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Broadside entitled 'Trials and Sentences', Edinburgh, 1833


This crime report begins: 'just published, a correct account of the Trials and Sentences of the different prisoners that came on before the High Court of Justiciary, this day -- Four Catholics for attempting to murder a man for being a Protestant, at Queensferry -- Janet Ferguson, or Charters, for Robbery of jewels, pearls, diamonds. gold and silver plate, from General Sir James Gordon.' The sheet was published in 1833 by Forbes & Co. of the Cowgate, Edinburgh.

This broadside is almost identical to the court round-up features that appear in today's newspapers. The sheet starts by headlining the most sensational court cases, then lists the more mundane trials and sentences. Theft and housebreaking offences appear most frequently in the list, with transportation being the sentence that is usually handed down by the judge. The aim of the 'Criminal Code' (known as the 'Bloody Code' in England) in Scotland was to protect property and to provide the Establishment with cheap labour - hence the transportation sentences for theft. the 'Criminal Code' in Scotland lasted from about 1660 to 1850.

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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Date of publication: 1833   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.74(145)
Broadside entitled 'Trials and Sentences', Edinburgh, 1833
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