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Preston university professor calls for women to be pardoned 400 years after they were executed for Witchcraft

Posted on - 31st October, 2021 - 5:27pm | Author - | Posted in - Campaigns, History, Politics, Preston News, University campus
Professor Robert Poole Pic: John Rollason
Professor Robert Poole Pic: John Rollason

A Preston university professor is calling on the Government to request a Monarch’s pardon for the 10 women convicted and hanged for Witchcraft at the Lancashire Witch Trials of 1612.

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Robert Poole, Professor of History at the University of Central Lancashire, says the issue is important to justice today, over 400 years later.

He said: “This case is important in 2021 as it teaches us that if we identify members of a community, however marginal, as some kind of ‘other’, that it’s going to lead to other miscarriages of justice.”

A petition on the Parliament website states that the trial was ‘a political and religious persecution’, and a pardon is ‘long overdue’.

It continues: “The trial itself changed legal precedent by using a child of only nine to convict members of her own family; it concluded with no defence testimony or sound evidence and involved the use of coercion and torture. We seek justice.”

Alice Nutter statue, Roughlee cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Bill Harrison - geograph.org.uk/p/6047292
The Alice Nutter statue in Roughlee. Alice was one the women hanged in 1612 Pic: © Bill Harrison (cc-by-sa/2.0)

In a video by The Independent on YouTube, Professor Poole explains how the trial stemmed from a simple incident, when a young woman called Jennet Device had a confrontation with a peddlar who entered her village and fell down with what is now recognised as a stroke. However the peddler thought Jennet had bewitched him.

19 people were tried over two days, after having been kept in dungeons for months in some cases. They had no access to lawyers or information, and the evidence and allegations were sprung on them in court.

Professor Poole says: “There were some acquittals for political reasons, to show that the courts knew how to distinguish between real witches and fake accusations, but in the end it was a gross miscarriage of justice, and ten innocent women were hanged in Lancaster a few days later.”


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