsham made no complaint of maltreatment when he was admitted.

Inspector Penlington from the police stated that he had told Newport to make any complaint of police violence to the Chief Constable and said how it was common in 'low neighbourhoods' for officers to be accused of wrongdoing. He did admit however that one one of the officers concerned in the arrest, Constable John Rennison, had twice been accused of hitting people in the street. 

The jury returned a verdict that Houlsham had died from his injuries, but there was no evidence to show how they occurred. Despite this, Constable John Renison was charged with murder, perhaps to offer assurance to the public that the police were not above the law. However when his case went before the Grand Jury at the Liverpool Assizes on 21st March, the bill was thrown out and he was discharged. 

No comments:

Post a Comment