The Brutality of night-constables and watchmen in this metropolis, has been long attested by the daily records of the Police-offices, and the Courts of Justice. These Men, are now an intolerable nuisance, in place of being a protection; they are a pest. For all good purposes they are utterly inefficient - for all evil ones they are prompt and capable. The street tyranny exercised by many of these ruffians is revolting. In several districts they exact a regular tribute, in money and drink, from the wretched females who shiver round them. A sop to the Cerberus stops his growl; a refusal consigns the shrinking victim to a watch-house; there she may pine the night in cold and darkness, to be dragged the next morning to a Police-office, represented as incorrigible, by the brute she could not bribe, and on his swearing be sent for months to the tread-mill. Hitherto this despotism abstained at least from life; it paused on this side murder. But an inqust has been public this last week which has roused universal horror, and the evidence before the Jury, we unhesitatingly assert, called for a verdict of felonious homicide against the watchmen who were accessaries to the death of the unfortunate Anne Ashley. The details we need scarcely repeat. The wretched woman was found dripping with wet, and insensible from liquor, at two, in an inclement morning, at the east end of the town; she was taken to the watch-house of Bethnal-green, and given in charge to Simkins, the night-constable. In place of being suffered to remain before the fire, round which this brute and his myrmidons were circled, the unfortunate woman, who was drenched with rain and frozen by the night air, was dragged away and flung into the dark hole of the watch-house. This was a narrow dungeon six feet square, with a gravelly floor, streaming with damp, and reeking with human ordure! In this sink of pestilence, she was immured for four hours, and then was turned out by the mandate of the same savage, and thrown senseless and expiring, against the walls of the watch-house. In that state she died! And can there be a doubt that she was murdered - barbarously and deliberately murdered? We assert nothing in which we are not borne out by the highest legal authority. The Coroner, on the first day's investigation, took on him to state that there was no criminality imputable to the night-constable, and watchmen, and that the only conclusion the Jury could come to was, that the conduct of these parties was very negligent. Say you so Mr. Unwin? Is such an opinion warranted by either fact or law? That, however, we shall soon see. To what, we ask, did this unfortunate owe her death? Was it not to the horrible treatment she experienced in the watch-house? The surgeon examined before the Jury swore her death was occasioned by wet and cold, combined with intoxication; he added, that the dungeon into which she was thrown was a most unfit place to confine any one, especially one, in the condition of the deceased.
Mr. Coroner Unwin thought the conduct of this night-constable did not amount to manslaughter; and the Jury, under his direction, returned a verdict - 'that the unhappy woman died from the effects of cold and intoxication' - expressing a determination at the same time to prosecute the constable and watchmen for a misdemeanor, at the Sessions. We say they ought to be tried for murder. To make this atrocious homicide a misdemeanor is outraging justice. The constable was the gaoler of this watch-house, he confined his prisoner forcibly in a filthy, damp, and pestilential dungeon, from the effects of which she died, and the killing in law is murder. She was flung into this vault in a morning in November - saturated with wet, and chilled by cold. Could any constitution stand such an ordeal? Is there a man of reflection can believe, that if this wretched woman, had been placed before the watch-house fire, and suffered to remain until she became sensible, and heat and animation were restored, that her life could have been in any danger? No; to think otherwise is ridiculous. The constable and watchmen caused her death, and they should stand at the bar of justice for their lives. We care not what the rank or character of the victim may have been - whether she was a peeress, or a prostitute is to us the same. The constable and watchmen, on the evidence before the Coroner, were her murderers; and they are homicides in law. If they are guiltless, let the Judges of the land and a Jury say so; but to blink the thing by calling it a misdemeanor, is one of the grossest jests on justice we have ever heard. The Jury in this case acted well, admirably well; they sifted the foul deed to the bottom, but they were misled in their verdict by the language of the Coroner, who, in our apprehension, mis-stated both fact and law.