A case for pity and not for punishment

Hertfordshire Mercury, 27th November 1915


At Hertfordshire Assizes on Monday, Lizzie Pike (48), pleaded guilty to committing bigamy by marrying Herbert Richard Kett, of Hitchin, a painter, on January 9 last, her lawful husband being then alive.  Mr E. H . Tindal Atkinson appeared for the prosecution, and Mr W. C. Bernard for the defendant.

Mr Tindal Atkinson said there were some very unusual features about the case.  The defendant was originally a domestic servant in the Pike family, and the son of her employer, Edwin Pike, desired to marry her, but there was opposition on the part of the parents, and so the marriage took place secretly at Paddington in June 1891.  They did not live together in the same house afterwards, but her husband visited her on frequent occasions.   The curious thing about the case was that though the husband lived with his brother until 1908 the latter did not know of the marriage until these proceedings.  In 1908 the defendant’s husband was admitted to Brookwood Asylum, and in the following year was transferred to Epsom Asylum, where he still remained.  The brother used to receive letters from the defendant, and according to her own statement she knew that her husband was in the asylum.  Then when she met Kett last year at Arlesey he proposed marriage to her.  She told him that her husband was still alive and in an asylum.  A few days afterwards Kett informed her that a solicitor at Hitchin, Mr Passingham, had told him that a marriage between them would be all right under the circumstances.  Knowing Mr Passingham, counsel said he did not think he would tender any such advice, so that possibly all the blame for this trouble rested upon the man Kett.  Anyhow, they were married at Biggleswade in January of this year, and the defendant described herself as a widow.  That was an untrue statement, of course, but there was nothing to be said against this woman’s character, and as soon as she found out she had done wrong , perhaps in ignorance, she left Kett and had not lived with him since.

The Judge: ‘I see the first marriage was in 1891, and the husband’s incarceration in the asylum was 17 years afterwards.  Did they not live together all that time?’

Mr Tindal Atkinson: ‘No, I think not.  According to the defendant’s own evidence she says: ‘I never lived with my first husband, and I have not seen him for 13 or 14 years’.’

The Judge: ‘So that their relations terminated after three or four years?’

Mr Tindal Atkinson: ‘Yes.’

Mr Bernard, on behalf of the defendant, pleaded for leniency, stating that the defendant had committed this crime entirely in ignorance.  She had entirely broken off her relations with the man Kett, and was even desirous of protection from his importunities.  The first marriage resulted in two children, and she supported them with the help of her husband for a time, but afterwards by her own efforts.

Thirteen or fourteen years ago she lost touch with him entirely, and could not find out where he was.  That went on until five or six years ago when one of her children, the son, wanted to get married, and she sent him to her husband’s brother to get information about his father.  It was then that she found her husband was in the asylum.  It was an additionally sad fact that the son was now in an asylum.  The daughter was in domestic service.  The defendant bore a good character, and as a mother had done her duty by her children.  She was misled into doing what was illegal by the misrepresentation of Kett, but she did it entirely in ignorance.

The Judge said it was necessary to bring this charge against the defendant to vindicate the laws of marriage, but hers was a case deserving of sympathy and pity rather than punishment.  Both the prosecution and her own counsel had urged that she had acted in ignorance rather than with any intention to violate the law.

He accepted that view with the more satisfaction to himself and the administration of justice, because the defendant seemed to have been a respectable woman.  She would be bound over in the sum of £20 to come up for judgement if called upon, and to be of good behaviour in the meantime.

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