The dangers of employing child labour were demonstrated in 1848 when a twelve year old boy caused the death of a girl when he ran over her whilst driving a horse and cart.
On Monday 7th August that year a four year old girl named Sarah McClusky was crossing Edmund Street when she was run over by a horse and cart. After being knocked down by the horse the wheel passed over her body and despite a passing police officer rushing her to hospital she died three hours later from ruptured blood vessels.
The driver of the cart was twelve year old Cornelius Jones, who carried on driving until a local bookkeeper managed to stop him and keep him detained until a police officer took him into custody.
An inquest took place before the Borough Coroner the following day, with the Liverpool Mercury describing Sarah's parents as 'poor but industrious'. Witnesses said that the horse was in a sharp trot and going at about ten miles an hour, with Jones not pulling up for another twenty yards after the cartwheel had tun over Sarah's body.
When questioned, Jones said that the cart was owned by an Irishman named Michael McKenna, who was paying him 1 shilling and 4 pence to drive it, less than half the daily rate for adults. The Coroner commented that this was a disgraceful practice merely to save money. The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter, but commented that McKenna was more culpable than Jones, who they referred to as 'the poor prisoner'.
There was nothing the coroner could do about the verdict and he was obliged to commit Jones to Kirkdale gaol for him to await trial at the assizes the following month. Jones was found guilty but treated sympathetically by Justice Cresswell, who sentenced him to fourteen days imprisonment. This was equivalent to time served on remand and Jones was released, with the judge saying that 'those who entrusted him to drive the cart were the more culpable parties'.