A Sad Case with a Humorous Sequel
ANN FLYNN was indicted at the Old Bailey for stealing from a butcher in Whitechapel a shoulder of mutton. It appeared in evidence that, the prosecutor being busy with his customers on a Saturday night, the prisoner availed herself of that opportunity, and carried away the shoulder of mutton. She was, however, soon seized and brought back, and, an officer being sent for, she was carried before a magistrate, and committed for trial. These facts being proved, the prisoner was called upon for her defence; and she told a tale of woe that penetrated every heart. She acknowledged the robbery; but solemnly declared she was urged to it by the most afflicting distress. Her husband had been ill and unable to earn a shilling for twelve weeks, and she was driven to the last extremity, with two infant children. In that deplorable situation, continued the unfortunate woman, while the tears ran down her wan cheeks, she desperately snatched the shoulder of mutton -- for which she had already been confined five weeks.
The jury found her guilty, with a faltering accent; and the recorder immediately replied, "Gentlemen, I understand you," and sentenced her to be fined only one shilling and discharged, which the jury themselves paid, but the officer of the prison gave it to her.
This case, if the extremity of the law had been resorted to, was felony.
As soon as she was taken away, the prosecutor addressed the Court, and said that the constable had done him more injury than the thief; for though Sir William Parsons, the magistrate that committed her, had ordered him to take care of the shoulder of mutton, he thought fit to cook it for his own dinner, and to sit down and eat it.
[This new complaint, as might naturally be supposed, excited not a little the risible muscles of the Court.]
The constable was immediately called upon to account for his conduct, who said: "My Lord, I did take care of it, as ordered; I kept it whilst it was worth keeping, and if my wife and I had not eaten it, the dogs must have dined on it."