Trials of character
The use of character evidence in Victorian sodomy trials
in Domestic and international trials, 1700–2000

On 31 July 1854, a man who gave the name George Campbell appeared at the Guildhall magistrates court in the City of London. Campbell's trial was not unique among nineteenth-century trials for sodomy and homosexual offences in its emphasis on character. Character evidence had a protean nature, it might speak either to the individual's reputation or to his mental state. In the context of trials for homosexual offences during the nineteenth century, however, character evidence did not perform the same function for the prosecution and the defence. In 1854 the Guildhall magistrate Sir Richard Carden, gave it as his opinion that in cases involving 'one of the most loathsome offences a man could commit', character was 'most at stake and most required'. There is an obvious affinity between the legal discourse of character and its wider meaning in Victorian society.

Domestic and international trials, 1700–2000

The trial in history, volume II

Editor: R. A. Melikan

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