Suffragettes April 4 1913




The trial of Mr. Pankhurst, the Suffragist leader, concluded yesterday in the Central Criminal Court before Mr. Justice Lush and a jury. The defendant was found guilty, with a recommendation to mercy, and she was sentenced to three years` penal servitude. The charge against the prisoner was “That you, on the day of January this year, and on other days between that day and the 19th of February of this year, feloniously did counsel, procure, move, incite and command certain persons unknown to commit felony; that is to say, to place in a certain building in the Parish of Walton a certain quantity of gunpowder with intent to destroy the said building.” In a second count she was charged with inciting persons to place the gunpowder in the building with intent to damage it, and there were other counts varying the indictment.

Mr. A. H. Bodkin and Mr. Travers Humphreys prosecuted, and Mrs. Pankhurst, who conducted her own defence, was assisted by her solicitor Mr. Marshall. There was again a crowded attendance in court.

Detective Renshaw, the Scotland Yard reporter who attended Mrs. Pankhurst`s meetings, entered the witness-box, and some time was occupied by counsel in the reading of witness’s reports of defendant’s speeches. In one of these Mrs. Pankhurst protested against the attempt made by the police to take by force the finger prints of one of the Suffragists, who gave the name of Miss James.
The defendant [to the witness]: Were you aware at the time or are you aware that the lady who called herself “Miss James” was Miss Forbes Robertson?
The Judge – I cannot see, Mrs. Pankhurst, what such questions as that have got to do with it. They do not throw any light on the question.

   Mr. Edward James, journalist, of Cardiff produced his notes of a speech delivered by Mr. Pankhurst at Cardiff on February 19. It was in this speech that defendant said: “Now we have blown up Mr. Lloyd George’s house – we have tried blowing him up to wake his conscience.

The case for the prosecution was concluded with Chief Inspector Mr. Brien`s evidence as to the arrest of Mr. Pankhurst.

Mrs. Pankhurst, who said she would call not witnesses, then addressed the jury. She had, she said, been in prison three times, and she understood that the maximum punishment for her on the present occasion was fourteen years` penal servitude. She indignantly denied that Suffragists were making incomes of £1,000 and £1,500 yearly out of the agitation, and asserted that she had surrendered a considerable part of her income in its interests. Although prepared to accept responsibility for every one of the speeches she had made, and accept responsibility for the incitement with which she was charged, she said that, looking at what she had done from the highest standpoint of justice, she was not guilty of having wickedly or maliciously incited women to break the law as regarded women was so intolerable that Suffragists felt justified in using very strong methods indeed in order to get the power to right it. Her late husband – with whom she lived in perfect harmony and comradeship – was a barrister, and she had, therefore had the opportunity of learning a good deal more about the administration of the law than ordinary average women had. An Assize was opened on one occasion, and the next morning one the Judges of Assize for a certain reason did not take his place in Court. There were being tried at those Assizes cases of wretched men charged with horrible offences against women-
The Judge – Mrs Pankhurst, I am very loath to interrupt you, but there must be some limit to the proprieties to be observed by a person in your position. The only question we are concerned with is, are you or are you not guilty of the offences charged against you, and I must really ask you to observe the proper decorum which is incumbent upon you.
Mrs. Pankhurst – I cannot accept you as a judge of what is decorum on my part. It must be pretty obvious to you that I am not saying these things in any light spirit. After all, you, my Lord, and the gentlemen of the jury are probably going to send me to what, in all possibility, will be my death, and I ask you to indulge me.
The Judge – I cannot allow you to travel into questions of personalities in regard to distinguished people, which I gather is what you are doing, and which has no possible bearing on this question.. I have not stopped you in your inveighing against the law of the country, but you are not to be allowed to enter into questions which have no possible bearing upon this case. Anything you think fit to say with regard to the questions in which the jury are concerned, by all means say it and at any length you please.
Mrs Pankhurst disputed his Lordship’s ruling, and the Judge informed her, in reply to her question, that it was immaterial what her motive was for committing the crime. He added that the word “wickedly” was not in the indictment.

 Mrs Pankhurst said that the word “maliciously” would serve her purpose. She was endeavouring to satisfy the Court that she was not in any way influenced or actuated by any malicious feeling towards any person whatever, not even towards those persons namely, members of the Government. She was charged with inciting , but she and those associated with her had been directly incited by members of the Government. How was it if she was to be punished for inciting women to those deeds of violence that the members of his Majesty’s Government were not in the dock by her side, for they were guilty with her? Mr. Hobhouse said that women should not have the vote until they had done the things that men did in their agitation and there were other people who ought to be there with her. Even within the last few days speeches had been made about Ulster by members of the Opposition boasting that the men of that Province were drilling in clubs, and preparing for civil war. Threats were being issued that Ireland was to be drowned in blood if the Home Rule Bill was passed on an unwilling people. And yet these people, who were inciting in this way, were not in the position she was in. The reason was that they were voters; they had constitutional rights. She then proceeded to state in more definite terms her reference to the Assize Judge which had previously brought down upon her the Judge’s rebuke.
The Judge [interrupting] – I think you have been guilty of most shameful want of decorum. You have not loyalty abided by the direction I gave you, Mrs. Pankhurst. You are doing yourself no good, let me tell you.
The defendant alluded to inequalities between sentences of men and women, and having described the sufferings of her daughter, who was recently released from Holloway after some weeks of forcible feeding, asked if the jury were prepared to follow on with this sort of thing indefinitely. If they found her guilty she would tell them quite honestly and frankly, whether the sentence was long or short, when should not submit, and from the moment she left that Court, if she was sent to prison, she should quite deliberately refuse to eat food, and join the women already in Holloway in the hunger strike. She should come out of prison, dead or alive, at the earliest possible moment, and, once out, as soon as she was physically fit she should enter into this fight again.

The Judge, in the course of his summing up, remarked that it was scarcely necessary for him to state that the topics urged by the defendant in her address with regard to the imperfection of the laws of this country and the injustice done to women had no bearing upon the question that the jury had to decide. Whether the laws were just or unjust in confining the power to vote to men was not relevant to the question, but if the jury were in doubt – notwithstanding the address they had just heard – the defendant was entitled to the benefit of it.

The jury retired at 1.30 Just after their departure from the box, Miss Adela Pankhurst came to the front of the dock. His Lordship said he understood that Mrs. Pankhurst had not seen her daughter for some time and that she would like to have a chat with her, and so to enable her to do this he would adjourn the Court for a time, and this was accordingly done. The jury only remained absent during the adjournment. Their verdict was “Guilty, with a strong recommendation to mercy.

Previous convictions having been proved, the defendant was asked whether she had anything to say.

Mrs. Pankhurst said that she had only this to say: If it was impossible for a different verdict to be found, if it was his Lordship’s duty to sentence her as he would do presently, then, she declared, it was the duty of the Judge and jury as private citizens to do what they could to put an end to this intolerable state of affairs. Whatever the sentence she should do what was humanly possible to terminate that sentence at the earliest possible moment. She felt she had been doing her duty. She looked upon herself as a prisoner of war, and she was under no moral obligation to conform or consent in any way to the sentence imposed upon her. She should take the desperate step other women had taken It was obvious that the struggle would be a very unequal one, but she would make it as long as she had strength or life left in her. She should fight from the moment she entered the prison to struggle against overwhelming odds. She was not repining about the punishment. She had invited it – her speeches had invited it. She deliberately broke the law, not hysterically, not emotionally, but of wet, serious purpose because she honestly felt it was the only way. To the women that she represented, and who, in response to her incitement, had faced these terrible consequences and had broken the law – she wanted to say she was going to-day not to fail them, but to face this as they faced it – to go through with it. She knew they would go on with this fight. Whether she lived or died, this movement would go on until women had the rights of citizenship in this country as they had in our Colonies, and as they would have all over the civilised world before this woman’s war is ended.

The Judge [addressing the prisoner], said: It is my duty, and a very painful duty it is, to pass what, in my opinion, is the suitable and adequate sentence to the crime of which you have been most properly convicted, paying regard to the strong recommendation of mercy by the jury. I quite recognise, and I have already said it, that the motives that have actuated you in committing this crime are not the selfish motives which actuate most persons who stand in your position. But although you blind your eyes to it, I cannot help pointing out to you that the crime of which you have been convicted is not only a very serious one, but, in spite of your motives, it is in fact, a wicked one. It is wicked because it not only leads to the destruction of property of persons who have done you no wrong, but, in spite of your calculations, it was a crime which might have exposed other people to the danger of being maimed or even killed, if things went otherwise than was expected. It is wicked because you are, and have been, luring other people – young women it may be – to engage in such crimes, you cannot help being alive to it if you will only think, you are setting an example to other persons who may have other grievances that they legitimately may want to have put right to embark in a similar scheme to yours to try to effect their object by attacking property, if not the lives of other people. I know, unfortunately, that you pay no heed to what I say. I only beg of you to think of these things.
Mrs. Pankhurst – I have thought, my Lord,
The Judge – Think of them one short hour dispassionately. The sentence must be a severe one; it must be adequate for the crime of which you have been convicted. I can only say this – that if you would only realise the wrong you are doing, the mistake you are making, see the error you have committed and undertake to amend matters by using your influence in the right direction. I would be the first to use my best endeavours to bring about a mitigation of the sentence I am about to pass. I cannot, and will not regard your crime as a merely trivial one. It is not. It is a most serious one, and as I said before, whatever you may think, it is a wicked one. I pay regard to the recommendation of the jury. You yourself have stated the maximum sentence which this particular offence, by the Legislature, is thought to deserve or thought may deserve. The least sentence I can pass upon you is a sentence of three years` penal servitude.

Women sprang to their feet, crying “Shame” and “We’ll keep the flag flying,” and for several seconds the hubbub was deafening. When his voice could be heard, the Judge said: “As many of the women in Court have chosen to behave in this indecent and indecorous manner, I shall have the Court cleared before I take the next case.” This announcement was the signal for a further outbreak on the part of the women, who began to sing the Marseillaise, and could not be ejected from the Court for some minutes. Their conduct drew a further protest from the Judge, who said: “If any of you repeat this conduct I shall consider the question of committing you to prison. I will not have the Court turned into such an indecent exhibition.” Later his Lordship added: “After what has just occurred I shall give directions to those in charge of the Court that no women are to be allowed into this Court without special permission. I will not allow this Court to be the disgrace it was a moment ago.

Mrs. Pankhurst heard the sentence calmly, and was loudly cheered by her supporters as she passed from the dock. The prisoner left the Old Bailey for Holloway Gaol at three o`clock, and her departure in a closed cab, in which she was accompanied by two wardresses, was almost unnoticed, thanks to a police ruse, which kept the crowd of between 200 and 300 people waiting outside the prisoners` main entrance on the Ludgate-hill side of the Court. At 2.45 the cab drove through the entrance, and a little later, while the crowd remained in that vicinity, the vehicle, with Mrs. Pankhurst and her two custodians, emerged from the Newgate-street entrance, and was driven hurriedly away towards Holloway.

Miss ANNIE KENNEY, speaking to a rather small audience at the usual weekly meeting of the Women’s Social and Political Union in the Essex Hall last night said that if Mrs. Pankhurst were sent to three years` penal servitude for inciting their members to destroy property, why were Mr. F.E. Smith and Sir Edward Carson, who had not only incited their followers to destroy property, but human life, allowed to go free? She wondered if the Judge, when summing up and when passing sentence realised that instead of stopping the agitation to win the vote he was only fanning the flame. [Cheers.] This they think that because Mrs. Pankhurst was not present they were all going to sit down like a flock of sheep till she came out? No, militancy would go on; it would be more furious than ever. Mr. Bodkin had said that the situation was becoming intolerable. That was what they set out to do, to make public life intolerable until the Government of the day brought in a Bill to enfranchise women. Many more people would join them as militants as a result of the trial, and they would show the Government that, though their leader was in prison and no longer making speeches to rouse them, they would keep the flag flying, and would send a defiant message to the Government that until their leader and other Suffrage prisoners sere let out they would go from bad to worse. [Cheers.]

Speaking again at a later stage, Miss KENNEY asked those who were righteously indignant at Mrs. Pankhurst`s long sentence to show by some defiant action before 24 and 48 hours were over what they felt. They all knew what they could do; they all knew what they ought to do: and they all knew that when they had done it they had to get away and do it again. [Cheers.]



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