Falmouth Borough Police (1836 - 1889)


Falmouth Borough Police was formed on 1st January 1836 consisting of three officers paid from the borough rate. The head constable was George Julyan who held the rank of superintendent. He was also the town crier and governor of the local gaol. The Falmouth force was largely ineffective owing to its small size and the large population it policed. In 1845 a county court was held monthly and several years later a Petty Sessions and Borough Magistrates Court was held twice weekly. The town gaol continued to be used until the late 19th century.

Falmouth Harbour Police

In 1871, the Falmouth Harbour Police was formed as a separate entity to the borough police and was responsible for policing the dockyards and harbour. In the present day, the force is known as the Falmouth Docks Police and is responsible for policing and security in the dockyard area. Constables are attested before a magistrate at the town hall and have the powers of police constables at the docks and an approximate one-mile radius beyond.

In 1884, the harbour sergeant James Laverty arrested three sailors at the Falmouth Customs House, setting in motion a series of events that led to the establishment of a new precedent in English criminal law – that necessity is not a defence to a charge of murder. Believing they were protected by the ‘custom of the sea,’ the sailors confessed to the customs officials that they had killed a crewmate in order to survive when their vessel came to grief at sea. They spent several weeks in a lifeboat and resorted to survival cannibalism before being rescued. The case R v Dudley and Stephens describes the incident in detail.

The borough police force was abolished in 1889 under the terms of the Local Government Act 1888, which allowed the county police to take over borough forces in towns with a population of less than 10,000. One of the last acts of the borough superintendent was the attempted interception at sea of Fenian nationalists who had bombed the Mayor of London’s residence. Believing they were heading west along the English Channel, two Metropolitan officers obtained the assistance of the Falmouth superintendent and spent several hours off the Cornish coast in a fishing boat. Despite an extensive search, and enduring terrible seasickness, the suspects could not be found.

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