21 December 1888
The boy of eleven who was accused of the murder of a child still younger at Havant has been acquitted. This must bring a sense of relief to the minds of all who have read of the case. The suggestion underlying the prosecution was that the sensational murders in Whitechapel had spread a poisonous influence that had extended even to children, and was insinuating into minds that should be innocent ideas of horrible crime. Had the case against Husband been less weak than it was, Mr. Mathews, who defended his child client so well, might have counted much on the natural indisposition of any jury to convict a person of such tender years. As things were, the verdict of "Not Guilty" was the only one that could be anticipated. Any other verdict would have demanded as its foundation evidence amounting to absolute certainty; and even then the law, as laid down by Mr. Justice Stephen, provided for the jury a way of avoiding conviction. They had to be satisfied that the boy stabbed the other; but they also to be sure that, at his age, he knew the gravity of his act. They had not even evidence to satisfy them on the first point. There is only one unsatisfactory feature in this result. It leaves in doubt and mystery the death of the child Searle.