Mr. Justice Henry Charles Lopes' Sentence

The Old Bailey (November 10, 1885). Quoted in Alison Plowden, The Case of Eliza Armstrong: A Child of 13 Bought for £5 (1974)

William Thomas Stead, it will be convenient that I should deal with your case first. You have been found guilty under two indictments—the one charging you with the abduction of Eliza Armstrong, the other charging you with indecent assault. Now I am prepared to give you credit for good motives from your point of view, but, at the same time, I cannot disguise from my mind that you have acted throughout recklessly and against the advice of all those whom you thought fit to consult.

Believing in the existence of most horrible depravity, it appears to me that you made statements about it which, when challenged, you were unable to verify.

You then determined to verify the truth of your assertions by an experiment with a child who was to be bought and subjected to all that a real victim would have been, but was to be rescued before any harm was done. For that purpose you selected a person of alleged reformed character, but who to your knowledge had passed a life—an infamous life, as I may say—pandering to and encouraging the very sins which you say—and I believe you—you were so anxious to repress. You chose your own agent, and, as might have been anticipated, having regard to her antecedents, which you fully knew, that agent deceived you. The jury have so found, and so I believe.

The result is that your experiment, instead of proving what it was intended to prove, has absolutely and entirely failed, for the jury have found that Eliza Armstrong, the subject of that experiment, was never bought for immoral purposes at all. I regret to say that you thought fit to publish in the Pall Mall Gazette a distorted account of the case of Eliza Armstrong, and that you deluged, some months ago, our streets and the whole country with an amount of filth which has, as I fear, tainted the minds of the children that you were so anxious to protect, and which has been—and I don't hesitate to say, ever will be—a disgrace to journalism. An irreparable injury has been done to the parents of this child, and they have been subjected to the unutterable scandal and ignominy of having sold their child for violation. The child has been dragged through the dirt, examined by a woman who bears, or, in your opinion, at any rate, bore a foul character, subjected to chloroform, taken to a brothel, and then sent to the South of France, her letters to her mother suppressed, and the child refused when demanded. All that has been done by you, relying on the statements of a woman whose character you knew and whom you trusted with money—and I think this no small part of the offence you committed—to bribe parents to commit the greatest sin they could commit—viz. to sell their own children for immoral purposes.

Well, I feel that I cannot and ought not to punish you as I would punish a person who had been found guilty of abduction, and who had been actuated by sordid and sinful motives. I am going to give credit to any good motives as far as I possibly can; I am going to give effect to the recommendation of the jury which they made on Saturday night, but I cannot forget that you are an educated man, who should have known that the law cannot be broken to promote any supposed good, and that the sanctity of private life cannot be invaded for the furtherance of the views of an individual who, I am inclined to believe, thought that the end would sanctify the means.

Now in these circumstances, I need not say that I have given the most intense and anxious consideration to your case, and I have come to the conclusion that I cannot pass anything but a substantial sentence, and that is that you be imprisoned without hard labour for three calendar months.

I now come to the case of Rebecca Jarrett, and there is no doubt a mitigating circumstance in your case, but there is also an aggravating circumstance. The mitigating circumstance is that you only undertook what you did under extreme pressure, but the aggravating circumstance is that, after a most patient hearing, and having regard to the finding of the jury, I am firmly convinced you misled your employer, Stead. In these circumstances, the sentence I pass on you is that you be imprisoned without hard labour for six calendar months.

I now deal, Jacques, with your case. You have not been found guilty of the charge of abduction, and I fully agree with the verdict the jury found in that case, because we must look at it only by the light of evidence, and I do not think, on the evidence, that you knew or had reasonable means of knowing that the child had not been taken with the consent of the parents. You have only been found guilty of indecent assault, and the sentence on you is one month's imprisonment without hard labour.

Louise Mourez, I cannot look at your case in the same light as the others. I have considered it with much anxiety. It has been stated over and over again by those charged with you, that you are a professional abortionist, and that you obtain your living in that way. That statement proceeding from them only, I am not in a position to say whether it is correct or not. I trust that it is not, and I do not think I should be justified in acting upon it as correct. If I had evidence before me which led me to believe you were a professional abortionist, and gained your livelihood in the way suggested, I would subject you to the highest punishment the law enables me to impose. You have been found guilty of indecent assault—a most serious indecent assault. This child, thirteen years old, late in the afternoon, is brought to you by people of whom you know nothing, you are asked to examine the child, and you examine it in the way described. I fear much that at that time you knew, or had reason to suspect, the child was intended for outrage; at any rate, I know you could have been animated by no good motive. I know, too, that you received payment and reward for what you did. In these circumstances, not knowing whether you deserve all the imputations cast upon you, the sentence I pass on you is that you be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for six calendar months.


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Owen Mulpetre, BA (Hons) MPhil