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9 - The Misbegotten: Infanticide in Victorian England

from Part II - Court Reform on Trial

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 April 2019

Rosann Greenspan
University of California, Berkeley
Hadar Aviram
University of California, Hastings College of the Law
Jonathan Simon
University of California, Berkeley
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In February 1829, Harriet Farrell, aged seventeen, found herself on trial in the Old Bailey (the central criminal court of London), charged with “the willful murder of her bastard child.” Harriet was a servant, in the household of Jonathan Cook, a “trunk-maker.” Cook’s wife had asked her repeatedly if she was in the “family way”; but Harriet had always denied it. She denied giving birth, too; but the Cooks were suspicious, and they found the body of a baby in the privy. At this point, Harriet ended up in the hands of the law, charged with murder. But when she was tried in the Old Bailey, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. They did find Harriet guilty of a lesser crime, concealing the birth of a child, and she was sentenced to a year in prison.

The Legal Process and the Promise of Justice
Studies Inspired by the Work of Malcolm Feeley
, pp. 172 - 190
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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