5. The Criminal Law

The express wording of the law–and, much more, the tacit warping of the Criminal Law in favour of women by the bias of judge, jury, and the press–has created a regular system of conferring privileges on women as against men, or against the community in general :– 1. As regards Trial. 2. As regards Sentence. 3. As regards Prison Treatment. 4. As regards Pardon.

The only exceptions to these privileges are:–

(a) If the offence has been committed by one woman against another.

(b) If the offence is by a baby farmer [caretaker], committed against other women’s babies. The reasons for these exceptions are, of course, obvious, and need not be dwelt upon here.


The rules are substantially the same as those affecting wives in particular, already enumerated.

(a) The least excuse is sufficient to exonerate any woman from penal consequences.

(b) All the women’s statements against a man are assumed to be true until they are proved to be false.

(c) The proof of the actual deed of crime must be much more conclusive than in the case of a man.

(d) The jury almost invariably recommends to mercy on the rare occasions when they convict.

(e) A shamefully inadequate or even a nominal sentence Is imposed.


The list of the wife’s exemptions from punishment for crimes against her husband may nearly all be repeated as enjoyed, though possibly in a somewhat less degree, by all women (other men’s wives or not) against a man, or against the community at large. (1) In cases of drunkenness this offence against the safety of the community is visited on the woman with a trifling fine. The matter is looked on rather as a joke than an offence. (2) In cases of libel and slander, a criminal prosecution against a woman is practically unknown. A nominal penalty, such as a promise not to repeat the offence, is the usual ending to such a prosecution. (3) Crimes of 34 assault and violence generally are almost as privileged in the case of an ordinary woman as of a wife against a husband. (4) Murder is similarly reduced to man-slaughter, no matter who the woman may be, provided the victim is a man. (5) Waylaying, injuring business, or procuring dismissal, is similarly a pastime to be indulged in by any vindictive woman with absolute impunity. (6) Perjury is similarly a perquisite of the female litigant–whether perjury of the defensive or offensive type. (7) Turning wife’s evidence after seduction of husband is, of course, open to all women without punishment. (8) Conspiracy to procure the husband’s seduction, as has already been stated, goes unpunished if committed on the wife’s side. The class of offences more peculiarly effected by women ill general, apart from wives, are due either to revenge or a desire to extort money. Violence, culminating in murder, has been sufficiently dealt with in considering the wife’s privilege. Economic motive is displayed in crimes of Fraud, Libel and Slander, Way- laying, Seduction and Perjury, to levy blackmail– though sometimes libel and slander, waylaying, and perjury are due to motives of revenge. Sometimes the law expressly discriminates between men and women; for instance, in the case of seduction: sometimes the administrators, for instance, in the case of fraud and perjury.

(a) Fraud.

Generally speaking, fraud by a woman against a man, by which he is deprived of all or a portion of his property, is not punishable–if the woman has been in intimate relations with him; it is her payment. If she be his wife fraud on her part is unnecessary, since the law expropriates him at her least request. Other women have an impunity to commit fraud. In case the man has not been in intimate relations, then the woman’s offence is, if punished at all, visited by a tenth part of the sentence which would be inflicted if a man were the offender.

(b) Libel and Slander.

Cases are innumerable of men being sentenced to long terms of imprisonment for libel. No case is ever heard of a woman being similarly sentenced. The following are typical cases:– At the Essex Assizes, February 2nd, 1895, before Mr. Justice Mathew, Agnes Ellen Royce, a boarding- house keeper, pleaded guilty to demanding L 300 Dr. Edwin Worts, of Colchester, by menaces and threats. Mr. Avory, on behalf of the prisoner, stated that the letters and telegram in which she threatened the doctor were written while she was in a hysterical condition, and he suggested that she should be bound over under the First Offenders Act. Mr. C. F. Gill, who prosecuted, said that the prisoner accused the doctor of having ruined her, and made many serious allegations against him. No doubt she was labouring under very great excitement when she made these charges. She was discharged under the First Offenders Act. “Catharine Matilda Gordon, forty-six, described as having no occupation, and living at Mardon’s Croft, Moseley, near Birmingham, was charged on remand, before Mr. Newton, at Malhorough Street Police Court, on Saturday, with unlawfully and maliciously publishing a defamatory libel concerning Mr Thomas James Hooper, on March 27th last, at the Badminton Club, Piccadilly. The accused was not legally represented. The prosecutor is a solicitor, and acts as Clerk to the Justices of the Peace at Biggleswade. Mr. William Vyse, an independent gentleman and member of the Badminton Club, living at Wickham Road, Brockley, deposed that on or about the 27th of March last he received from prisoner the postcard produced. Mrs. Gordon: ‘I wish very much to apologise publicly, and 36 to withdraw everything I have said about Mr. Hooper.’ Mr. Hooper, in reply to the magistrate, said he regretted to say that he could not believe Mrs. Gordon, as he had received similar promises in writing which had been broken; in fact, since the summons, which was issued before the warrant was taken out. She had written to him enclosing a letter from her solicitors recommending her to withdraw. Mr. Newton said that a woman who sent postcards of the nature referred to did the cruellest act imaginable. The prisoner had done a most wicked act, and had endeavoured to blacken the character of the prosecutor, apparently without any reason whatever. Probably there was not a single word of truth in her statements. To the prosecutor: ‘Do you think, Mr. Hooper, alter this caution, you may give her another chance?’ Mr. Hooper: ‘ I think so, sir.’ Mrs. Gordon having assured the magistrate that she would not repeat her conduct, Mr. Newton bound her over in her recognisances in the sum of £20 to be of good behaviour in the future.”– Daily Chronicle , May 4th, 1896.

(c) Waylaying, Injuring Business, and Procuring Dismissal .

This method of extortion is practically open to all women, wives or not. Medical men are peculiarly subject to this infliction, and even solicitors do not escape. But persons in humbler station are not exempt. The case of a police constable hanged for the murder of a woman some years ago brought the practice vividly, although temporarily, before the public mind. The woman had for years waylaid him, called at the police commissioner’s office, obtained the suspension of the constable, and boasted of her intention of procuring his dismissal. The man had no remedy. In a fit of passion he killed the woman, when waylaying him at midnight on his beat, and was hanged for the crime. (Case of Constable Cook, June, 1894)

(d) Murder.

The rule of the Common Law which prescribes hanging as the punishment for murder is practically abolished for females who murder men. The best illustration of the extent of the women’s privilege to murder men will be found in the consideration of the number of cases in which women have been hanged during the last quarter of a century for the offence when, by a mere chance, they were convicted. As has been stated, a woman who kills a man is usually acquitted. If she be convicted, it is almost invariably of manslaughter, not murder. If she be by some off- chance convicted of murder, an agitation for her release is usually started. So the murderess escapes the gallows, except once or twice in a quarter of a century.

(e) Seduction.

The woman’s privilege of seduction is twofold–in the Criminal Courts and in the Civil Courts. In the Criminal Courts there is no punishment of an abandoned woman in society, or out of it, who corrupts the morals of a minor. Even when disease is the result, there is no case on record of a prosecution, not to speak of punishment. A contrary rule prevails in France. So far has this revolting sex privilege been pushed that a boy of 14 can he convicted for committing an act to which he was incited by a girl just under 16, although, as is well known, a girl of that age is often a woman, while a boy of 14 is usually a child. This, however, does not exhaust the women’s privilege of seduction. Not merely a female minor, but female adults are protected by exceptional law. Any person who, by false representations, procures immoral relations with a woman not of known immoral character –though the woman be 35 and the male culprit 14–is liable to imprisonment with hard labour for two years. All lying representations on the part of a woman are permissible, though her sole motive for procuring the connection is to obtain a hold over the man by which to blackmail him. When this statute was passed in 1887 it was said to be directed merely against criminal conspiracies of persons who, for purposes of gain, induced daughters of the people to have illicit relations with immoral rich men. A judge has thoughtfully extended the statute to the undreamt-of case of a man inducing a woman of mature age to have connection with himself–not with a third party. The whip of the blackmailer has thus been humanely turned into a whip of scorpions. (R. v. King, Monmouth Summer Assizes, 1890.) As an instance of the utter absence of the most elementary sense of impartial justice in the men and women who “run” this pro-feminist agitation, the following may be taken:–One of.the latest suggestions of this worthy crew is an enactment by which men who shall infect their wives with any venereal disease (which they may, of course, have contracted before marriage) should be made liable to severe penal consequences. Now, we make no remark on the justice or injustice per se of this proposed extension of the criminal code. But it is not proposed to make it an offence in the wife; and it comes from the very people who are loudest in bawling at the wicked violation of the rights of holy womanhood involved in the Contagious Diseases Acts, by which it is sought (not to punish women for infecting men, oh, dear, no!) but simply to prevent the spread of infection by women who make a trade of the sale of their bodies by compelling them to submit to examination, and, if necessary, medical treatment. No cases can, of course, he cited from the records of the Criminal Courts of the adult woman’s privilege of seduction, for the sufficient reason that the law does not regard it as an offence.

But the minor woman’s privilege is abundantly illustrated because it is an offence for a male to allow himself to be seduced by her. One wretch was produced as witness against several boys younger than herself whom she had induced to commit the offence. The Court of Appeal held that she could not be punished, but her victims were consigned to prison. (Central Criminal Court and Court for Crown Cases Reserved, June, 1894.)


It is not merely wives who are privileged to make false charges on oath, and to commit and to suborn [incite] perjury. An extensive trade in such charges is pursued by an increasing number of women, encouraged by the absolute impunity which attends their profitable crimes. Revenge for slighted claims plays a real though a very minor part in the manufacture of these accusations. Potiphar’s wife has no monopoly of her methods of vengeance. These cowardly criminals know that the worst they have to fear is the charitable conclusion that they are poor hysterical women. Within the last few years there has been a large growth of enactments rendering legally punishable various offences against women and girls, and the zeal of the legislature for their protection has found an echo in the energy of the courts in the conviction of the accused. It is in such cases as these that injustice is readily wrought by sex-bias. There are no charges so easy to bring and so difficult to refute as accusations of sexual crime. So well is this recognised that the most innocent man would gladly pay any sum rather than face such a charge. The only defence is the proof of a negative, always difficult and sometimes impossible, even to 40 sexual crime. the most innocent. A moral and well-spent life, a high character, the esteem of friends alike wither before this blasting charge; they even add fuel to it. This is shown by the extraordinary remark of one of our judges: “A good character only means that a man has not yet been found out.” To the intrinsic difficulty of defence presented by the very nature of the alleged offence, the poverty of the man accused often adds a terrible aggravation. The rich man can protect himself by all the resources of legal defence; the poor man is left to the mercy of the wolves by his poverty; which, although it may protect him from blackmail, yet gives him no security against malignant spite–perhaps the most fruitful source of false accusations. England, unlike continental countries, provides no legal defence for accused persons. This is serious enough in ordinary cases, but, in any trial in which a woman is concerned, it amounts to a refusal to a man of the commonest conditions of fairplay. The public prosecution of alleged offences against women devolves on the Treasury–in other words, on the skilled advocates of the Crown, with the resources of the English tax-payer at their disposal in the preparation of cases and the procuring of witnesses. The accused is left undefended, to contend alone against the prejudice of juries. Public opinion and the press, which so ably voices it, are arrayed against him. It is not, therefore, a matter for surprise that to be accused by a woman means, practic- ally, in the vast majority of cases, to be condemned. The necessity for careful inquiries into the character and antecedents of witnesses is nowhere so great as in cases of offences against women and girls. Charges so easy to make, so difficult to refute, ought to be regarded with the greatest suspicion, and not be accepted with ready credulity. The bona fides [good faith] of all witnesses, the character of the accuser ought to he carefully scrutinised. To the undefended prisoner this is impossible. And even if the prisoner is defended, sentimental juries are deaf. Even where the character of the accuser is good, she may very well happen to be a woman of highly hysterical temperament. The eminent French scientist, M. Brouardel, says of this type of woman: “She is essentially a liar, that is the true criterion of the hysterical woman. Such a one has been known to keep at bay for several years law courts, doctors, her own family, with a rampart built of lies upon lies.” Accusations of sexual offences are readily forced by such women, and unless the juries can be convinced of the irresponsible character of their statements, the liberty and honour of the most innocent man may be destroyed. That distinguished judge, the late Baron Huddleston, in his charge to the jury on one occasion, referring to the Criminal Law Amendment Acts, stated that in his opinion, after an extensive experience of the Acts, men stood far more in need of protection against women than women against men. The total oppression inflicted by charges of sexual crime must not be measured by the cases which come into Court. It is a commonplace of the legal profession that for one such case ten are settled out of Court. In other words, a system of blackmail of the worst type finds its direct incentive and opportunity in the present state of legal administration. The following selection of a few of the cases arising in the years 1894 and 1895 gives some idea of the widespread evils of the present system. It must not be thought for a moment that because these cases have resulted in acquittals no reform is necessary. In view of the law of libel only cases where the accusations have failed can be cited, but every criminal lawyer knows that failure occurs in only a small minority of cases. It must also be borne in mind that such charges entail social infamy unless triumphantly rebutted; a mere acquittal will not suffice.

1.–Dr. Patrick Lyons Blewith (West Ham) was charged with a serious assault on Bessie Page (age 16). On cross-examination she said she “did not consent, but never murmured,” “too frightened.” Did not even tell the other people in the outer waiting-room. Acquittal. July 8th, 1894 2.–Alfred Lee, a vestryman, was charged on remand at Bow Street, with indecent behaviour in a public thoroughfare and in the presence of three females. From the report of the officer who made enquiries it appeared that the witnesses bore very indifferent characters [were impartial]. Three gentlemen deposed to the high moral reputation of the accused, who was discharged. April 24th, 1895. 3.–Sarah Adams (West London) at night met R. B. Pearson in the street, and picked his pocket. When he attempted to retake the money she screamed and made “accusations against him. She got one month. August 19th, 1894. 4.–Joseph Barker (52),” coster [produce seller], was charged by his daughter Eliza (age 14) with indecently assaulting her. Medical evidence revealed no trace of assault. The prisoner denied the accusation, but was nevertheless committed for trial (Islington). April 29th, 1894. The Grand Jury threw out the bill [charge]. 5.–William Hughes and his son, colliers [coal workers] at Pontypridd, were accused of having violated Maggie, aged 12, daughter of the elder prisoner. The child swore she had been put up to make the charge by Ellen Haines, the prisoner’s housekeeper, and the doctors found no medical evidence. The case was dismissed. April 8th, 1894. 6.–Dr. Thos. D. Griffiths, of Swansea, was accused by Mrs. Gwynne-Vaughan of committing adultery with her, also of perform- ing upon her an illegal operation and inducing abortion. All charges proved false. April 8th and 15th, 1894 7.–Thos. Moore (44), manager to a tea merchant, was charged with disgraceful conduct to a young girl. He alleged that she began first by kissing him and poking him in the ribs. He was acquitted. May 27th, 1894. 8.–Walter Hill was charged at the Old Bailey with indecent assault by Louisa Smart, and Ellen Windram was charged with aiding and abetting him. Hill and Windram were also charged 43 with conspiring to incite Maria Wakefield, a married woman, to commit adultery. The jury stopped the case and acquitted the prisoners. It is to be noted that Mrs. Smart was prosecutrix about the same time in another indecent assault case, and that Ada Wakefield was prosecutrix in a similar case against her uncle which was dismissed. September, 1894. In a paper read before the Birmingham and Midland Counties Branch of the British Medical Association, on November 9th, 1893, the eminent surgeon, Dr. Lawson Tait, F.R.C.S., thus sums up a large number of cases brought under his notice by the police authorities:–

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