28th May 1800
Reference Numbert18000528-6
VerdictGuilty > with recommendation

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345. WILLIAM STRICK was indicted for that he, together with other persons, to the number of three and more, whose names are unknown, being malefactors and disturbers of the peace, on the 5th of May, 1799 , at the parish of St. Keverne, in the Country of Cornwall , being armed with fire-arms, and other offensive weapons, guns, pistols, and swords, unlawfully, riotously, and feloniously did assemble together, in order to be aiding and assisting, and did aid and assist other persons in rescuing and taking away from John Twentyman , being an Officer of the Excise , and Richard Thomas , being an Officer of the Customs , fifty gallons of foreign brandy, and forty gallons of foreign geneva, the same being uncustomed goods, and liable to pay duties which had not been paid or received, after seizure of the said goods, by the said John Twentyman and Richard Thomas , against the form of the statute.

(The indictment was stated by Mr. Jackson.)

Mr. Attorney-General. Gentlemen of the Jury, this is an indictment against the prisoner, William Strick , for a capital offence, so constituted by a special Act of Parliament passed for the purpose in the 39th year of the late King, by which it is made an enquiry before you, notwithstanding the offence itself was committed in the county of Cornwall.

Gentlemen. This is a provision of the law which I think you will find, when the circumstances of this case come to be stated to you, is absolutely necessary; for sorry I am to say, that the evidence that will be offered to you in this case, will shew you what the legislature were sensible of at the time of passing this Act of Parliament, that justice was not to be expected upon the spot, that so many persons were concerned in transactions of this nature, that it could not be hoped upon the spot to find a Jury who would do justice; not perhaps because they might not be disposed to do it, but probably because they would not dare to do it; for, Gentleman, it is a melancholy reflection, that in those counties upon the coast, where transactions of this kind take place, there are so many persons who are in the habit of setting themselves above the law in certain instances, that they are very apt to set themselves above the law in all; and that persons who think sit, as you will find, according to the evidence that will be given to you in this case, to hazard their lives in one instance, are disposed to hazard their lives in others, for the protection of that gain which they are attempting unlawfully to make.

Gentlemen, This Act provides, that if any persons, to the number of three or more, armed with fire-arms or other offensive weapons, shall be assembled for the purpose of assisting in a variety of illegal acts with respect to the smuggling of goods, and particularly with respect to the rescuing or taking away such goods after seizure, from the others of the Customs or Excise, that they shall be adjudged guilty of felony, and shall suffer death as in a cases of felony, without benefit of clergy. Gentlemen, that is the offence with which the prisoner at the bar stands charged, and you are, as indifferent persons, between the prisoner and his country, to determine whether or not he has been guilty of that offence.

Gentlemen, According to the evidence which is stated to me, the case will be proved to you fully, clearly, and in such a manner that I apprehend you can have no doubt upon the subject. It will appear to you, I think, that in the month of May in the last year, some officers of the Customs and Excise had seized a quantity of brandy and geneva, in those small casks which if any of you Gentlemen have been at all conversant with smuggling causes, must know by the common appellation of tubs or ankers, and which ankers(but they are commonly called tubs by the smugglers) were found concealed, being buried in trenches in a ploughed field near a village called Trebuthan, in the parish of St. Keverne, in the county of Cornwall; this village is near another, called Coverack upon the Beach, where goods are landed. Gentlemen, it will be proved to you, that the officers having found these goods buried in these trenches, and having seized them, that some of them went for the purpose of procuring horses or carriages to remove them to Helstone, which was the nearest place to which they could have removed them in safety; that some of them employed themselves in searching for more goods, and a man of the name of Lisle was left in possession of the goods that were seized. It will be in proof to you, that while this man was alone, in the possession of the goods so seized, eight men armed with guns, with pistols, and with hangers or swords, some of them having two of these weapons and others only one, arrived at the place where Lisle stood with the goods; that they used threatening expressions to him, threatening to kill him if he attempted to hinder them, saying that the goods were

their's, that they had already hazarded their lives for them; and then each man took up an anker and carried it away. Gentlemen, this was when Lisle only was present, and a part only of the goods were carried away upon this occasion; when these eight men had carried the goods to the distance I think of about half a mile, they were met by other smugglers, to whom they delivered them, and then they instantly returned, all the officers at that time being collected together. Gentlemen, upon returning again, they presented their firearms; they threatened the officers if they made the least resistance, and then they again carried off seven more of the ankers, leaving a staved one in possession of the officers. The fact, therefore, of the rescue of these goods from the officers, after they had seized them, will be clearly and distinctly proved; the circumstance of these eight men coming thus together, coming thus armed, coming a second time, will also prove to you that this was deliberately done. But, Gentlemen, it will also be shewn to you, that these men came up from the Cove called Coverack, for the very purpose of rescuing these goods; that they made enquiries upon the subject before they came to the spot; they enquired after the goods, and got a person to conduct them to the spot where the seized goods were; it is evident, therefore, that the most deliberate purpose of violating the laws of their country, of setting themselves up above the law, and of preventing the execution of that law by force, was the object of these persons. Gentlemen, the same is obvious also, from the language which they used upon the occasion; when they were told by the officers that the goods had been seized by them, in the character of officers of his Majesty's Customs, the answer they gave was, that they had already hazarded their lives for the goods, that they were their property, and they would have them. Gentlemen, the goods being thus taken away, it will appear to you, that the officers mounting their horses, rode after the men, not for the purpose of taking the goods from them again, because the force was too strong for them; but with a view of going to that place called Coverack, from which these persons had come, to ascertain precisely who they were, or to get some account of them. Gentlemen, they came up with them in a narrow lane leading to Coverack; when they came up with them the smugglers put down their casks and stood before them with their arms presented to the officers, to keep them back; the officers told them they did not mean to fight them, at which time they had an opportunity of minutely examining the persons of the men who were concerned in the transaction; and I understand it will be proved to you most satisfactorily, that the prisoner at the bar was one of those persons. Gentlemen, it will appear to you, how boldly, how openly, and how unfortunately for the peace of the country, these men dared to act, for, upon the officers going to Coverack, the smugglers followed them, and having set down the casks openly in the town at a public-house door, they drank out of them; here there were so many smugglers of different descriptions, crews of vessels employed for that purpose, that it was utterly impossible for the officers to do any thing, and they were obliged to leave these people quietly in possession of the goods. You will easily imagine, Gentlemen, that in a country where such a transaction can be carried on, where all the people of the country sit quiet, and suffer men to conduct themselves in such a lawless manner, that justices is not to be had; the men who are resident upon the spot, whether from their habits of life, whether from their connexions with these people, or whether from the fear they have of them, you will perceive they did not dare to stir to assist the officers against those persons who were thus acting in open defiance of the law.

Gentlemen, If this case is proved to you as it is stated to me, I apprehend you can have no doubt of the guilt of the prisoner; for it will appear to you that there was a rescue of goods seized, as required by the Act of Parliament; that that rescue was with force and violence, by a number of persons armed, to the amount of more than three, namely, eight persons at least were concerned in the transaction. It will be proved to you, that the purpose of these men was deliberate, that their intention was to effect a rescue, that they went for that purpose to the spot, that they returned a second time, having before taken but part of the goods, that they took them away by violence, and declared their resolution to risk their lives in the attempt, if they should be resisted.

Gentlemen, The case therefore, under these circumstances, will, as I conceive, be distinctly proved to you; and if it is proved to you, I conceive you will not hesitate to discharge your duty. You, Gentlemen, must be indifferent upon this subject; you can have no passions or prejudices upon it, nor can you have any fears: to you, therefore, it is, that the law appeals, and your verdict must declare between the prisoner and the public, whether he is guilty or not.

JOHN TWENTYMAN sworn. - Examined by Mr. Fielding. I am a supervisor of Excise, at Penzance.

Q. Tell us what happened on the 5th of May, 1799, in the parish of St. Keverne? - A. I set out in the morning with Mr. Richard Thomas , and William Hodges , Officers of the Customs, Richard Lisle and John Bunney , Officers of the Excise, and Thomas Veal , an Officer of the Customs; we went to Coverack, a smuggling cove, where we expected a vast quantity of smuggled goods had been recently landed; having left our horses at the Cove, we dispersed in different directions to search for smuggled goods; about ten o'clock in the morning of that day, I discovered, in a ploughed field near the village of Trebuthan, sixteen casks, containing brandy and geneva.

Court. Q. What casks were they? - A. Whole ankers.

Q. Is not an anker an unlawful tub? - A. Yes; they hold about seven gallons and a half; they had slings on them.

Q. That is for the purpose of sinking them occasionally? - A. Yes, and for throwing them over the horses' backs; they were buried in three trenches; I then called Mr. William Hodges to my assistance; at the same time Mr. Richard Thomas came up; finding that they could not be

raised without ascade or a shovel, I sent William Hodges to obtain one; when we took them up with a spade we collected them all together; there were sixteen of them; I discovered their contents to be brandy and geneva; after some time the other officers joined us; we consulted together how they were to be removed to Helstone, being the nearest town, and Mr. Thomas and John Punney went off to seek for horses or carriages for that purpose; when they went off, I was in possession of the goods, with Richard Lisle and Mr. Veal and Mr. Hodges; but immediately after they were gone I left Mr. Listle in possession of the goods, charging him to take caro of them till we returned; I went towards Coverack to see if we could find any more in the fields and hedges, being about a quarter of a mile from where we had left Lisle in possession of the goods we had seized; I observed eight men coming up from the village of Coverack; at first fight I took them to be the crew of a King's cutter; when I came nearer I found I was mistaken in that conjecture, seeing them all armed.

Q. How were they armed? - A. They were armed with guns, pistols, swords, and hangers; one man in particular had two pistols; they were every one of them armed with weapons; I stood upon the hedge when they passed quite near me, I could have touched them; on their going up towards the village called Trebuthan, I followed them close behind; on getting near the village, Mr. William Hodges came up also; these eight men went to the first house, and apparently were very anxious to do something; I only heard them enquire for the goods, or something to that purpose, as where is the goods; but it appeared that they did not receive a satisfactory answer; they immediately proceeded to another house, occupied by one Roberts, but I was not near enough to hear what passed; a boy came with them from Roberts's house; and not till then was I certain they were going to rescue the goods; they turned quick round, and went right to the place where I had left Mr. Lisle in possession of the seizure; the boy ran before them; I followed him; they arrived at the place before me.

Q. Do you know who was in the occupation of the field where you had made your seizure? - A. I do not positively know.

Q. These men went up to Lisle then? - A. I saw them go up to Lisle; before I could get up to the spot each of them had got over the first hedge coming towards me again; they were returning with eight ankers; on coming up with them I told them that what they had got were goods that we had seized; I told them they were doing a very illegal act, and cautioned them against persisting in it; they bid me stand off, saying, the goods are our's, we have hazarded our lives for them already, and we will have them; I directed Lisle immediately to go for our horses; I took possession of the other eight ankers.

Q. When you first began to expostulate with them, did you tell them what you were? - A. Yes; I told them we were Revenue-officers, and that we had seized the goods for the use of his Majesty.

Q. Did you, at the time you first spoke to them, know any of them by person? - A. I did not.

Q. At the time when they had got the goods, and had passed you, were they armed in the same manner as they were before? - A. They were all armed; I took possession of the other eight ankers that they had left behind; I observed that the persons that had taken away the eight ankers, were met by another party.

Q. Had you an opportunity of observing from whence they came? - A. They came from the neighbourhood of Coverack, but whether from that place or not I cannot say.

Q. Were they armed? - A. I was at the distance of three or four hundred yards; I only perceived that there was a second party; they delivered the ankers that they had taken away to the second party; they then returned to the place where I was in possession of the other eight ankers, at the same time, Mr. Thomas came up to me; the smugglers seeing Mr. Thomas come up, made a stand in the field before they got to the place where the goods were laid; they came on, after stopping a bit, towards me, and bid me stand off; I had some of the casks in my possession; they were all armed as they were before, I do not know whether they had the same arms or not; I had concealed two or three of the ankers in the old trench, where they were found; seeing the slings and ends of the cords hang out, they took them out; I expostulated with them in the same manner as at first, telling them the consequence of such an act, and they answered nearly in the same manner; one person in particular said the most, he was a tall man.

Q. As this was the second time, you had an opportunity of noticing them; did you observe any one of their persons so as to identify them? - A. One I can, he was a short man, and shewed his teeth very much; that was not the prisoner at the bar.

Q. Can you say whether the prisoner at the bar was one of the eight? - A. I cannot say that he was.

Q. And they took away all the remaining tubs? - A. No, only seven; one part of the end was quite out, it contained brandy; they bid me stand off, saying, the goods were their's, and so on; one of the men had no anker to carry, and he took the arms from the others, guns particularly; then they went off towards Coverack; Mr. Lisle and Mr. Hodges then brought horses into the field, and we

followed them; we came up to them, and upon coming up, they appeared to apprehend we intended to attack them; they put down their casks, some on the ground, and some on the hedge, and stood with their arms in their hands; on coming up to them, I told them I hoped they would not fire at us, or injure us, we were not strong enough to cope with them, or to attack them; one of them answered, no, do not meddle with us, we have got the goods, or something to that effect; we immediately went to the village of Coverack; I cannot say that I saw any more of them.

Q. You do not know whether the prisoner was one of them, then, or not? - A. No, I cannot say that I can identify the prisoner; I saw some of them at a distance in the village, but I did not go near them, they seemed to be all together; it was near twelve months after that the prisoner was apprehended; I was not present when he was apprehended.

Q. You it was that chiefly held the conversation with them, while Thomas was by taking notice of them? - A. Yes.

RICHARD THOMAS sworn. - Examined by Mr. Knowlys. I am an officer of the Customs: I was with Mr. Twentyman, in the parish of St. Keveme, in Cornwall: On the 5th of May, 1799, we seized sixteen casks, ankers; Mr. Twentyman found them in a field near the village of Trebuthan, about three quarters of a mile from the cove of Coverack, I assisted him in taking them out of the trenches; I first tasted one cask, containing geneva; I afterwards tasted one containing brandy, which was staved by Twentyman for that purpose.

Q. What time of the day was it when you first discovered this? - A. About ten in the morning; I went about a mile to get carriages, to convey them to Helstone; I returned in about an hour and a half, more than an hour, I believe; I found Twentyman in the field, with only eight of the ankers; I saw, almost instantly, eight men returning to the field, every one armed, several with two weapons, some had a musket and a pistol, some a musket and a cutlass, some two pistols, and others a pistol and a cutlass, they were every one armed with one, and the major part had two weapons; they came up within about fifteen or twenty yards, and then stopped, they seemed to be consulting together; they hesitated a few minutes, and then came forward; before they came quite up, Mr. Twentyman stove another cask, it was marked brandy, and that I found was brandy; the foremost man of the party that came up, not the prisoner present, said, the goods were their property, that they had ventured their lives for them already, and they would lose their lives before they they would lose the goods, or before we should have them, or words to that effect; they immediately took up seven ankers, and one man that had no cask to carry, took the whole of the muskets of the party; they then went off by the way they came; I was positive that I had seen some of them before; immediately after they were gone with the casks, our horses were brought, by the other three officers, to the side of the field; we purposed going towards Coverack, and mounted our horses immediately; they had not got, I believe, half a quarter of a mile from the village before we overtook them; they had not been out of our sight more than a minute, just while they were turning round the corner of the village; upon seeing us coming, they put down all the casks; and upon our coming up to them, I was the second of our party, I observed one of the eight present a pistol; I called to him not to do any mischief, that we were not going to fight them, for they saw we were not prepared, or something to that effect; they made answer, that it was the best way for us not.

Q. Did you, at that time, observe any of their persons particularly? - A. I looked at them particularly, every one; I knew almost all of them by person, as sailing in smuggling vessels.

Q. Look at the prisoner at the bar? - A. The last man of their party I observed to turn his head away before, who must have been the foremost in going off; we passed them in a narrow lane, and left them all to our right-hand; I observed him to turn his face away, upon which I turned my head round to look at him as he turned his face towards me, and as he recovered his position again he looked me full in the face; I looked in his face, and discovered it to be the prisoner at the bar; I told the other officers that I had seen him before.

Q. Where did you recollect to have seen him before? - A. Four or five years before; he was in the harbour of Helford, belonging to a sloop; I knew him then by frequenting the public-house where I lodged, in company with a brother of his, called Samuel Strick .

Q. You had been acquainted with his countenance? - A. I had seen him for a week, at that time, perhaps twenty times; I never saw him afterwards till this transaction.

Q. Have you any doubt about his person? - A. None.

Court. Q. Then his countenance was familiar to you? - A. Yes; I have seen his brother many times, who resembles him.

Q. Are you sure this is the man you saw with this party, and that it was not his brother? - A. I am certain it was him.

Mr. Knowlys. Q. At the time you saw him with this party, had he any thing about him, or near him? - A. He had an anker as close by his side as he could stand to it; he was one of the eight.

Court. Q. Every one of the eight, at one time, were armed? - A. Yes.

Q. Then he was armed as well as the rest? - A. Yes; he was armed in the field, and he was armed when I passed him; he had a pistol.

Q. Are you sure he was armed with a pistol? - A. Yes; then we went down into Coverack.

Q. When was he apprehended? - A. I apprehended him at Coverack, in March last; I found him at a public-house, in the kitchen, at Coverack.

Q. Before you had any conversation with him, did you tell him it would be better for him to confess, or worse if he did not? - A. I did not; I asked him, is not your name William Strick ? he said, no, it is not William Strick ; my name is William Teague ; I said, no, your name is not Teague, your name is Strick, and you are my prisoner; I took him out of that room into a back parlour, and he immediately asked me what is it that I am taken up for; I told him it was for the business that happened last summer, up at Trebuthan, when you rescued the sixteen ankers from us; he then cried, and said, I cannot say but what I was there; I then brought him to Helstone.

Q. How long was it before that you had seen this man? - A. It might be four or five years.

Q. The time that you had been acquainted with him was about a week? - A. It might be more or less, the vessel laid before the door where I lived and lodged, and he was in the habit of coming in and out with his brother, and slept in the house, I believe; his brother was boatswain of a revenue cutter, lying at Helford, in the Port of Coverack.

Q. Have you the least possible doubt of that man being the same man? - A. Not in the least.

Q. Did you know him again the instant that you saw him at the public-house where you took him up? - A. I saw him three or four days before we took him up; he came in in a sloop to the Pier of Coverack, a smuggling sloop belonging to Coverack; I saw him on board the sloop, and on shore; Mr. Twentyman was in company with me; I passed him two or three times, I was there for two or three hours; I told Mr. Twentyman that that was one of the men.

Q. Why did you not take him at that time? - A. We had no authority; Mr. Twentyman had a warrant at Penzance, twenty-five miles off; I desired him to send it to me, and I would apprehend him, which I did.

Jury. Q. Can you undertake to say, that the prisoner was one of the men that you saw in the field? - A. I was very much agitated in the field, but I was sure the faces of them were familiar to me, and when I saw the prisoner the second time, I was same he was one that I had seen in the field.

WILLIAM HODGES sworn. - Examined by Mr. Jackson. I was with the other officers, at Trebuthan, on the 5th of May.

Q. Did you hear the evidence? - A. Yes.

Q. Do you agree with them in the story they have told? - A. Yes.

Q. Did you observe the prisoner to be one of the men who came up? - A. Yes; I know the prisoner to be one of the men, he had a musket with him or a gun.

Q. Did you see him armed in the field? - A. No, in the village of Trebuthan; the prisoner went to the door of a house to enquire where the smuggled goods were; I heard what was said, I think it was him that spoke, I am sure he was one of the persons that went to the house, I had never seen him before in my life that I know of, I do not recollect to have seen him any more till he was apprehended; I was present when he was apprehended in the village of Coverack, at a public-house; after we had taken him into the back room, he enquired what was the nature of his offence that he was taken for; Mr. Thomas told him it was in consequence of the rescue of some goods the summer before, at Trebuthan; he said, he could not say but he was there; he seemed very much agitated, and burst into tears.

Q. You are very sure it is the same man? - A. I am clear it is the same man; after we had taken him to Helstone, I was mentioning the circumstance to him, and telling him in what situation I saw him; he acknowledged that he had a gun with him, but it had no lock to it, he said he had nothing at all for it.

Prisoner's defence. I have nothing to say, any more than this, I trust to the Jury for what punishment they chuse, after what they have spoke it is of no use to say any thing.

GUILTY Death . (Aged 32.)

The prisoner was recommended by the Jury to his Majesty's mercy, on account of no actual violence having been offered by any of the party .

Tried by the second Middlesex Jury, before Mr. Justice GROSE.

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