In 1837, a British man named Thomas Saverland took Miss Caroline Newton to court after she bit off part of his nose after he forcibly kissed her at a party. While Saverland v Newton went to a jury, the magistrate told them in advance that he would not punish the woman.
Saverland v Newton – No means no
Newspapers reported that Saverland showed up in court with the left part of his nose visibly damaged. But the injuries did not sway the magistrate. It appears he considered it an act of self-defense.
He told the jury that whatever verdict they returned, he would not punish the defendant. His reasoning was “if a man attempts to kiss a woman against her will, she has a right to bite his nose off if she has a fancy for so doing.”
It’s important to note that the fact-checking website Snopes looked into the ordeal and found it to be true. However, the note:
“…modern knowledge of Saverland v Newton comes to us not through a transcript of the court proceedings, or from the hearing’s having been included in a legal casebook of the time, but from an account published in a London newspaper (Bell’s New Weekly Messenger) on 30 April 1837. Early 19th-century newspaper reports being what they were (and sometimes still too often are), we can’t vouch for how much this account might have accurately reflected any genuine court proceeding.”
Reporting on the assault case
We’ll likely never know precisely what happened in the court (unless someone uncovers legal records). But the press reported that the injury was severe.
It all occurred in a tap room on the day after Christmas. Newton and her sister were apparently joking around about how the latter was there without her partner and had promised him not to let anyone kiss her in his absence. Saverland overheard this and apparently saw it as a challenge.
He kissed the sister, who reportedly took it as a joke. But Caroline Newton did not. After Saverland took the liberty of forcibly kissing her as well, they scuffled over his assault on the two women.
Saverland eventually went to another part of the room, and Newton followed him and struck him again. He tried to forcibly kiss her once again. But he got quite a surprise when she bit off part of his nose in self defense.
The man cried out and was reportedly covered in blood. Newton was seen spitting out the small piece of his nose she bit off.
Insults and injuries
According to the newspaper report:
“The defendant, a fat, middle-aged woman, treated the matter with great levity, and said he had no business to kiss her sister, or attempt to kiss her, in a public house; they were not such kind of people. If she wanted to be kissed, she had a husband to kiss her, and he was a much handsomer man than [complainant] ever was, even before he lost his nose.”
The jury’s acquittal of Newton may come as no surprise. The magistrate overseeing the trial potentially influenced it with his statement that if the jury found her guilty, “the court would not fine her more than 1s., as the prosecutor had brought the punishment on himself.”
Reportedly, “The Chairman told the prosecutor he was sorry for the loss of his nose, but if he would play with cats, he must expect to get scratched.”
The courtroom also had a good laugh at the complainant’s expense.
Source: “The Curious Case of the Bitten-Off Nose Kiss” — Snopes