CRIME IN OLD ROTHERHAM: The Crimes of PC Ward

ON Monday May 17 1847 the constable of Kimberworth was a man called William Ward of Masbrough.

The first witness against him was a woman called Ann Newton, a widow of Burgess Street, Sheffield. She claimed that on March 18 1847 she had laid information against three men named John Hartley, John Cooper and Joseph Dickinson in front of magistrate Henry Walker Esq.

Ann stated that they had assaulted her on the previous Tuesday, with an intent to commit a rape. After hearing her evidence Mr Walker had issued the warrant for the apprehension of the men which she gave it to Ward the constable to execute. On the Wednesday she had gone with Ward to Rawmarsh in search of the three men, only to find they had all absconded. Ward and Ann returned back to Rotherham and informed the magistrate Mr Walker.

Continuing with her statement she said that on the journey back to Rotherham they had discussed expenses and Ward told her that he had already advanced 4s on her behalf for the clerk’s fee to make out the warrant.

When asked by one of the magistrates, she stated that she had never given Ward permission to act for her in this matter, and that she had received nothing from the constable.

On April 22 she went to see the him at his house in Masbrough and asked Ward why the men had still not been apprehended. Ward told her that he had been instructed by Mr Walker ‘not to put the warrant into force, because he thought the evidence would not be sufficient to make out the charge’. It seems that after listening to Ann Newton’s accusations Mr Walker had made enquiries and had since found out that the area in which the assault had taken place was full of houses. Therefore he had reduced the charge to one of assault only, and that was the reason that the warrant had been withheld. The constable then told her that nevertheless he would try to get her some compensation of between four or five shillings and her expenses from the three accused men as compensation.

He ordered her not to go to see the men herself, as he did not wish them to know that Mr Walker had discharged him from executing the warrant. She told the court that she would have been satisfied if the three men had paid the expenses, and gave her a trifle extra to pay for the clothes which they had torn.

Another witness was a butcher called William Whitehead, who gave evidence that he had gone to see Ward after a visit from one of the accused men (John Hartley’s) mother. She had asked him to go and ‘make it up’ with Ward for the offence, and asked what was the least amount of money that the victim would settle for. She had also asked him for the name of the victim, but Ward would not tell her. However he assured Whitehead that it had been ‘a very bad assault, but he would engage to settle the matter for £3 in compensation’.

In the meantime Daniel Dickinson, the brother of one of the other accused men Joseph, also went looking for Ward in order to find out what amount the victim would settle for. He found him in a beer house in Bridgegate. Ward told him that the victim had agreed on £3 compensation, but Dickenson told him that ‘it was too much, as the lads had to work hard for their money, and he must try to take something less’. Ward agreed to reduce it by five shillings and after consultation with the other accused men Dickinson paid him. The witness told the magistrates that he hoped the money would satisfy the woman, and the case against his brother would be closed. However he had since learned that the compensation had not been paid.

The court was cleared in order that the matter could be discussed between the magistrates. When the prisoner was brought back into the court, Mr Walker told him: “William Ward, you have been charged with a very serious offence. The office of constable is one of great responsibility and persons so employed must be possessed of every good quality necessary to make a wise and discreet man. The bench of magistrates are always determined to support a policeman in the execution of his duty, but when a man has so thoroughly forgotten himself we should be remiss in our duties if we did not punish you.”

He then told Ward that he would be fined 40s and discharged him from his office.