Friday, 25 May 2012

The price of justice?

Now charged with murder, Beatrice and her family face a number of disadvantages, most significantly how -- in their generally impoverished state -- to pay for an adequate defence.

The following comes from a report in the Dean Forest Guardian that noted coverage of the case in other newspapers:

‘The “Daily Herald” raises the question of the cost of Mrs. Pace’s defence, and quotes her brother, Mr. Arnold Martin, as saying: “We want a good Counsel, but we are at our wits’ end to know where the money is to come from. What are we to do?”

Mr. Martin told a moving story of “the tragic widow’s” financial plight. “Often,” he said, “when I visited my sister since her trouble I have discovered that there was not a morsel of food in the house, and she did not possess a penny-piece to buy any. Out of my small earnings I have given anything from 2s. 6d. to 15s. to keep her and her children from starving, and my brother Fred has helped her likewise. It has been thought that my sister as bearing the costs of her solicitor, but this was an impossibility and all the law costs to date are being paid by me and my brother Fred.”

Dean Forest Guardian, 25 May 1928, p. 5

There was a legal aid programme already operating in this period, but in a complicated murder trial, it would not remotely have provided the defendant the resources that were available to the prosecution.

Beatrice would need a top-notch barrister to plead her case in court. Also, given that this was a poisoning case, expert witnesses would play an important role.

And they were not cheap.

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