Sentenced in 1808 to Three Years' Imprisonment in Lancaster Jail, for ill-treating his Female Pupils
The Rev. Abraham Ashworth, a clergyman and schoolmaster, at Newton, near Manchester, was brought up to receive the judgment of the Court of King's Bench, at Westminster, in 1808, he having been convicted at the last Lancaster Assizes on two indictments: for assaulting Mary Ann Gillibrand and Mary Barlow, his scholars; and for taking such indecent liberties with their persons as greatly to hurt and injure them. Mr Scarlett addressed the Court in mitigation. The punishment, he said, the Court would feel it due to justice to inflict would be of little additional consequence to the defendant, as his ruin was already consummated; but he had a wife and six children, who had been virtuously bred and educated, and it was on their account he implored the Court not to inflict a punishment on the defendant that would render him infamous.
Mr Serjeant Cockell said it was not his wish to bruise the bended reed, yet it was necessary that an example should be made of the defendant. He was a clergyman and a teacher of youth; and the prosecutors, who had acted from the most laudable motives, had abundant reasons for what they had done. They felt themselves irresistibly called upon to check the practices imputed to the defendant, and which there was too much reason for believing he had indulged in for a considerable time past.
Mr Justice Grose, in passing sentence, addressed the defendant to the following effect: 'You have been convicted of an assault upon a child of very tender years; the narrative of your conduct is horrible to hear and horrible to reflect upon. The aggravations of your offence, I am sorry to say, are multifarious. The object of your brutality was a child committed to your care and instruction, and you are a clergyman and a teacher; a man grey in years, and possessing a large family. In looking to the class of misdemeanours, I know of none so horrible as the one of which you have been convicted. Of your guilt it is impossible to doubt, and that guilt is rendered more heinous by your professing to inculcate the doctrines of a religion which you have so little practised. Instead of protecting the child from the contamination of the world, you exposed her to your own licentiousness, and sought to corrupt her mind. I am shocked at seeing a clergyman standing to receive sentence for such an offence." Mr Justice Grose then proceeded to pass sentence, and adjudged that the defendant should be imprisoned in Lancaster Jail for three years, being eighteen months for each conviction.
The court observed that the fear of a greater punishment befalling him prevented them from inflicting that of the pillory. [It was apprehended that he would, if pilloried, have there been killed by the enraged populace.]