[Reynoldsʼs Newspaper, 23. August 1868]

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Reynoldsʼs Newspaper. Nr. 941, 23. August 1868. S. 4.
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Under the heading “Convicted by Mistake,” the following extraordinary letter appears in the Western Morning News:

“Sir,—The two girls Evans and Selway, who were sent to the Exeter Reformatory for four years by a Devonport magistrate for stealing five baby napkins, have lately been liberated. Will it be credited that they were convicted by mistake? The girls pleaded “Not guilty,” but wished the magistrate to deal with the case summarily, in order to avoid a long imprisonment prior to the sessions. The girls themselves and the parents inform me that there was no evidence; but they believe, although they could not hear distinctly, that a policeman made some remark to the effect that one of the girls had confessed, or was going to confess; and this careless expression, which of course was not evidence, induced the magistrate to pass the heavy sentence. These children are really deserving of commiseration, for their sufferings were very severe during their solitary confinement in prison, where it was my duty to pay them a daily visit. But this is not all; there is another aspect. Society is interested in it. Where magistrates act irrespective of evidence the liberty of the subject is endangered. If I have been misinformed, and if the story is susceptible of an explanation, I shall be pleased to be set right. The Mayor was present, and also the magistrates’ clerk, who can readily refer to the depositions.

E. T. May.
Formerly Chaplain to the Devonport Gaol.”


  • Social cases. 1869