At June’s meeting we welcomed author Peter Maggs who explained that whilst in the course of researching his family history he discovered the fascinating story of a court case involving a distant relative, the Rev. Henry Hatch. His interest in the case formed the basis of his book ”Henry’s Trials: The extraordinary history of the Reverend Henry John Hatch”.
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The next meeting will be held at Diss United Reformed Church on July 5th commencing at 10.30am. The guest speaker will be local artist Judith Key who will be giving a talk entitled “A funny thing happened on my way to the coast”.
The trial in 1859 was heard at The Old Bailey where Hatch was accused of indecently assaulting two young sisters whilst in his care. The prosecution’s case relied solely on the verbal testimony of the girls, seven year old Stephana and eleven year old Eugenia Plummer. Hatch protested his innocence but hampered by an inept defence team and the law that prohibited both him and his wife from giving evidence Hatch was found guilty and sentenced to four years hard labour with no right to appeal.
Fortunately for Hatch his friends and the press took up his cause, raising funds and a petition to ask for a Royal Pardon. After serving 191 days in Newgate Prison he was released and a further court case was held, this time 12 year old Eugenia found herself in the dock accused of conspiring with her mother and sister to commit perjury.
Further trials followed with Hatch attempting to obtain justice and compensation for his ordeal. Unfortunately these hearings met with little sympathy from the judiciary at the time.
Eventually Hatch and his wife moved away but the toll on his reputation and finances were never to recover.
The picture that Peter Maggs paints of those involved in the legal system of 19th Century England highlights a frightening process and those expecting a fair trial could just as easily receive criminal injustice.