The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Lynching in the Mother Country

It happens.

Not in the spectacular form of the Duck Hill, MS lynching of 1937 (as discussed in pieces earlier this week), but, from time to time, homicides occur with features suggestive of justicia por propia mano.

For instance, a case from 2002 (Guardian February 22):
Pub cellarman Ian Lawless, 40, and his jobless godson Gary Lawson, 19, shouted abuse as they were found guilty of setting fire to the Grimsby flat of Alf Wilkins, 67, a former deep sea fisherman and tugboat captain who had been cleared of indecently assaulting a nine-year-old girl.

And, just recently, there's been (London Evening Standard December 3)
the murder of 73-year-old sex offender Arnold Hartley in Redcar, Cleveland
which might fall into the same category.

There have been cases of mobs forming - the notorious incidents of 2000 in the Paulsgrove Estate in Portsmouth involved a rabble on a scarcely higher moral plane as the gentlefolk of Duck Hill [1], who had a list of pedos they wanted to to drive out from their estate. I doubt that the fact that no fatalities resulted was due to any scruples of theirs.

Lastly, on British lynchings, we have the notable case of Panglam Godolan. In successive editions of the Guinness Book of Records (aka Guinness Book of World Records), there was an entry stating that Godolan was the last man to be lynched in Britain [2] - it happened in London on October 27 1958 (according to the 1981 edition I have in front of me (p193)). The man is described as a suspected murderer.

The case is notable not least because there is no record of it all online. The obvious reason for that would be misspelling - but, with the entry being carried over from year to year, you'd have thought that would have been corrected by 1981!

1958 was notoriously the year of the Notting Hill Riots - sparked off by racial tensions in an era of accelerating coloured immigration. One would not be surprised to find some racial element involved in the Godolan case.

One more general line of inquiry arising from the lynching question is the changing attitude in the UK to violence generally: my understanding is that, for the first half of the 20th century and before, public concern (or, rather, the concern of that section of the public with political clout) was for the preservation of property and the persons in their own section.

Thus, a fight in a working-class area would not excite the interest of the police unless it threatened to do damage to property.

(I have nothing in dead-tree on this - and a cursory search produces nothing online, either. So we're in the realm of hypothesis, for the moment.)

  1. A flavour here and here (scroll down).

  2. The previous case to Godolan's, it says, was that of a kidnapping suspect in Glasgow in 1922.

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