The Florence Maybrick trial of 1889 and the need for courts of criminal appeal

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The criminal trial of Mrs Florence Maybrick, held in Liverpool, England during the height of the British Empire 1889, is widely regarded as one of the greatest travesties of justice in British legal history where even the judge at the end of the trial remarked “well, they can’t convict her on that evidence” and the chief prosecutor nodded his head in agreement. Mrs Maybrick was tried for murdering her husband via arsenic poisoning. However, the trial became a morality trial when the learned judge, Mr Justice James Fitzjames Stephen, linked Mrs Maybrick’s demonstrated adultery to her alleged desire to physically remove her husband by administering poison. The jury, which pronounced a guilty verdict, consisted of twelve untrained and unschooled men who were unable to grasp the technical evidence and were probably unduly influenced by the judge’s summing-up and by the professional status of one of the medical witnesses for the prosecution. The case is a timely reminder today for an international audience of the fallibility and inherent weaknesses of the legal system and the desperate need to retain Courts of Criminal Appeal within the courts system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-102
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Critical Accounting
Issue number2
Early online date13 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2017


  • Arsenic addiction
  • Social History
  • James Maybrick
  • Jack the Ripper
  • Liverpool
  • Legal History
  • Florence Maybrick
  • British History


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