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Written by Cheryl
(9/24/2005 1:27 p.m.)
What are the quarter session at Taunton?
Quarter sessions were courts where suspects were tried for offenses too serious to handled by the Magistrates Court. Judges were on a "circuit" and visited towns quarterly. Mr Shepherd, being a lawyer, was probably there on business. Taunton was the location of the sessions for western Somersetshire.
The quarter sessions were social events, as well as judicial ones. In the book Camilla (by Fanny Burney) it is mentioned that there are balls and breakfasts, etc.
There is also a personal connection. Jane Austen's Aunt Leigh-Perrot was arrested for stealing lace from a shop. She spent several months in gaol waiting for the quarter session of the assize courts at Taunton. She couldn't be tried by the local magistrate because the crime she was accused of was theft of articles over £1 in value, and as such, the penalty could be the death sentence.
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