Administrative Problems

On 22nd November, 1839, the Home Office issued Circular Number A.54368, the first “Instruction to Constables.” The circular consisted of five pages and the first part read:

“It is intended here to state such parts of the law relating to the Office of a Constable as may be sufficient for the general instruction of the Constables. 

Each individual will bear in mind the extreme importance of making himself perfectly acquainted with this subject; it is necessary to enable him, with due regard to his own safety, to act efficiently for the protection of the public. 

At the commencement of a new establishment it is more than necessary to take particular care that the constables do not form false notions of their duties and powers. 

The powers of the constable, as will appear hereafter, are, when properly understood and duly executed, amply sufficient for their purpose. 

He is regarded as the legitimate Peace Officer, both by Common Law and many Acts of Parliament, he is invested with considerable powers, and has imposed on him the discharge of many important duties.”

The instruction went on to describe felonies. powers to prevent felonies, felonies on the charge of another person, arrest at night, power to re-take prisoners who had escaped, and power to demand assistance. Definition of misdemeanour, power of arrest for assault committed within the constable’s view, prevention of breaches of the peace, indecent exposure, etc., were also included in the circular. All prisoners were required to be treated properly after arrest and constables were empowered to “use only such constraint upon him as may be necessary for his safe custody.” Constables were also empowered to apprehend and carry before the Justices any common prostitute wandering the streets, public highways or in a place of public resort and behaving in a riotous or indecent manner.

In 1840, the Petty Sessions were known as the Police Court, because they were held at the Police Office and also to distinguish the Borough Bench from the Petty Sessions held in the Borough by the county magistrates for the Newport district.

The borough magistrates were engaged in dealing with a wave of crime and vice. Some offenders were ordered to leave the town, serious crimes were dealt with by the offenders being sentenced to detention at the House of Correction at Usk ; others, first offenders, were merely given a severe reprimand. The action of the magistrates in ordering offenders to leave the town had a reverse effect, however, for they soon discovered that the Cardiff magistrates had adopted an identical system, which proved a nuisance. Licensees were frequently dealt with for selling beer out of hours on Sundays and for opening their beer houses before 5 a.m. 

So many cases had to be dealt with that the situation was really serious and the assistance of the county magistrates was sought to try cases of maintenance, and various nuisances occurring within the borough. 

In October, 1842. the borough justices “dismissed” Superintendent Hopkins and refused to allow the Town Clerk to see the depositions, but the Watch Committee reappointed the superintendent and nominated two borough justices to sanction the appointment. Before he was re-appointed he was reprimanded by the committee. It appears that two constables had alleged that he was under the influence of drink when he wrongly arrested one Daniel Lewis.

It was also alleged at this time by Mr James Brown, one of the members of the Council, that the magistrates’ clerks had for many years made false entries in the books, charging 14/- instead of 8/- fees in cases involving juveniles.

In 1848 and again in 1850 the question of appointing a stipendiary magistrate was considered but it was decided, on the ground of cost, not to make an appointment, but to pay a salary to the magistrates’ clerk. 

Dispute concerning Mr Charles Burton Fox, magistrates’ clerk, came to a head at a public meeting of the ratepayers of the borough on the 16th February, 1857, when it was resolved to request the councillors to take proceedings to test the validity of Mr Fox’s appointment. This resolution was brought before the town council in the following May, and led to an application being made to the court at the instance of the council.

On 30th May, 1857, an application was made to the court for a rule of criminal information against Mr Fox for holding the office, but it was refused.

On Friday, 29th January, 1858, another application in relation to Mr Fox was considered by a Court consisting of Lord Campbell, C.J., and other judges. A rule had been obtained calling on Charles Burton Fox to show cause why an information in the nature of a quo warranto should not be exhibited against him to show by what authority he claimed to exercise the office of clerk of the justices. Cause was, however, shown by the clerk, and after legal argument the Court decided that the rule should be discharged. In the course of the judgement, it was stated that the clerk was removable at pleasure and that quo warranto would not lie for an office of such a tenure.

In support of the rule it was said that in 1845 the justices had appointed Mr Fox clerk to the justices, that from 1852 he had carried on the business of attorney and solicitor in partnership with Charles Protheroe at Newport and that in 1848 Mr Protheroe had been appointed clerk of the peace for the county of Monmouth. It was suggested that Mr Fox, being clerk to the borough justices, was directly and indirectly interested in the prosecution of offenders committed for trial at the county Quarter Sessions and that fees received by Mr Protheroe as clerk of the peace for the county of Monmouth (including those received by him on the trial of the offenders committed by the justices of the borough for trial at the county Quarter Sessions) were either brought into the account as part of the receipts or gains and profits of the business of the solicitors or, if they were secured by Mr Protheroe alone, for his own use, Mr Protheroe had received a less share than he would of the gains or profit of the partnership. In answer, Mr Fox contended that neither he nor his partner Mr Protheroe were in any way directly or indirectly employed or concerned in the prosecution of such offenders. However, in the Watch Committee minutes of 9th June, 1858, appeared the following –

“The Queen v Fox”

“The committee having had their attention drawn to the notice of Certiorari of this Indictment and the rule granted for trying the issue before a special jury, consider that it would be desirable to avoid the unnecessary cost of a trial at Nisi Prius. This could be effected by Mr Fox consenting to a special verdict and thus bringing the matter immediately before the Court of the Queen’s Bench for its decision and the committee recommended that an application be made to the Justices for their cooperation with the Council to carry out the object in this mode suggested.

Henry Sheppard, 

Wm. Townsend, 

Thomas M. Llewellin, 

James Brown, 

Joseph Latch.”

The magistrates did not agree, however, and in their reply of 20th July, 1858, they stated “We decline to interfere with Mr Fox in the course in which he has been advised to adopt in his defence.” On 6th December, 1859, the notes of the trial, ” The Queen versus Fox” were read to the Watch Committee. They were told that the allegations against Mr Fox were being upheld by the Court of Error and Mr Fox had been disqualified from being clerk to the borough justices. The committee then decided that no fees were to be paid to the clerk in future and that the salary should not exceed £250 per annum. 

Fox attended a meeting of the magistrates, the Mayor not being present, and produced a deed of arrangement between him and his partner, Mr Protheroe, which, he contended, obviated his disqualification. The magistrates then decided to seek legal opinion on the legality of the deed.

On 31st December, 1859, the Watch Committee directed the Town Clerk to bring before the Queen ‘s Bench Division the conduct of the magistrates and Mr Fox, contending that the course taken by the magistrates was “in direct violation of the letter and spirit of the law.” 

A month later Mr Fox wrote giving the magistrates’ view of the case.

Touting for Prosecutions

In August, 1868, the Council was again very concerned with the administration of justice in the borough magistrates’ court and the Mayor was asked to convene a meeting of the magistrates. Apparently, all classes of the community were annoyed with the method employed in touting for business by legal representatives. However, very little improvement appears to have resulted from this meeting, and this state of affairs continued until the 18th July, 1871, when a special Watch Committee was held to investigate charges made by a Mr James Brown that between 1868 and 1871 Mr Fox had misappropriated monies in 223 cases. It was further reported that the magistrates had investigated the charges and proved them unfounded. 

The Chief Superintendent told the committee that in his absence on the previous Sunday Mr Brown had entered his office, forced a locked cupboard and taken certain books. The Committee strongly disapproved of Mr Brown’s action, but no action appears to have been taken against him.

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