Policeman Charged with Homophobic Abuse, 1857

Summary: David Truncheon prosecutes a police constable for calling him filthy names and harassment at his workplace, a beerhouse. "It was admitted that Truncheon had been tried and imprisoned in 1852 for a nameless offence, but it was urged that, having suffered for his misconduct, he ought not to be again taunted about it." His case against the policeman was dismissed, but it is interesting to find this early example of someone officially objecting to homophobia.

10 August 1852

David Truncheon, labourer, 20, was charged with having, at Croydon, committed an unnatural offence. A boy of the name of David John Moore, was also indicted. The case occupied the court until 12 o'clock, Mr Robinson being for the prosecution, and Mr Locke and Mr Lilley for the prisoners. The elder prisoner was found guilty of a minor offence, and was sentenced to a year's imprisonment. Moore being under age, was discharged. (Sussex Advertiser)

24 October 1857

SATURDAY, October 17th. – Before T. Byron, Esq. (Chairman); J. W. Sutherland, and S. Gurney, Esqrs.
          W. McArthur, 145 P, appeared before the Bench under the following circumstances:– David Truncheon, beerhouse-keeper, Shirley, called on Inspector Fraser, at the police station, and said he wished to report McArthur for using disgusting language towards him. The inspector asked Truncheon if he wished the case to be heard before the magistrates, and the reply being in the affirmative, Mr. Fraser applied to the police commissioners, who gave permission for the policeman to appear before the magistrates, and answer any complaint that might be preferred.
          Mr. Everest appeared for the defendnat. The charge appeared to be that the policeman had called him by a very disgusting name, and took off his coat to fight complainant. It was admitted that complainant had been tried and imprisoned for a nameless offence, but it was urged that, having suffered for his misconduct, he ought not to be again taunted about it. Evidence having been heard in support of the charge, Mr. Everest elicited by cross-examination the fact that complainant's house is frequented by men of notoriously bad character, and that the policeman, by watching them, had rendered himself very obnoxious to such characters.
          A man named Walden, who has been frequently before the Bench, was the last witness examined in support of the case. He said he had been drinking, but was not drunk.
          Mr. Everest admitted the importance of the inquiry, but contended that the charge had been trumped up against the defendant, who was a terror to evil-doers in that neighbourhood, which had unfortunately become so notorious for bad characters that the inspector had felt compelled to station a man upon the spot, and in doing so had selected one of the best-conducted men in the force. With one exception only, the whole of the witnesses called to prove the case were either convicted or suspected persons.
          Inspector Fraser deposed that McArthur was one of the best men in the force under his control. Had never heard him accused of using bad language. The house of Truncheon is the resort of bad characters, and caused much trouble to the police.
          The Chairman said the Bench did not consider the case proved against the policeman; it was therefore dismissed.
          Truncheon was then called upon to pay 30s. 6d. costs. (Croydon Chronicle)

24 October 1857

UNFOUNDED CHARGE AGAINST A POLICEMAN. – DAVID TRUNCHEON, whose mother keeps a beer-shop called "The Full Moon," at Shirley, appeared before the bench to-day to complain of the conduct towards him of Wm. M'Arthur, P.C., 145 P. Mr. Everest defended, and
          Inspector Fraser stated that by his desire M'Arthur appeared without summons.
          Truncheon stated that on Sunday night, the 4th of October, between nine and ten o'clock, M'Arthur came to his mother's house, called him every vile name he could put his tongue to, and pulled off his coat and offered to fight him. He had several witnesses who would prove what M'Arthur had said and done, and the manner in which he had been treated by him.
          Barnard Parfitt stated that he was a carpenter at Shrley, and brother-in-law to David Truncheon. He went to the house kept by his wife's mother, together with some friends, on Sunday evening, the 4th of October, and while there he heard M'Arthur call Truncheon the names he had stated.
          Three other witnesses swore to the language M'Arthur used towards him. One of them, a man named Jas. Waldron, was asked by Mr. Byron if Truncheon was drunk, and, after a little hesitation, he admitted that he was rather fresh.
          Mr. Byron – We can never get the definition of drunkenness here.
          Waldron – I consider a man drunk when he tries to light his pipe at a pump (roars of laughter).
          Mr. Everest said that Shirley was one of the most disorderly districts in the nighbourhood of Croydon, and it had been found necessary by the inspector of police to place one of the most resolute and well-conducted constables there to prevent outrages and disturbances. M'Arthur had been selected for this post, and had been placed in a cottage exactly opposite the house kept by the mother of the complainant, and by his diligence in the discharge of hs duties he had rendered himself obnoxious not only to Truncheon but the whole of the parties who frequented this ill-conducted house, and this charge was trumped up against him for the purpose, if possible, to get rid of him. Everything had been done by Truncheon and those who frequented the house to induce M'Arthur to neglect his duty and to commit himself by drinking while on his beat, and failing in that, they thought to get rid of him by this charge. The duty that M'Arthur had to perform was not a very pleasant one nor unattended with risk, for some time ago in this very neighbourhood an attempt was made to stab a policeman. As to the filthy and infamous language that M'Arthur was charged with using, he would call inspector Fraser, who would state to the bench what his opinions were of M'Arthur, and who would, he believed, state that he had never heard him make use of a bad or obscene word. With the exception of Barnard Perfitt, who had the misfortune to marry the sister of Truncheon, all the witnesses were of notoriously bad character, and under such circumstances he had no doubt the bench would, after hearing what inspector Fraser had to say, dismiss the complaint and saddle the party making it with the costs.
          Inspector Fraser stated that M'Arthur had been in the police force upwards of three years. He considered him one of his best constables; he was a very active officer, and had shown himself at Shirley very zealous in his performance of his duties. He had never heard him make use of bad language and believed him incapable of it. He had been to Shirley several times himself, and had cautioned Trunchon against the manner in which the house had been conducted, and told him the police, to whom he had given great touble, would keep a strict eye upon him. He believed that everyting had been done to induce M'Arthur to swerve from his duty, and failing in that this charge had been brought against him.
          Mr. Byron – The bench considering that the charge is not proved dismiss it with costs 13s. 6d.
          Truncheon and his four witnesses mustered up the money among them, and left the court in a very thoughtful mood. (Sussex Agricultural Express)

SOURCE: Various newspapers, dates as given.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "Policeman Charged with Homophobic Abuse, 1857", Homosexuality in Nineteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 29 September 2020 <http://rictornorton.co.uk/eighteen/1857trun.htm>.

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