On 7th April 1865 my great great grandfather William Shepard and his wife Ann were affected by a crime at their small shop in Stratton. A local youth broke into the shop during the evening and made off with some sweets. The following report of his trial at the County Petty Sessions describes the event. The lad who committed the crime lived with his parents and siblings in the same village.
Benjamin Sprackling was committed to the County Prison in Dorchester but it is not clear how long he remained in custody. He was sent for trial at the quarter sessions which would have taken place in Dorchester in the same building used for the trial of the Tolpuddle Martyrs which is an imposing place for a child of twelve to be tried.
At some date between the petty sessions on Wednesday 19th April and the Midsummer Sessions on Wednesday 28th June, Benjamin was released on bail but following the trial he was jailed for 14 days hard labour followed by 4 years in Reform school. Sentencing in the mid 1800's was not in the least lenient.
The census of 1871 show him back with his family and working as an agricultural labourer.