Being half Irish, I’ve had a couple of drinks in my time. And I thought I’d look at crimes committed over the centuries in London by people who were very, very drunk. And what happened to them!
DRUNK CRIMES: Insulting the king
On the 23 August 1676, a Scottish sailor was found guilty at the Old Bailey of uttering “wicked and detestable words” about King Charles II. He also said he hoped Britain would be damned and destroyed. Unfortunately, his ravings were heard by what the court described as a “Gentleman of Quality” and therefore he was put on trial.
This was a time when insulting the monarch could have very serious consequences. The man had just heard that the king’s barge had sailed past on the river Thames and this triggered a flow of expletives. And it was noted that he was extraordinarily drunk.
However, by the time he was in court, he was sobbing, claiming he had nothing against the king and pleading for Christian mercy. Luckily the judge just fined him.
DRUNK CRIMES: Shoplifting
In the same year, 1676, there’s an account of “two legerdemain ladies of profound experience in the mysteries of shoplifting”. What a great way of describing a couple of thieves! One of them had already been whipped “at the cart” in public but that didn’t stop them stealing some expensive callicoe.
Once caught, their excuse to avoid another whipping was that they had been absolutely drunk on brandy and no idea what they were doing. Regrettably for them, the judge decided that was no grounds for avoiding a guilty sentence.
DRUNK CRIMES: Slagging off the Protestant religion
In 1678, Matthew Momford committed the terrible crime of getting drunk and slagging off the Protestant religion. In strongly anti-Catholic England, this was a very grave offence. At this time, Jesuit and Catholic priests were still being hanged, drawn and quartered in London as agents of the Pope and traitors.
So Matthew was very unwise to get half cut on booze and loudly declare he was a “Papist” (Catholic) and that all Protestants should be burned. Once arrested and sober, Matthew declared that he was a good Protestant again and that his words had just been drunk rubbish.
The judge said he felt Matthew had no religion and only a hefty fine of one hundred pounds – a huge sum at that time – would bring him back to God. And until he could pay the fine, he’d be imprisoned. Plus he would have to show good behaviour for ten years.