20 August 2007

The last conviction under the Witchcraft Act 1735 - a correction

Last year I posted a short piece about Helen Duncan in which I stated that, when she was sentenced to Nnine months imprisonment in March 1944, she was the last person to be tried under the Witchcraft Act of 1735*. In fact she was the second last person to be tried and convicted under this act.

In fact the last person was Jane Rebecca Yorke, a medium from Forest Gate in East London. Yorke was arrested in July 1944 following reports that she was defrauding the public through exploiting wartime fears. She was found guilty in September of seven counts against the Act, fined £5 and placed on good behaviour for three years, promising to hold no more séances. The light sentence was due to her age of 72.

* The purpose of the Witchcraft Act of 1735 was to deal with persons pretending to have the power to call up spirits, or foretell the future (It was thus aimed at fraudulent mediums). People convicted under the Act were subject to fines and imprisonment rather than execution. It was superseded by the Fraudulent Mediums Act of 1951.

No comments: