1917 court: Penniless serviceman turns to petty crime

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At the Scarborough Police Court, before the Mayor, Mr CC Graham, and other magistrates, Albert Vincent Burtoft, 20, motor driver, 18 Holland Street, Masborough, Rotherham, was charged with having stolen two tie pins and cases, between 3rd and 8th May, the property of James Henry Firth, 39 Eastborough. The goods were valued at £1.

The offence was admitted.

Detective Inspector Nawton said that on the 4th of this month prisoner went to Mr Firth’s house and took lodgings agreeing to pay 2s 6d a night. He remained there until the 7th, when he paid his account, and left the house. He then journeyed to Darlington, and on the 8th in consequence of a telegraphic communication received from the Darlington police, enquiries were made at Mr Firth’s house, and the two pins were missed from a drawer in the bedroom. Prisoner was detained at Darlington and on Tuesday was conveyed to Scarborough by Detective Sergeant Yeoman. When cautioned and charged with the offence he said: “Yes, I suppose that is right. I don’t know what made me do it, but I shall not get into this trouble again. I have had a bit of bother at home.”

Mr Firth gave evidence as to the missing pins. He would not like to take £1 for them.

The youth, asked if he had anything to say, said he had been in a bit of trouble at home, and he hardly knew what he was doing. “If I get out of this trouble,” he said, “I shall land home safely; if not, I shall go west. I am not particular which.”

It appeared that he had been discharged from the Army.

Asked by the clerk why he took the pins he said: I didn’t know where I was going and I was trying to find work.

Replying to further questions he said he had been motor driving with a Sheffield firm since he left the Army, and he had been at Hadfield’s, crane driving. He had been called up again by the Army authorities to be re-examined, and he went to Pontefract, where he was pronounced physically unfit.

The clerk: The Mayor wishes to know why you came to Scarborough?

Defendant: To find work.

Detective Inspector Nawton said he had been in communication with the police at Rotherham, who gave defendant a very good character. He had always borne a good character at Hadfield’s, prior to being called to the colours. In March this year he was discharged from the Army as being medically unfit. He returned home, his father was a miner, and he left home a fortnight ago, his whereabouts not being known - he had been roaming about the country. His father had expressed his willingness to go there that day if he was able to do so by court time, and taken him back if the magistrates took a certain course, and pay his fare. Defendant was penniless.

In replying to questions by the clerk, Detective Inspector Nawton said defendant had gone to the recruiting office at Rotherham, and offered himself for enlistment. He was there intercepted by the police. The latter went to him, and asked him what he had in his possession and he told them he had the two pins, he had been to Scarborough and stolen them.

The clerk: He admitted it readily?

Detective Inspector Nawton: Oh, quite readily, yes.

After the magistrates had retired, defendant’s sister arrived in court, and defendant, seeing her, had hard work to control himself from breaking down.

The sister said her father was not able to attend. She did not know defendant had been to Pontefract, and again rejected. Some papers, she thought calling up papers, had arrived for him last Friday.

The Mayor said in view of the lad’s good character, and the good character on his discharge papers the court would deal leniently with him, and hoped he would turn over a new leaf.

They would bind him over in his own recognisances of £5 for twelve months, he to be under the care of the probation officer at the place where he lived.