RECORDS A SIXTEENTH-CENTURY TRIAL FOR FELONY IN THE COURT OF GREAT SESSIONS FOR MONTGOMERYSHIRE National Library of Wales, Wales 4/127/3, mm.30-35 Edited by Murray LI. Chapman Introduction Very little is known and written about the trial process of a suspected felon in one of the Courts of Great Sessions in Wales. These courts, which were established by statute in 1542 in each of the Welsh counties except Monmouthshire, were abolished in 1830. This paper presents information not only on the trial of two brothers, who were indicted in the Court of Great Sessions for the county of Montgomery held at Welshpool in February 1572 for stealing three sheep, but also on the prosecution of the jury who returned a perverse verdict. The information available describes the actual trial and even alleges that the Justice of the Peace who took the examinations (written evidence) distorted the facts. Details of this particular case have survived because of the prosecution of the jury 2 which was initiated through the Council in the Marches of Wales. They were charged for having committed wilful perjury by acquitting the two brothers. They were prosecuted by the Queen's Attorney, Edward Davies, who submitted an Information to the Council setting out the Crown's case. The jurors, through their attorney, John Evans, gave a written Answer to this. It is by virtue of the Information and Answer that details of the trial have survived. As the matter was concluded in the Court of Great Sessions for the County of Montgomery rather than the Council, the documents were filed in the records of the former Court, the preservation of which, unlike those of the Council, has been remarkably good. Indictment Robert ap Morris ap David of the parish of Llanfihangel-yng-Ngwynfa, co. Montgomery yeoman and his brother Thomas of Penaran, co. Merioneth yeoman were indicted of stealing three white sheep, each worth three shillings, at Mochnant Isaf from Morris ap John on 20 May 1571. They were jointly indicted at the Great Sessions for the county of Montgomery commencing Monday 18 February 1572. The Arraignment The two brothers were arrainged before Sir John Throckmorton Kt., Chief Justice of the court and both pleaded not guilty. They therefore put themselves "upon triall of God and the contrey". National Library of Wales, Montgomeryshire Court of Great Sessions Gaol File, Wales 4/127/3, mm. 30-35. Unless stated 2 otherwise all quotations are taken from this source. This is not an isolated instance of a Jury being prosecuted for returning a perverse verdict. Although no documents survive to indicate other Juries were prosecuted in the same way, it is highly probable that they were as they were bound for their appearance to the next Great Sessions of Montgomeryshire or before the Council in the Marches of Wales, see Wales 4/125/3, m.17 (March 1564); 126/2, m.49 (Setpember 1568); 126/3, m.97 (July 1569); 126/4, m.38 (May 1570) and 127/5, m.26 (March 1574). The Council in the Marches in Wales was empowered by statute, 26 Henry VIII c.4 to 3 prosecute jurors in this way. This Act was not repeated until 1863. NLW Wales 4/127/2A, m.15.