Appeal for Queen to pardon Pendle Witches

Arthur Stuttard with the letter he received from Buckingham Palace.
Arthur Stuttard with the letter he received from Buckingham Palace.

A HIGHAM man trying to win a pardon the 12 Pendle Witches executed in 1612 has taken his appeal to the Queen.

Arthur Stuttard, a retired barrister, failed in his attempt to secure a pardon after contacting Ministry of Justice and the Criminal Cases Review Commission over a two-year period.

He then decided to write to the Queen earlier this month in a last-ditch attempt to gain a pardon in which he wrote it would be a “nice touch” if Her Majesty could “rectify matters 400 years later” in the Jubilee year.

Mr Stuttard has also emailed the Prince of Wales but has not yet had a reply.

However, Mr Stuttard received a letter from the Queen saying she had “taken careful note” of his comments but it was not a matter where she could “personally intervene”.

Mr Stuttard has a strong interest in the Pendle Witches as the Demdike family and the Chattox family, both of which were central to the trial held in Lancaster in 1612, lived in a neighbouring properties.

He also believes the Queen’s ancestor, King James I, was one of the chief reasons behind the trials in the first place as a book he published on the subject helped whip up interest in witchcraft and is likely to have skewed the view of local magistrate Roger Nowell.

Mr Stuttard said: “My interest goes back a long time. Demdike lived next door but one in Ashlar Cottage and the Chattoxes lived down the field.

“I started writing in September 2009 in an attempt to get a Royal pardon but I didn’t get very far so thought I’d write to the Queen as the Duke of Lancaster.

“By anybody’s standards, even by those of the day, the trials were a grave miscarriage of justice.

“The Queen’s ancestor, King James I, was initially a great believer in witchcraft and was the leading authority at the time publishing a book in 1597 called Demonologie. All judges across the country would have had a copy of this.

“Though he mellowed in his views at later witch trials, magistrates earlier and at the 1612 trials would have tried curry favour with the King and get a conviction.”

Although some witches tried and executed in Scotland before 1735 received a pardon in 2004, Mr Stuttard is sitting tight at the moment in light of the Home Office’s reply but has not ruled out a fresh appeal.

In a letter to Mr Stuttard, the Ministry of Justice stated that the granting of a free pardon was “extremely rare” (only one has occurred in modern times) and that the granting of a blanket pardon to a number of individuals was “not the usual practice”.

The letter added that reviewing the cases of the 12 convicted witches would be unlikely “because of the length of time that has elapsed since the convictions and executions” and because there is “no evidence that demonstrates conclusively that no offences were committed or that the individuals concerned did not commit any such offence”.