1916 court: Man resists his wife’s maintenance order

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At the Borough Police Court, Edwin Turner, described as a joiner and cabinet maker, of 14, Crawthorne Road, Peterborough, was charged with disobeying a maintenance order in respect of Christiania Turner, 65, Tindall Street, to the amount of £8 2s 6d.

The defendant admitted the amount owing, but said he could not possibly keep up the payments on his present wages.

The chief: In that case then I ask for a commitment. It was stated the maintenance order made by the court against the defendant in April was for £1 2s 6d per week.

Defendant: Can I make an application for the amount of the allowance to be reduced?

The chief: I have already told him that he can. He cannot set the court at defiance like this, and he must be taught to realise that the allowance must be kept up.

The chairman: You are getting fairly good wages, and you must maintain your wife. Before we do anything further, are you prepared to make any financial offer to clear off the arrears?

Defendant: I don’t see how I can do it for as far as money is concerned. I have my wage from last week which is £2 10s, but you must understand that is an overtime wage.

I have been in Peterborough eight weeks, during which time my wages have varied £1 0s 8d, £1 14s 9d, £1 15s 3d, £2 7s. Out of these I had to pay the allowance, 22s 6d per week, board and lodging 17s, and other incidentals which reduced my earnings to something like 3s 6d.

Defendant added: I have more to pay out than I possibly can. I have been struggling to pay the amounts all the time.

The chief at this stage said the defendant was simply setting the court at defiance. It appeared the whole trouble arose over a woman whom he had been living with in Peterborough. This woman came before the court and swore she had nothing to do with the man, but that the friendship between them was purely platonic. It was, however, added the chief, afterwards found that the man was living with this woman and that they passed off as man and wife.

The woman was arrested for falsely registering herself in the name of Turner. If this man could afford to keep this woman he could maintain his wife and he must be taught to understand that he must do so for he could not ignore the order of the court.

The chairman: It seems you don’t spend your money in the best way.

Defendant: Well, I think I have shown you, sir, that I do spend my money in the right way.

The chairman: You have heard about the woman living with you and whom presumably you are keeping at your own expense?

Defendant: That I deny, sir. I have never spent a penny on anyone, but myself and my wife. I am not in a position to spend my money on anyone, for I can’t possibly do it.

The only thing I can do is to struggle on as I am doing at present, but I can’t see how I am going to keep clear of arrears.

In reply to the chairman defendant said he was prepared to make an offer of 25s per week in addition to the ordinary allowance to pay off the arrears. Defendant again asked if the amount of allowance could be varied and was told he could make an application to that effect.

The chairman said the magistrates did not wish to commit the defendant to the prison. It would be worse for his wife. What the magistrates wanted to know was: Was the defendant prepared to allow £1 to be deducted from his last week’s wages, which were in the possession of the chief, and afterwards pay 25s per week. If he would do that the magistrates would adjourn the case for a month.

Defendant agreed to this course, but then asked how he was to get back to Peterborough?

The chief: You will have 9s 1d left to get back.

Defendant: But my fare is 12s 9d.

The chairman: The magistrates are not prepared to haggle over a shilling or two. Defendant, he added, must understand that failure to meet the payments would mean committal to prison.

Defendant: In the meantime, by the way, can I make application for the reduction of the amount?

The chief: You have been told so over and over again that you can.

Defendant then formally made the application, which was granted, and which will be heard on Monday week. It was stated that in the event of the application for reduction being acceded to the defendant’s wife would also make application for the defendant to take over the custody of the three children.

The magistrates were Mr AW Sinclair and Mr RG Heys.