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100 years ago: Match-making in court

20 February 2008

February 21st, 1908.

SO FREQUENT has become the practice in police-courts of arranging marriages that the Howard Association is vigorously denouncing it. Mr T. Holmes, the Secretary of the Association, whose work is well-known and beyond all praise, cites some painful examples of the results of magisterial meddling with things which do not concern the Bench. Thus, a few months ago, a girl was charged with neglecting her illegitimate child. A stranger in court offering to marry the girl, the magistrate stopped the case, and contributed a sum of money towards defraying the marriage expenses. Result, very unhappy domestic relations. A young man stands committed for the murder of his wife, and it came out at the inquest that the marriage had been arranged by a police-court missionary. In a third case a girl, who had been violently assaulted by her lover, of whom she was in constant terror, was put into an embarrassing position by the presiding magistrate at Quarter Sessions, who told her that the man had offered to marry her, and, if she consented, the court would deal with the prisoner more leniently. To save the man, she did consent, and as she and the prisoner left the court, the latter was benignly admonished: “Don’t knock her about any more. Take her away and be good to her.” A worse case is that in which ruffians frequent the courts, offering marriage to female prisoners, with the object of forcing them to lead immoral lives and living on their earnings. “Experience”, says Mr Holmes, “has shown that almost all such ‘engineered’ marriages turn out badly.”

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