Nostalgia: 1917 police court: Lighting offence leads to conflict with police

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Edwin Lawty, insurance agent, 33, Gladstone Road, was charged with having failed to shade a light at 33, Gladstone Road at 10.45pm on April 25th.

He was further charged with using threatening language to put John L Estill and John G Brewin in fear on that occasion.

The Chief Constable and Section Leaders Bevan and Hornsley, on duty, near the bottom of Tindall Street visiting Special Constables Brewin and Estill saw a bright light shining from the glass panels of the door. Special Constables Brewin and Estill went to the door and the light was subdued after they had knocked. Defendant’s son - the case had been adjourned for his attendance, but he was not present - came to the door and then called defendant. The latter immediately asked: “Have you no other bloody work to do? If you are not off the premises soon I’ll soon throw you off. You are always on the bloody doorstep,” and other talk of that kind.

Defendant stamped about and raved as if he had quite lost control of himself. The Specials asked to be allowed to enter the house and he dared them to come in. “If you come on to my doorstep I’ll throw you off. I’ll fell you.” They could not investigate the circumstances. They asked his name and he replied, “You will not get it. You will not get my name or number” - all of which were separate offences. Sergeant Stockdale investigated on April 30th with Special Constable Brewin, who identified defendant. He said to the latter “You are one of those that was here, are you? You ought to be in the Army, not sheltering behind a button. I have seven sons in the Army, not one of them shirking like you. I call you a lot of rotters, you dogs (getting hold of Brewin) I would like to see your face in daylight, you monkey.”

Defendant told Sergeant Stockdale that he went down into the yard when called by his son and said “Have you called me downstairs about this? There is no light.” Regarding alleged abusive language he had said “If you are not off I’ll fell the pair of you” - an admission, said the Chief - “Clear off.”

Corroborative evidence was given by each of the constables named. Special Constable Brewin said defendant did not appear to know what he was doing. He had said, among other things. “You are one of the snakes that hide yourself behind a paltry button, you rotter. I have seven sons fighting for such animals as you.”

By Mr Whitfield (for the defence): A reference to having 10s to spare had been made to the son, not to defendant. The light was from a small window, not from the door.

Defendant, in the box, admitted that he had said he would fell the Specials; he had been annoyed at being brought downstairs, no one could ever say they had heard him swear. He was not equal to tackling two Special Constables; they were such desperadoes. (Laughter.)

Cross-examined by the Chief Constable: He had been annoyed at being asked for 10s, and he did not suggest that was a bribe. He admitted having a grievance against the Special Constables - many of them should be in the Army, where his sons were. He had reported the Chief Constable to the War Office for not enlisting, but now knew he was 43 or 44. He did not know the Chief had applied nearly three years ago for a position in the Army.

Mr Whitfield argued that the lighting offence would never have been reported but for the other case. Defendant was indignant, but there was no intent. Defendant had told others what he thought respecting the Army. His family’s record was the best in the town. Of eight sons, one was killed, one was a prisoner, four were wounded, and two had been decorated.

The chairman said defendant would be fined 7s 6d on the first, and £1 in the second charge. They were indebted to the Special Constables, and the latter were entitled to every consideration.