This crime report begins: 'Full, True and particular Account of the Trial and Sentence of WILLIAM HARDIE, Gamekeeper, before the High Court of Justiciary on Monday, for Shooting at William Bayles, or Bailes, with intent to Murder; also a correct account of the Trial of the notorious Edinburgh Thief ROBERT HORN, and JAMES M'LAREN, for daring Housebreaking and Theft.' The broadside was published by John Campbell of Edinburgh. The date is not supplied.
The cases on this broadside illustrate some of the differences between attitudes to crime today and in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Had William Hardie killed his victim, he would almost certainly have hanged, but as it was he was sentenced to only four months for attempted murder: crimes of violence, provided they did not result in death, were often regarded as quite inconsequential. Today Hardie could not have been hanged, but his sentence for a premeditated shooting would have been far longer than four months. The death penalty for housebreaking and theft was not fully abolished until 1861, probably subsequent to the publication of this broadside, and Robert Horn, as a 'notorious' thief, was quite lucky to escape with transportation.
Reports recounting dark and salacious deeds were popular with the public, and, like today's sensationalist tabloids, sold in large numbers. Crimes could generate sequences of sheets covering descriptive accounts, court proceedings, last words, lamentations and executions as they occurred. As competition was fierce, immediacy was paramount, and these occasions provided an opportunity for printers and patterers to maximise sales.
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Probable period of publication:
1830-1839 shelfmark: L.C.Fol.74(237)
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