1916 court: Boatman runs into troubled water - again

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The case of a local boatman, Joseph Kay, 16, Spreight Lane Steps, who had been summoned in four instances, in respect of an unlicensed pleasure boat, again came up.

The local authority had refused the licence, and Kay appealed, the magistrates adjourning the case for a week to allow the local authority to reconsider the matter.

In the meantime the local authority had not altered their decision pending a decision by the magistrates. This was in respect of the appeal, the summonses against Kay being also adjourned.

The town clerk asked that appellant be put in the box and asked questions.

The clerk: What did the community do?

The town clerk said he thought he should not state that at that stage, as he would have to state why.

The clerk: Take it in your own way.

Appellant, having been sworn, was asked by Mr Jones: Did you call upon the mayor a week last Saturday? - Yes.

Did you explain to the mayor your grievances against the council in witholding the licence from you? - I explained all about it.

Did he explain to you that you had brought that on yourself? - No, he did not.

What did the mayor tell you? - He said he could not alter the law but he said he would do the best he could for me.

Did you within 24 hours of that interview go and break the law again? Witness said he got two jobs again on the Sunday.

Mr J Whitfield, solicitor for the appellant: At that time were you of the opinion that having paid your money for a licence you were entitled to act as a boatman? - Yes.

Mr Whitfield elicited other replies which showed that the occasion Mr Jones, the town clerk, had referred to was before the case came on and before appellant had consulted him, Mr Whitfield, about the position.

The chairman, Mr J Dippie: That is important.

Mr Whitfield: At that time did you think wrongly, as we now know, that having paid your money you were entitled to have the benefit of it, and act as a boatman? - Yes.

When you had seen me did I explain to you that you were wrong? - Yes.

Do you now fully recognise you were wrong? - Yes, I can see it is wrong now.

Is it your intention strictly to comply with the regulations in future? - Yes.

Since the case was before the court last week have you refrained from acting as a licensed boatman? - Yes.

Has that been the means of your losing a good deal of money? - Yes.

How much would you have earned this week in the height of the season? - Oh, perhaps £4; as it is I have not earned four pence.

Appellant added that it was six weeks after he took out the licence before he was told it would not be granted.

Mr Jones explained that the procedure was to apply for a licence, and pay the fee. The council then considered whether an applicant should be granted a licence, and if they decided that he should not, the money was returned.

The chairman: Six weeks elapsed between the application and that information.

Mr Jones agreed, pointing out that the council only met once a month. The chief constable was empowered to grant licences - unless he had good reason for not doing so - subject to the controlling power of the council.

Mr Jones, proceeding, emphasised the fact that within 24 hours after seeing the mayor, Kay, knew he was doing wrong. He submitted that the bench should not alter the decision of the council, the controlling authority, unless it was shewn the council acted from wrong facts, or impure motives. If the magistrates over-ruled the council they would have to take the consequences if Kay offended again.

Mr Whitfield said Mr Jones’ words were honeyed in substance, but they veiled a threat, and there was a depth of bitterness against the man who had to keep himself and a large family.

Mr Jones objected.

The clerk: Whatever bitterness there was would not affect the magistrates. He added that everyone could see there was something in the nature of a threat - trying to put on the magistrates the responsibility.

Mr Whitfield said he was satisfied with Mr Jones’ remarks at the last hearing about desiring to help the man, if the magistrates dismissed the appeal. Had the appeal been dismissed he (Mr Whitfield) thought the licence would have been granted, but because it was not the council appeared to want to show authority by saying: We won’t grant it. He urged the bench to allow the appeal.

After the magistrates had retired the chairman asked the clerk to read the decision.

Looking at the facts before the local authority the bench were of the opinion that they had sufficient grounds for refusing the licence.

It only remained to be considered whether there were fresh facts or circumstances justifying the bench to allow the appeal. Since written notice had been given of the decision of the local authority Kay had persisted in his attitude, as shown by the four summonses against him for offences in absolute defiance of the local authority. Admission he had made in reply to his solicitor had been given grudgingly, so as to leave in their minds considerable doubts as to whether he would in future disturb the decision of the local authority.

They therefore dismissed the appeal. If, however, applicant was prepared to give the local authority a satisfactory assurance as to his future conduct there was nothing to prevent him repeating his application to them.

In the four summonses Kay was ordered to pay a nominal sum of £2 6d in each case, and was allowed three weeks in which to pay money.