When two workmen clashed leading to one hitting the other with a pitch fork causing death, the irritating conduct of the victim led to leniency in court.
On 28th April 1863 a group of night soil men were emptying middens in the Islington area. One of them, Thomas Wignall, had been drinking and was obstructing the others as they went about their duties.
When William Bibby told Wignall to go and sit down if he wasn't willing to work. Wignall responded by telling Bibby to put his pitchfork down and have a fight. Bibby instead simply struck Wignall on the head with the fork, which he had been using to load manure into a cart.
Wignall died from a fractured skull on 2nd May. The coroners inquest returned a verdict of manslaughter and Bibby was committed for trial at the next assizes the following August.
Appearing before Mr Justice Blackburn evidence was heard that Wignall was "in liquor, irritating and obstructive to his fellow workmen" and had struck them with both his fist and fork. Bibby's defence was that he had been "provoked beyond endurance".
The jury found Bibby guilty but with a recommendation for mercy. He was then sentenced to just one month in prison.