Criminal Case Documents


Documents relating to criminal cases can often provide genealogists and family historians a fascinating insight into the life of their family, regardless if the subject of the case is a victim, witness, police officer, court official, or indeed, a suspect or offender!


The "Halifax Case" is an example of who criminal case documents can enhance the story of our ancestors.

Criminal case paperwork can be found in both local and national history archives. The paperwork can give genealogists an interesting insight into their ancestors past, be they a victim of crime or an offender!

An example of such paperwork is the case against George Reid for begging and assault that occurred at 32 Hyde Park Road, Halifax, West Yorkshire in October 1910. Just before 7pm, on Wednesday 26th October 1910, Mrs Sarah Elizabeth Bentley, a widow, returned to her home at 32 Hyde Park Road, Halifax. In the paperwork Mrs Bentley explained what had happened,

"I was returning home from an errand and reaching my house I noticed a man loitering around. Being rather afraid to enter the house alone I went next door where my parents reside and my mother came with me and we entered my house together. No sooner had I shut the door and made a light that I heard a knock at the door. On opening it I found it was the same man. He asked for a drink of water. I [got] a cup of water and also a bun and handed them to him. We both stood watching him eat it. I noticed his hand shaking and [it] happening to be in a stormy condition I said ,"Don't drink that, or to wait I will make you a cup of coco. I went to do so but in going I took a penny out of my purse and put the purse down on the table. Then I went through the dining room into the scullery to put some water on the stove to make the coco".

In her statement of evidence, Mrs Martha Freeman, the mother of Mrs Sarah Elizabeth Bentley, explains in detail what happened when her daughter returned from the scullery,

"[When] he saw her he rushed past me and knocked my daughter into a draw. I ran to my daughter's assistance to pull him off and in the attempt to rescue her and prevent the assault we all then were rolled onto the floor. We screamed for help, but no one came, so eventually my daughter got the poker and knocked the wall for my husband next door to come".

Mr Josiah Freeman, Mrs Freeman's husband, and Mrs Bentley's father said,

"I was sitting in my house and was summoned from my daughter next door by knocks at the wall. I did not go immediately as I did not of course realise what was the matter. when I got to my daughters house I heard screams. I entered and found my wife and my daughter struggling with the man still in the dining room but near to the door and my wife on the floor. I held him along with my daughter and my wife went outside for assistance".

The paperwork shows that Police Constable 80 Sutcliffe arrived and George Reid was taken into custody. The legal paperwork states that George Reid was 30 years old, a stone mason, of no fixed abode.

The begging complaint against George Reid was made by Halifax Borough Council, and the complaint of assault by Mr Freeman, and both parties were represented in court by Mr Samuel Freeman, a solicitor from Sowerby Bridge.

George Reid initially appeared in court the following day. Included in the legal paperwork is a newspaper cutting from the Halifax Evening Courier, dated Thursday 27th October 1910. The newspaper article reads,


Before Mr T. Collinson (in the chair), and other magistrates.


George Reid, a stone mason, of no fixed abode was charged with begging yesterday in Hyde Park Road. As there was another charge to be brought against [the] defendant he was remanded until Saturday.

The case was heard on Saturday 29th October 1910. The legal paperwork states that submissions should be made in relation to the begging then the assault on a female, "of a fiendish nature after being served with food".

George Reid was convicted of begging and common assault. His sentence for begging was one month hard labour, and his sentence for assault, two months hard labour, and the sentences to run consecutively.

Included with the legal paperwork is a receipt for the hearing costs. Receipt number 19322 shows that on the 29th October 1910 Mr Freeman paid the Magistrates Court Office, County Borough of Halifax 4s 6d, in respect of the hearing costs.

But which Mr Freeman paid the court fees? 

Readers with an eye for detail will have noticed that the solicitor presenting the case, Mr Samuel Freeman has the same surname as the witnesses, Mr & Mrs Freeman. This is because Mr Samuel Freeman was the son of Mr & Mrs Freeman, and the brother of Mrs Sarah Elizabeth Bentley!

The case would obviously be of great interest to any genealogist who wanted to obtain a more in depth insight into the lives of their ancestors. Are these people related to you?

Mrs Sarah Elizabeth Bentley (maiden name Freeman) was born in 1872 in Southowram, West Yorkshire. The 1911 England census shows her as running a boarding house at 32 Hyde Park Road, Halifax. Her marital status is shown as a widow. She had married James Tasker Bentley in 1905, but after just about two years of marriage he died, on the 10th April 1907, aged 35 years old.

Mr Josiah Freeman was born in 1842 in Southowram, West Yorkshire. The 1911 census shows him residing at 23 Woodbine Terrace, Halifax, a property adjoining 32 Hyde Park Road. The various censuses during his lifetime show him as a tea dealer, coffee roaster and a warehouse man. He died on the 10th October 1929.

Mrs Martha Freeman (maiden name Garforth) was born in 1841 in Halifax, West Yorkshire. She also resided at 23 Woodbine Terrace. She died on the 28th March 1913.

Mr Samuel Freeman was born in 1874 in Southowram, West Yorkshire. In the 1911 census he is shown as practicing as a solicitor and as residing in Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire. Hopefully, at some time in the future, I will have more time to research the offender, George Reid. If you know anything about him, please let me know!