I have recently been researching the famous criminal Charles Peace. This has challenged my assumption that a legal system designed and developed by men was generally prejudiced against women.
On 13 January 1879 Peace’s wife Hannah appeared at the Old Bailey charged with receiving stolen goods. There is little doubt that she acted as a fence for her husband and moved the items in question from London to their Sheffield home after his arrest. It seemed like a straightforward case, but she was acquitted on the basis that she was presumed to be married to Peace and therefore was coerced by him. No certificate of the marriage has been found and she lived with Peace and his mistress who was introduced to everyone as his wife.
A few weeks later Charles Peace was condemned to death because a male jury believed the evidence of a woman against his.
Paul Williams is a writer of fiction and non-fiction best known for his Jack the Ripper Suspects: The Definitive Guide and Encyclopedia.