Old Bailey Proceedings supplementary material. RHYNWICK WILLIAMS.
8th December 1790
Reference Numbero17901208-3

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The Monster.

ON the 1st day of December sessions, 1790, RHYNWICK otherwise RENWICK WILLIAMS was set to the bar, when the opinion of the judges on his case, which had been reserved, was delivered by Mr. Justice Ashurst, as follows:

Renwick Williams, you have been tried at the Old Bailey sessions, in July last, on an indictment founded on a statute made in the 6th year of the reign of his late Majesty, King George the 1st; and the indictment charges, that you, on the 18th of January, in the 30th year of his present Majesty's reign, at the parish of St. James's, in a certain public street, called St. James's-street, wilfully, maliciously, and feloniously, did make an assault on Ann Porter , spinster, with intent, wilfully and maliciously to tear, spoil, cut, and deface her garments; and that you on that said 18th of January, in the parish aforesaid, in the said public street, did wilfully, maliciously, and feloniously, cut, tear, and deface her silk gown and shift, being part of her wearing apparel which she then had on, and wore on her person, against the form of the statute; upon this indictment the jury have found you guilty; but your counsel made two objections in arrest of judgment; the one to the form of the indictment, and the other to the substance of it, namely, that the facts as proved, did not constitute the offence intended to be punished by this act of parliament. A majority of the judges are of opinion that both the objections are well founded; in respect to the first, the words of the statute make it necessary that the assault and the tearing should be at one and the same time; whereas, here it is not laid as the same act; but for any thing that appears on the face of this indictment, it may be that the assault was on one part of the day, and that the tearing of the clothes might be on another part of the day; because it does not say that you made an assault on such a day, and then and there tore the clothes, but that you made such an assault on such a day; and that on the said 18th of January, you wilfully tore the clothes. Now, the law in favour of a prisoner, requires the utmost precision, and is not to be made out merely by inference; therefore the indictment was certainly not properly or accurately laid: with respect to the other part of the objection, that the case as proved, was not substantially within the intent of the act of parliament; a majority of judges were likewise of opinion that it is not. The occasion of enacting this law, was, that a crime of a very extraordinary and unaccountable nature was then committed, by tearing clothes in the street for the mere sake of mischief; and to bring this case within that act of parliament, the primary intention of the person must be the tearing of the clothes; whereas, your primary intention appears to have been the wounding the person of the prosecutrix: the legislature never looked forward to a crime of so diabolical a nature, as that of wounding his Majesty's subjects in a most savage manner, for the mere purpose of wounding them, without any provocation to the party; if they had, it is probable they would have annexed a still higher punishment for such

an offence, than that in the act of parliament; but as the legislature did not apprehend, and of course have not provided for it, it does not fall within the province of those who are to expound the law, to usurp the office of the legislature: but though you are not within the lash of this law, as far as a felonious act, the common law remedy is still open upon an indictment for a misdemeanor; and if the fact should be proved to the satisfaction of the jury, the common law is armed with sufficient power to punish the offence, so as to make a man repent of his temerity, in having been guilty of so flagrant a breach of it. At present you will be remanded.

Prisoner. I beg leave to address the Court for a few minutes. My lord, after a confinement of six months, as disgraceful as it has been distressing to me, I feel little satisfaction at the interpretation of the statute, which has neither cleared my character as a man, nor established my innocence in the eye of justice; at last I am only reserved for severer trials, though the letter of the law may not apply to a cruel conviction. I have suffered prejudice, which arms justice with new whips to scourge me. My case remains the very same it was five months ago; I have no new evidence to offer: such of the family as were present with me in Dover-street, at the time Miss Porter was wounded, have already given their testimony; that testimony has not been credited; as it was the true, being the only testimony I have to adduce, if it did not avail me then, it will not for the future. Much as I have been abused and libelled in the public prints, and bad as a persecuting world will be disposed to think of me, I will neither bring people to perjure themselves, or prove another alibi; my innocence, however, has not wanted an advocate. After the publication of this, gentlemen, was I to stand a second trial, the same perjury that pushed them on to convict me before, would only be multiplied for the purpose of strengthening those witnesses, as the learned gentleman in his letter to the judge who tried me, has pointed out; and therefore I do not feel the least exultation in discovering that after a cruel and bitter confinement of six months, I have only exchanged a less misery for a greater. Good God! for what am I reserved? without friends! without either money to support me in my difficulties, or to enable me to stand another trial with those whom reward has enriched, and whose case has made friends of all men, it is impossible that a poor and helpless individual as I am, should struggle with the stream, or prevail with those who have determined they will not be convinced. I stand an instance of singular misfortune; while my passion for the sex has nearly been my ruin, that the singular charge of a nature directly opposite, should compleatly be my destruction. I have now nothing to hope for or to look for in this world: to my God alone, to whom my innocence is known, and whom, in this instance, at least, I have not offended, I turn with comfort for support, though justice be denied me here; a father so kind and merciful will not refuse me, when I demand it of my prosecutor in that great day when the judges of this earth will themselves be tried. Most chearfully should I have sought amongst savages in another country, that protection which has been denied me in this. I have nothing farther to add, my lord.

Mr. Williams was then remanded, being charged on several indictments for assaults, to be tried at the new Sessions-house on Clerkenwell-green.


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